"The gratis personnel system is an injustice to staff who had distinguished service in the Organisation and who were being separated from it."

U.N. gratis personnel system is undemocratic, says G-77 Chairman

New York, Mar 12 (G-77/IPS) -- Speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, Ambassador Daudi N. Mwakawago of Tanzania said priority should be directed at the present system of gratis personnel which, if not corrected quickly, might begin a process of dismantling the United Nations' international character and culture. The fact that such personnel incurred expenditure from the regular budget without the Assembly's approval was a very serious development. The Group did not object to the use of Type I personnel. The large number of Type II personnel, however, was of great concern.

The issue of resources was critical, he said. It was unfortunate that mandates were approved without adequate resources being provided. "Of more concern is the attitude of some countries which are exerting the strongest pressure to reduce resources and the programmes of the United Nations and, at the same time, support recourse to gratis personnel and find little wrong with this system", he said. "Developing countries have virtually been shut out from participating in the exercise of offering gratis personnel, because the system is set against them."

He went on to say that the existing system implied that only those with adequate resources to fund gratis personnel in New York could offer such staff, he continued. The situation was ironic and gave the impression that developing countries that were owed millions of dollars by the United Nations for their participation in peace-keeping operations were incapable of producing individuals to perform such services as investigation and military planning. As an example -- of the 63 gratis personnel for the international tribunals, only one P-3 came from one of the 132 members of the Group of 77 and China. Of the total of 34 countries providing gratis personnel to the Department of Peace-keeping Operations, only 13 were from the Group.

"We must level the playing field", he said. The system must be changed quickly, and change should begin by ensuring that the Assembly approved the use of all gratis personnel. There were some countries that would object to a system of funding positions now occupied by gratis personnel, but their arguments would not be convincing. "Is it too much to demand that the cost and the manner of procuring the services of about 443 gratis personnel be more transparent and fair?" he asked.
In addition, it was disturbing to see instances of some gratis personnel representing the Secretary-General and consulting with Member States, as if they were ordinary staff members. "If they were not accountable to the Secretary-General, on what basis are some of these individuals being asked to represent the Chief Executive in relations with Member States?" he asked.

More disturbing, he said, were instances of preference being given to such personnel for employment in the Organization, thereby subverting the Organization's proper recruitment procedures. That is an injustice to staff who had distinguished service in the Organization and who were being separated from it. Related to such concerns was the extensive, almost indiscriminate, outsourcing of United Nations operations advocated by certain quarters, which would lead to unacceptable practices, such as those of the present system of gratis personnel. The system was also undemocratic.

A fair, equitable and transparent system must be established to ensure that all countries had the opportunity to consider providing much of the expertise now provided by gratis personnel, he said. The concern about the threat to the unique international character of the Organization deepened when the Assembly's decisions were not implemented in the manner agreed upon after long periods of negotiation among all Member States. "Long-standing, established procedures adopted by the Assembly, often by consensus, were ignored or distorted by certain high officials of the Secretariat in a fog of ambiguous explanations, simply because powerful countries have pressured these officials to act differently", he said.

Stressing that the current system had no legitimacy and must be changed, he wondered if the present system of gratis personnel was regarded as yet another way to reform the way the United Nations conducts its affairs. In that connection, it was unacceptable to argue that such personnel had been requested by the General Assembly.

G-77 on the restructuring of the Secretariat

In the view of the Group of 77 and China, there should be a timely dialogue between Member States and the Secretary-General on the process of the restructuring of the Secretariat, in conformity with the provisions of General Assembly resolution 47/212 B of 6 May 1993 and subsequent relevant resolutions.

The objectives of the restructuring process of the Secretariat are contained in resolution 46/232 of 2 March 1992, in particular: (a) enhancing the capacity of the United Nations in the maintenance of international peace and security and in the area of economic and social development, which is of vital concern to the membership as a whole and in particular to the developing countries; (b) ensuring effective implementation of the objectives of the Charter and of the mandates entrusted by the policy-making organs; (c) ensuring a more effective application of the principle that the recruitment of staff should be on as wide a geographical basis as possible and that, as a general rule, no national of a Member States should succeed a national of that State in a senior post and there should be no monopoly on senior pots by nationals of any State or group of States; and (d) ensuring the exclusively international character of the staff as set out in the relevant Articles of the Charter and the Staff Rules and Regulations of the United Nations.

The G-77 and China also expects that any proposal on the restructuring of the Secretariat will be presented for the consideration and approval of the General Assembly taking into account its impact on the implementation of mandated programmes and activities. The restructuring process should take fully into account the provisions of resolutions 50/214 of 23 December 1995 and 51/221 of 18 December 1996, in particular regarding the prerogative of the General Assembly in the creation, transfer and abolition of posts.

The Group of 77 and China has stressed that no involuntary separation of UN staff members can be done solely for the purpose of achieving budgetary savings, and that the recourse to gratis personnel should not be used as a substitute for any post abolishment.