5 June 2018
Fifth Committee Considers UN Management Reform Proposals
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
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Presenting the UN Secretary-General’s proposals to Member States in the Fifth Committee, the UNSG's Chef de Cabinet noted that the creation of two proposed departments would require “a great deal of change” in the next six months, with close to 70 posts for the new departments needing to be reprofiled, advertised and filled.

The ACABQ Chair reported that the Committee largely recommends approval of the concept and design of the new structures proposed.

31 May 2018: The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) began its consideration of the UN Secretary-General’s proposals on decentralizing management structures at UN Headquarters. Delegates called for enhancing transparency and accountability, streamlining processes and reducing bureaucracy within the UN system.

Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, UN Secretary‑General’s Chef de Cabinet, presented the proposals that were previously conveyed to Member States in March 2018 in a report titled, ‘Shifting the management paradigm in the UN: implementing a new management architecture for improved effectiveness and strengthened accountability.’ UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres presented the report in a meeting with Member States on 22 May.

Viotti said the reforms aim to move the UN from a centralized to decentralized Secretariat, and from a bureaucracy focused on process to an institution focused on results. She said the overhaul will involve segregating policy from operations to allow the Secretariat to constantly assess and improve the effectiveness of policies and administrative support functions. Another proposal, on moving to an integrated supply chain management approach, she said, will ensure that missions and field offices receive goods and services at the right time. She noted that the Secretary-General also has advanced proposals for better policies in support of managers with regards to procurement and human resource management, as the current structures are particularly slow and cumbersome.

The proposals would create several new features and management functions from within existing resources, including:

  • a Uniformed Capabilities Support Division that will serve as a “one‑stop shop” for troop- and police‑contributing countries for administrative and logistical issues;
  • a Support Partnerships Service focused on situations where the UN provides support to non‑UN entities, particularly African peace support operations;
  • a new Business Transformation and Accountability Division focused on performance, monitoring, self‑evaluation and compliance functions;
  • a Management Client Board;
  • a Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance; and
  • a Department of Operational Support, focused on surge support to entities in weak environments.

Viotti explained that creating the latter two proposed departments will require “a great deal of change” in the subsequent six months, with close to 70 posts for the new departments needing to be reprofiled, advertised and filled. She said the Secretary-General will need to find a solution for the staff who will be affected, which entails determining if those staff members could be retrained, moved laterally or would prefer to take a buy‑out package. She further noted that staff guidance and training will be undertaken in the coming months.

Some departments will be integrated, she added, noting that health‑care management and occupational health and safety, currently split across three departments, will be consolidated into a single division. The administrative law, and conduct and discipline functions also will be brought together. The global information technology functions will be consolidated into one office.

Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chairman of the UN Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), said ACABQ largely recommends approval of the concept and design of the new structures proposed by the Secretary‑General. He recommended that the Secretary‑General be asked to consider consolidating under a single administrative structure the proposed Office of Human Resources in the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance and the proposed Human Resources Services Division in the Office of Support Operations of the Department of Operational Support.

On delegation of authority and accountability issues, he said the Committee considers that the UNGA should be provided with further details, including on progress made towards establishing well‑defined roles and responsibilities.

In the ensuing discussion, governments expressed support for the envisioned management reform. Supported by Angola for the African Group, Brazil and Pakistan, Egypt for the Group of 77 and China (G-77/China) stressed the need to ensure equitable geographical representation and gender parity at all levels, and called for increased access to UN procurement opportunities for developing countries. The African Group requested information on how the proposals will impact offices away from UN Headquarters.

Canada, also for Australia and New Zealand (CANZ) and with Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the US, underlined that structural changes must be supported by cultural changes, including in leadership and accountability. Singapore, for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said ASEAN will pay particular attention to the role of oversight bodies in the proposed new structures. China said internal risk control must be strengthened.

Mexico noted that the implementation of the management reform proposals should not include requests for further financing. He asked how and according to what timetable will Member States be able to examine and evaluate progress and make relevant adjustments.

Cuba said Member States’ commitment to reform must move beyond words into actions and, to that end, Member States should pay their assessed contributions in a timely fashion. She noted that simplifying procedures and ensuring commensurate decentralization of decision‑making processes must go hand in hand with the strengthening of planning tools and systems of accountability. She further called for making senior managers accountable for poor performance.

Russia stressed that Member States must maintain “real leverage” over UN human and financial resources. She recommended the Secretariat prepare further information on the nexus between that reform and ongoing reforms, in particular the deployment of Umoja.

Japan proposed that the Secretariat make programme performance information available to the public and Member States through dashboards. [UN meeting summary] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on briefing to Member States] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on report] [SDG Knowledge Hub coverage of UN reform processes]

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