Ambassador Chris Lu
U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform
New York, New York
March 6, 2023
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
This September and next September, the United Nations will gather for two major summits. This year, we will recommit ourselves to the 2030 timeline for the Sustainable Development Goals, and next year, we will chart the UN’s course for the remainder of the 21st Century.
These summits will produce important declarations to address peace and security, human rights, development, and poverty. In order for these declarations to be more than just words on paper, we will need a UN organization capable of meeting the challenges of the 21st century. That means recruiting, developing, and retaining world-class talent, and providing these employees with the latest technology tools.
Organizations across the globe are transforming their workforces to meet emerging demands and adapt to the changing nature of work. Unfortunately, since 2016, the Fifth Committee has failed to pass a comprehensive reform of the UN’s human resources system. We can’t afford another year of inaction.
A focused plan is needed to rejuvenate the UN. Young, diverse talent is eager to apply their skills and vision to shape how this organization addresses global challenges. Unfortunately, this top-heavy organization has a very limited number of entry-level opportunities.
Even as we bring in new talent, we need to constantly improve the skills of all UN staff to ensure they’re able to meet the challenges of tomorrow. That means expanding staff access to world-class learning opportunities.
To enable the UN to deploy the right talent, at the right place, at the right time, we also need to promote staff mobility. We know this organization thrives when staff are able to gain valuable experience both at
headquarters and in the field, so we need to accelerate organization-wide mobility by incentivizing staff to move from headquarters to the field – and back.
Investing in staff also means eliminating barriers for professional growth. The UN workforce is still a class system, in which top performers in Field Service and General Service categories are blocked from advancing professionally. All exceptional performers should be allowed to achieve their full potential in the organization.
Finally, we need to do more to encourage accountability in the UN’s organizational culture by ensuring staff are held responsible for their performance.
We need to improve performance management to ensure that managers invest in their teams, top performers are recognized, and poor performance is promptly addressed.
We need to create a workplace where everyone is respected. That means supporting the UN in its continued efforts to eliminate all forms of harassment and to hold perpetrators accountable.
And we need to strengthen the independence of the Ethics Office by approving long-standing proposals that not only represent best practice but are also strongly supported by the Joint Inspection Unit.