Member States Provide Feedback on Management Reform Proposals
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
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The Secretary-General said the proposed management reforms will not comprise a “big bang” but rather take a phased approach.

UN Member States discussed several of the proposed changes outlined in Guterres' latest report, including the launch of the global service delivery model (GSDM).

Guterres announced that in September 2018 he will present the new Staff Rules, and he said the new proposed structures will be in place in the beginning of 2019.

22 May 2018: In a meeting with UN Member States, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres presented proposals for UN management reform, following the publication of a third report on the topic. Governments provided feedback on both the process and the proposed changes.

Opening the informal meeting, held on 22 May 2018, in New York, US, UNGA President Miroslav Lajcak recalled that in December 2017 the UNGA unanimously adopted two resolutions expressing “universal support” for proposed reforms to the UN’s peace and security architecture and UN management. He explained that the Secretary-General then issued detailed follow-up reports, which will be considered by the UNGA’s Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary). The discussions on the peace and security architecture are already underway, and deliberations on the management reform are scheduled for the last week of May 2018. Lajcak expressed hope that the present briefing would enhance the inclusivity of the management reform process.

Guterres specified that the proposed reforms are less about restructuring and more about positioning the Secretariat better to implement mandates and demonstrate better accountability and transparency. He recalled his three priorities for the overall reform process: peace – to strengthen prevention and cost efficiency in peacekeeping; sustainable development – to better calibrate the UN to deliver on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in the field; and internal management – to bring decision-making closer to the ground and better communicate the UN’s results, while eliminating divisions.

Guterres identified five key areas addressed by his management reform proposals:

  • Boosting monitoring and compliance for the accounting and transactional functions;
  • Creating a “one-stop-shop” for police-contributing countries, by consolidating existing capacities;
  • Building dedicated capacity to support partnerships and manage relationships with non-Secretariat entities such as the African Union or the Group of Five for the Sahel;
  • Handling health and safety issues, currently addressed by three different departments, in one department, which will improve peacekeepers’ safety; and
  • Integrating the conduct and discipline function to cover the entire Secretariat and to account for all categories of personnel.

Norway said reforms must be followed by a change of institutional culture, and in time concrete steps will be delineated on how to change the Secretariat’s culture. Morocco observed that the proposed reform targets “the beating heart of the organization,” as the management structures are the drivers of mandates both at headquarters and on the ground. He underlined that “other reforms cannot work unless the heart is working.”

Switzerland noted that the proposals, while not perfect, address the issues requested by Member States “in a legitimate and practical way.” Urging that “the time is now,” she invited everyone and the Fifth Committee colleagues to “not get caught up in details.”

Ecuador for the Group of 77 and China (G-77/China), identified several principles that should be key to the management reform: increasing transparency to Member States, including the accountability of the Secretariat to the UNGA; a focus on delivering on mandates rather than cutting costs, posts or outcomes; attention to detail, as what is being approved at Headquarters will have wider implications across the system; and linking performance indicators with the mandates. Supported by the African Group, he also stressed the importance of ensuring gender parity and equitable geographic representation at all levels. Cuba echoed that the management reform should not be an exercise for cost savings.

Ethiopia for the African Group underscored the need for accountability measures to keep conflicts of interest in check, as well as for remedial actions and sanctions. He called for a coordinating structure that effectively delegates human resources to managers in field offices and the UN’s regional economic commissions. He also emphasized the need for a global service delivery model (GSDM) that helps decentralize authority centers.

The EU proposed strengthening the fight against sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment within the UN by enhancing coordination between offices, funds and programmes, and the field. He stressed the need for the UN to become “field-oriented and people-centered.” Supported by Japan, he added that the GSDM should be focused on a limited number of locations that allow best value for money. The GSDM is expected to be launched in January 2019.

Japan said decentralization and delegation of authority should be the main streams of the management reform process. Noting that UN funding comes from taxpayers in UN Member States, he said the UN’s performance should be made public through an online dashboard.

China said the GSDM will need detailed discussions and must respect the concerns of all parties. He invited a careful look at the risks posed by the changes in operational and management processes, especially in the field. Hungary said the GSDM could be first tangible result of the reform process. Germany expressed full support for the GSDM.

Mexico asked about indicators for success. Uganda called for checks and balances so the proposed delegated authority is not abused, as it was in the past. Bangladesh asked how host countries will be factored into the new accountability framework.

Responding to comments and questions, the Secretary-General observed that the reform will not be a “big bang,” but rather take a phased approach. He explained that instead of hiring a management company, his team worked with the existing structure – even though that was difficult because “the structure likes to preserve itself” – in order to ensure internal ownership of the reform. He announced that in September 2018 he will present the new Staff Rules, and the new proposed structures will be in place in the beginning of 2019.

The Secretary-General further observed that the UN has begun to move quickly to set up measures and structures to address sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment. These are already beginning to function, he said, and will dovetail “perfectly” with the expected peace and security and management reforms. He also noted that all the functions of the Department of Field Support will be maintained and amplified. [UNGA President’s remarks] [UNGA President’s letter about briefing] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on management report] [SDG Knowledge Hub sources] [SDG Knowledge Hub coverage of UN reform processes]

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