Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

UN Personnel Policies Support World Body's Unique Organizational Values

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

UN Personnel Policies Support World Body's Unique Organizational Values

Article excerpt

The objectives of any organization are more likely to be met when the workforce not only possesses the requisite technical competence, but also shares certain values and characteristics which are consistent with and contribute to making up the organization's culture give the organization's members meaning and provide principles with which the workforce identifies in the pursuit of the organization's goals.(10) To be most effective, the personnel policies and programs of the organization must not only attract talented people, but also reinforce the organizational culture. In this article, the author examines some of the characteristics which help to unify the United Nations family of organizations. He explains how UN personnel policies and programs reinforce these shared values and thereby contribute to meeting those organizations' objectives. Some differences between the UN's personnel policies and those of multinational firms also employing expatriate staff are described as well.

History is full of failures to organize people in a unified team and leading them to achieve a desired objective. The few examples of successes in doing so fill our history books. As society becomes more complex and the individual's aspirations more varied and demanding, the task of managing people becomes more difficult. Even for a small organization operating within the borders of one country the task is not easy. It is more complex for multinational enterprises and perhaps most complex of all in international organizations.

The United Nations is the best known international organization. Its system is also the largest, more diversified and most complex. The United Nations and its specialized agencies have, at times, been criticized for poor management, inefficiency and ineffectiveness. Given its global mandate, the magnitude of the problems it is expected to address, the variety of nationalities and cultures represented among its workforce and the dispersion of its staff around the world, it is a wonder the system works at all. However, the system does work and indeed has, over the years, achieved spectacular results. The success of the United Nations in recent years in making peace in Cambodia, in mobilizing international action in the recent Gulf conflict, in making peace between Iran and Iraq and in Afghanistan, in keeping peace in Angola and Cyprus and in creating Nambia is generally well known. The role of the specialized agencies in supporting the Polish Solidarity Union, in searching for a cure to AIDS, in feeding starving populations in the Sahel, in reducing illiteracy, and in caring for thousands of refugees may be less known but is also of great importance. What is the nature of the UN system? What are the values, principles and characteristics which help to unify staff members from over 160 different countries? And how do the UN personnel policies and programs reinforce these shared values and thereby contribute to meeting the objectives of the system?

The Nature of the United Nations System

The United Nations system is composed of the United Nations and its specialized agencies.(2) Some 50,000 people are employed in the United Nations system; about 20,000 of these are professional and senior management personnel and the remaining 30,000 clerical and technical staff. Seventy-eight percent of the professional and managerial staff are males. The staff range in age from below 25 to over 65, although the normal retirement age is between 60 and 62, depending on the organization. Fifty-two percent are employed in the United nations and its programs and the remaining 48 percent in the specialized agencies. Over 160 different nationalities are represented. The staff have widely different cultural backgrounds, languages, and approaches to life and work, but have to be integrated to work together as a team.(3)

The staff are assigned to over 140 countries. Only 13 percent are located in New York, the headquarters of the United Nations Secretariat. …

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