Submission by the Director-General to the Twenty-First Session of the Finance Committee
1. At its Twentieth Session, the Committee asked that the necessary background information be prepared for its next meeting on a number of personnel matters which, because of their important influence on policy formation and effective functioning of the Organization, had been referred to the Committee in the Joint Report submitted to the Council by the Director-General and the Ad Hoc Committee of Reorganization (CL 51/9, page 4).
2. Some of these matters have been the subject of discussions, in which the Director-General participated, at the Fifty-First Session of the Council in connection with the general consideration of the FAO Reorganization Plan as set out in CL 51/9.
3. The present document reports on the progress made in implementing, or in exploring the implications of the specific personnel matters which the Director-General has been requested to examine in depth with the Finance Committee. The individual items are dealt with in the order listed in the Joint Report, with an indication of interrelationships closely linking several of the matters.
“(a) the inadequate representation of developing regions, in the higher positions in FAO Headquarters, and particularly in positions which would ensure their participation in the formulation of the general policies of the Organization”
4. The Director-General is fully in accord with the desirability of ensuring that the developing regions are adequately represented in the higher positions in FAO Head-quarters and Regional Offices, and particularly in key posts entailing collaboration in the formulation of general policies. The training and experience of officers from these areas puts them in a particularly advantageous position to provide a full view of the requirements of the developing countries.
5. The Director-General has been actively applying this policy, and results to date show that appreciable progress has been made. For example, the recently appointed Assistant Director-General, Economic and Social Department, is a national of Ghana.
6. Out of 21 appointments over a recent nine-month period at P-5 and above, 8 were from member states receiving substantial development assistance from FAO. At present 22 staff members out of a total of 93 in grade levels D-1 through ADG are nationals of such countries.
7. It is the Director-General's policy to work progressively toward a well-balanced regional pattern through positive recruitment efforts in the filling of key managerial and technical posts in the Organization.
“(b) the need to give priority in the appointment of Headquarters officers to those who have gained experience in developing and developed countries”
8. The Director-General informed the Council at its October session that the record of the Organization in this respect is satisfactory. He reported that of some 525 officers at Headquarters dealing with the technical work of the Organization, 350, i.e. ⅔ of the total, had had previous experience in the field, either with FAO or in their prior professional activities.
9. The Committee is reminded of the following figures cited by the Director-General: Land and Water Development Division, where out of a total of 49 officers, 43 had worked in the field for a considerable time or came from developing countries; Animal Production and Health Division - 29 out of 37 officers had worked in the field; Plant Production and Protection Division - 43 out of 44 officers; Forestry and Forest Industries Division - 37 out of 53 officers; Area Services Division - 27 out of 37 officers; Agricultural Services Division - 25 out of 32 officers; Rural Institutions Division - 43 out of 53 officers; Nutrition Division - 25 out of 34 officers; and Statistics Division - 16 out of 27 officers.
10. The Director-General also pointed out that if the administrative officers, statisticians and economists were omitted from these figures, since operational experience is not always essential in such fields of work, the ratio of those with field backgrounds would be nearer to 80% than 60%.
11. It is the Director-General's intention to promote more exchanges between the field and Headquarters, see (i) below.
12. It should be mentioned, however, that there are certain areas of occupational specialization where the criterion of necessary field experience would impose needless limitations on recruitment of Headquarters staff. Posts of this type occur in such sectors as budget and finance, personnel, editing, documentation, languages, law, and general supporting services.
“(c) employment conditions of experts in the field”
13. The terms and conditions of employment of field project officers have been under almost continuous review since the UN agencies first began to send out technical assistance experts to developing countries. Each agency faces its own particular problems in endeavouring to reconcile appropriately the terms of field employment with those applicable at Headquarters or main Regional Offices, so as to ensure equitable treatment, and facilitate rotation, as between field and Headquarters assignments.
14. An equally important factor has been the need for preserving the concept of the “common system” of salaries, allowances and other terms of employment among all the agencies in the UN family. Differences in the treatment of field experts among the different agencies is one of the most difficult aspects of the problem, since experts from several agencies may be working and collaborating in the same country, the same duty station, or even in the same project. The difference in application of classification and grading standards is another area where much work needs to be done.
15. The main problem is how to reconcile the fundamental concept of a fully integrated international civil service, applying uniform personnel policies and practices, with the special conditions which prevail in a large proportion of field assignments, as compared to life and work at Headquarters stations.
16. The Administrator, UNDP, has taken a particular interest in this problem and has participated actively in the efforts of the executing agencies through such interagency machinery as the Consultative Committee on Administrative Questions (CCAQ). These efforts have resulted in such measures as application of greater flexibility in home leave entitlements; granting special local leave to staff working under exceptionally difficult conditions in individual projects; payment of assignment allowance; granting rental subsidies in certain circumstances; improved medical protection; assistance in shipment of private automobiles; and granting of full membership in the UN joint Staff Pension Fund for those who have appointments of one year or more.
17. The international agencies, however, are not yet in a position to offer to their field experts the full matching of emoluments and other perquisites which are granted to staff recruited for the foreign operations of many national and commercial services.
18. The greatest difficulty lies in the granting of permanent status to field experts. The very nature of technical assistance and Special Fund projects compels the agencies to make appointment of a fixed-term or temporary character. Thus, not only is it difficult to obtain first class experts, but when they have been found and employed they tend to be lost because at the end of a fixed-term appointment the Organization is not always able to find a suitable new appointment immediately, nor has it Regular Programme funds available to employ the expert between field assignments.
19. The Director-General therefore intends to propose to the UNDP that for every year for which an expert is employed, the UNDP should pay to the Organization an appropriate sum - say one month's salary - which would be used to finance an expert's salary between posts, or alternatively, in appropriate cases, to cover the cost of arranging for him to take special refresher courses in his particular subject. The Director-General believes that if this were done, he could then offer permanent appointments and develop a real career service.
“(d) differences in career prospects between Headquarters and field staff”
(See also paragraphs 18 and 19 above)
20. It is the Director-General's policy to make the greatest possible use of the experience and specialization of field staff in considering candidates for established Headquarters and Regional Office posts. It is his intention to place particular emphasis on candidates from the field for Headquarters posts. It should be pointed out that all field experts receive copies of advertisements for Headquarters posts and for other field posts and are free to apply for them.
“(e) establishment of Selection Committees for the appointment of staff”
21. The Committee examined in detail at its October 1968 session the Director-General's proposals for the establishment of Staff Selection Committees, as set out in Annex II of the Committee's Report, CL 51/6 Part II.
22. Three Selection Committees have been constituted and are in operation since 1 January 1969. One handles General Service Staff, one Professional Staff (P-1 through P-4) and the third deals with Senior Professional Staff (P-5).
“(f) formation of rosters for pre-selected experts and consultants for short-term assignments”
23. This practice is already employed by the Recruitment and Establishments Branch. It is being expanded and systematized as the recruitment and in-service training of recruitment officers is completed. The specialized rosters are being linked with a centrally controlled index system, to ensure optimum, organization-wide utilization.
“(g) increase in appointments at junior and intermediate professional levels”
24. The Director-General agrees fully with the desirability of increasing the proportion of new appointments at the junior (P-1) and intermediate (P-2 and P-3) professional levels in all divisions and departments of the Organization, both at Headquarters and in the field.
25. The Director-General has therefore made provision for 62 new posts at the P-1 through P-3 levels (some funded through elimination of existing P-4 and P-5 posts) in the establishments being proposed for the 1970–71 Programme of Work and Budget, with similar action planned for Headquarters staff to be charged to UNDP “Agency” costs and other extra-budgetary sources. Second, for the operational services, a long-term staffing pattern has been established whereby a certain number of P-4 posts, as they are vacated through retirement or transfer, will be filled at the junior professional levels.
26. Thirdly, the Junior Professional Career Training Programme will be welcoming its first participants this year, and this will provide candidates for career posts in due course.
“(h) provisions for in-service training
27. The Committee recalled at its Twentieth (October 1968) session, the satisfaction expressed at its Nineteenth session on “…the Organization's increased attention to training and orientation programmes, including activities currently being conducted and plans for future training activities, covering not only briefing, orientation, and language instruction, but also basic supervisory and career development arrangements”.
28. Besides the inauguration of the Junior Professional Career Training Programme mentioned under (g) above, a main development has been the further extension of the language training activities of the Organization (both voluntary and mandatory), in line with the endorsement of the Committee and the Council. A total of 466 staff members are now enrolled in the language courses at Headquarters: 192 in English, 140 in French, and 134 in Spanish. Nearly 800 applied for these courses, which shows the very real interest of staff members in improving their linguistic ability.
29. Briefing activities are being stepped up for both Professional and General Service Staff. Management and supervisory training courses are being held; and the Staff Development and Training Section is also exploring the possibilities of sabbatical and study leave, as endorsed by the Council, and of refresher courses for both Head-quarters and field project officers to enable them to keep abreast of current developments in their field of competence.
“(i) provisions for rotation between field and headquarters staff”
30. This question is directly related to items (b), (c) and (d) above. Increased rotation between Headquarters and the field would undoubtedly be advantageous in terms of policy implementation and career development. It would improve understanding between Headquarters and field officers in dealing with both broad policy questions and the detailed administration and operation of the Organization's programmes.