New resolution on mobility

Published on Thursday, 29 May 2014

As you may be aware, the General Assembly has approved a new mobility policy for the UN. On paper, key features are:

  • mobility means a change in post, function, office or duty station;
  • a central board for your job network will make all selection decisions, with input from the hiring manager - you won't need to know the hiring manager to get the job;
  • you can freely apply to vacant posts;
  • posts will be defined as rotational or non-rotational (specialized);
  • in Geneva you will be able to stay on a rotational post for a maximum of seven years. If you haven't changed post before then, you will be reassigned by the board to a suitable post with preferences taken into account;
  • to encourage you to move geographically, you will need a prior geographical move to apply to any post at P-5 or above, with a transitional period until 2019.
  • requests for exceptions will be dealt with by a special panel.

The resolution requests that mobility be implemented for one job network in 2016, one in 2017 and two per year thereafter. We understand, to be confirmed, that the first job network will be political and peacekeeping, followed by security.

In order to address concerns by the US and the EU over the costs of mobility, the number of geographical moves in 2016 and 2017 may not exceed the number of geographical moves in 2014 and 2015. In order to smoothen the transition, member states agreed that staff who have completed maximum post incumbency when mobility is implemented for their job network, may have another year before they are reassigned. Thus no-one will be required to move until one year after the term of the current Secretary-General ends. We believe this timing is intentional.

If this policy is implemented as requested, and history shows that such policies rarely last long in their original form, massive changes will be required to the staff selection system and how the organization manages itself. What we see as areas of uncertainty or flaws in the system will need to be addressed. These include:

  • the need to rebalance the system away from compulsion and towards incentives and career development, as we had requested;
  • effective ways to address the needs of working couples and other family needs - an important issue for Geneva where many spouses are able to work and for which proposals have still not been made by the administration;
  • measures to better reward expertise, whether in the substantive or conference side, and ensure specialized posts are not classified as rotational (i.e. non-specialized), something managers have unfortunately been under pressure to do - we are also waiting to be consulted on the draft list of rotational posts;
  • reviewing the classification of job networks - for example, human rights officers are currently in the political and peacekeeping network, and not in the legal network;
  • decoding the wording of the resolution on when the need to have a prior geographical move to apply to any post at P-5 or above will come into being - management will likely have a different understanding to ours;
  • pushing, as we had originally requested, for staff representatives to have a more active role in job network boards and not just be observers, so that abuse can be prevented;
  • raising questions on how a mobility system can work if there is no preference for internal staff - a problem we have identified from the start.
  • addressing the growing security threat to the UN in the field, whether from rebel groups, government-backed militias, Al Shabaab or other terrorist organizations.

There clearly is a need to address problems faced by many of our colleagues stuck in some of the world's toughest and most dangerous locations. Furthermore, many of you in the survey and focus groups two years ago expressed a desire to have a system in which it would be easier to move around with incentives to encourage it.

However, we do believe that the pressure exerted by the Secretary-General on member states and his own administration, because of the limited time remaining, has forced through a mobility policy that in its design and application will struggle to deliver on its objective of promoting career development, relieving hardship and strengthening the organization. Staff will be unnecessarily penalized. In this regard it should be noted that we were not consulted on the latest version of this policy. We are also concerned that the financial implications of mobility have yet to be properly calculated.

These issues and more will be on the agenda at the upcoming meeting of the Staff-Management Committee. In advance of that meeting, we will be holding townhalls with you on the subject. We invite you to read the policy, as submitted by the Secretary-General to the General Assembly and the resolution concerning it.

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