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Research Report

People before Process:: Humanizing the HR System for UN Peace Operations

Copyright Date: Oct. 1, 2017
Pages: 64

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. None)
  2. (pp. i-ii)
  3. (pp. iii-iv)
  4. (pp. 1-2)
  5. (pp. 2-4)

    Human resources (HR) have been a long-standing issue for the UN. In the first years after the creation of the organization, staffing was largely improvised through ad hoc recruitment, personal relationships, and spontaneous phone calls. The first secretarygeneral had to establish a very small group of UN staff members from scratch and basically operated on the basis of member states’ recommendations to manage an international balance and maintain consensus around the newly established Secretariat.¹

    Since then, the changing nature of the UN and its growth in size, role, and mandate have made the restructuring of its HR system a pressing...

  6. (pp. 4-24)

    Field missions are composed of three different categories of personnel:

    1. The military component includes contingents and seconded military officers provided by troop-contributing countries.

    2. The police component includes formed police units and individual police officers, generally provided by police-contributing countries.

    3. The civilian component includes the following:

    Senior leadership consists of special representatives of the secretary-general (SRSGs) and deputy special representatives of the secretary-general (DSRSGs), mostly at the level of under-secretary-general or assistant secretary-general, who are appointed by the secretary-general.

    Professional categories of personnel (P2–P5 and D1–D2 levels) are recruited internationally. Professional and higher categories represent more than a third...

  7. (pp. 24-46)

    Many of the past reform efforts described above have been perceived as senseless attempts to make changes without a proper understanding of what was actually wrong and without being sure that reforms were effectively moving toward a better system. The over-rationalization and bureaucratization of human resources often led reforms to become box-ticking exercises that did not achieve the expected outcomes. In many instances, reforms arguably triggered unforeseen, counterproductive results, especially in field missions.

    In considering future reforms, the UN faces four systemic challenges to making the management and recruitment of personnel more fit for the purposes of field missions:


  8. (pp. 46-57)

    The UN’s HR challenges are linked to a wide range of interrelated (and sometimes competing) dynamics: the inherent political struggles playing out in the organization, the disempowerment of HR teams in field missions, the cumbersome bureaucracy, and an organizational culture based on a narrow vision of the staff profiles needed for peace operations, the sacred principle of competitiveness, lack of accountability, and rigid attachment to compliance with rules, regulations, and policies.

    Problems with human resources in the UN do not result from the failures of a particular department of the Secretariat but from deficiencies across the spectrum of key actors...

  9. (pp. 58-58)