Needed: A United Nations Administrative Academy

By Schwartzberg, Joseph E. | UN Chronicle, March-May 2006 | Go to article overview

Needed: A United Nations Administrative Academy


Schwartzberg, Joseph E., UN Chronicle


ALTHOUGH SOME MEASURE of reconstruction in failed States might, under the proper circumstances, be carried out by UN peacekeeping forces or an occupying army, recent experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq have shown that no matter how well trained its soldiers may be, some administrative functions are best reserved for civil servants. A problem exists, however, in respect to recruitment. Many capable civilians will be unwilling to serve in areas of political instability and endemic danger, while others who are willing might not be especially able. In view of this, I propose the establishment of a United Nations Administrative Academy (UNAA). It could graduate 1,000 or more highly trained individuals annually, who would then enter a UN Administrative Reserve for a period of ten years, during which they would be on call for duty in failed or endangered States as, when and where needed.

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The academy would initially provide instruction in English, Spanish and French, and would have three appropriately situated campuses in stable host countries, such as Canada, Costa Rica and Switzerland. In Canada, for example, it might be based at the Lester B. Pearson Canadian International Peacekeeping Training Center in Nova Scotia; in Costa Rica at the United Nations University for Peace in San Jose; and in Switzerland at the UN complex in Geneva. A fourth campus offering instruction in Arabic might also become feasible. Academy faculty and administrators would be drawn largely from a pool of persons who have had relevant experience in UN peacekeeping missions, supplemented, as needed, by others with specialized professional expertise. Support staff would be locally hired.

Students would be selected competitively on the basis of merit and initially have to pass tough qualifying examinations given periodically in one of the three working languages. While an attempt would be made to attract qualified individuals from all over the world, special efforts would be directed at recruiting from developing countries. Additional eligibility requirements would include possession of a baccalaureate degree or equivalent experience, age ranging from 21 to 35, good health and a moral record free from serious blemish. The application and testing processes would be handled through national offices of the UN Development Programme (UNDP). Where needed, travel support to reach testing places would be provided.

Instituting competitive examinations as the chief determinant of eligibility entails costs not existing in the present system of recruitment for civilian positions in UN peacekeeping missions, in which arguably class privilege, personal connections and country of origin play too large a role. Top posts tend to be staffed disproportionately by personnel from relatively affluent countries or by elite social strata from a small number of developing countries. Whether such individuals have been sufficiently sensitive to the cultures and economic situations of those whose needs they are intended to serve is often open to question. Although there is no guarantee that those with less privileged backgrounds will be better equipped to perform their jobs, it does seem likely that properly trained academy graduates will show the requisite empathy and understanding. As in many military academies, students would be given a modest monthly stipend, in addition to food and lodging, a portion of which might be set aside in a personal escrow account redeemable only on successful completion of the stipulated ten years of reserve service. Where necessary, stipends would be supplemented by allowances for dependents. Books, supplies and other related expenses would be borne by the academy; paid leave and travel allowances would enable students to make periodic home visits.

The period of instruction would normally be three years, though for certain specialties a fourth year might be required. At the start of the third year, there would be a four-to-six-month field internship within an existing peacekeeping mission, where possible, or in some other troubled area of the world. …

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