Harmonization and simplification of business practices at the global level
As the work of the High-level Committee in Management more broadly focuses on corporate management policies, the Committee, through its plan of action for the harmonization of business practices, is funding several initiatives with global impact.
The most advanced project of this kind, co-led by the World Health Organization and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, is in the area of financial management and aims at putting in place common and/or harmonized treasury services. As reported in the annual overview report of CEB for 2010/11 (E/2011/104), a feasibility study was carried out by the Committee’s Finance and Budget Network. The study identified several areas where greater inter-agency collaboration could lead to savings and efficiency gains within existing rules and regulations. Those areas include banking services, payments, foreign exchange transactions, risk management and investments. The potential for efficiency gains and reduction in costs are significant and a detailed picture of the financial impact of the proposed collaboration is expected to be available by the end of 2012.
In response to General Assembly resolution 64/289, the CEB secretariat, in collaboration with the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, has continued its work on the development of a United Nations system-wide financial statistics database and reporting system. That project, which is on target for completion by June 2012 and is also funded by the plan of action for the harmonization of business practices, is intended to simplify, improve and modernize the collection and reporting of system-wide financial statistics. The Committee’s Procurement Network has been particularly active in 2011 and 2012. A current priority for the Network is the incorporation of the model policy framework for vendor eligibility into United Nations system organizations’ internal processes. The framework allows for the introduction of a common decision mechanism for dealing with suspect vendors and responds to the need for transparency, accountability and effectiveness in procurement. The Network is also continuing its focus on collaborative procurement. Joint work in the areas of freight forwarding and warehousing and freight insurance has been completed. In addition, a collaborative inter-agency procurement initiative on vehicles has been launched under the leadership of the United Nations Development Programme. These collaborative initiatives have the potential to reach considerable annual cost reductions, compared to previous contracts. The Network is also carrying out a study led by the International Atomic Energy Agency on spending trends in the United Nations system, in order to identify additional areas where collaborative procurement might lead to efficiency gains for the system.In response to calls from Member States for increasing participation of developing countries and economies in transition in the procurement process of the United Nations, the Procurement Network is continuing its work on the United Nations Global Marketplace, on professional development of procurement professionals and on supplier access. Moving forward, the Network is emphasizing the importance of simplifying access to United Nations procurement. To achieve this objective, the Network is looking to simplify vendor registration which will enhance access to procurement processes for new vendors.
CEB, through its Human Resources Network, held a preliminary debate on the issue of personnel working for United Nations common system organizations on non-staff contracts. In order to accelerate progress in ensuring comprehensive, sensitive, coordinated and consistent support to staff and, where appropriate, other civilian personnel affected by critical incidents in the line of duty, as well as to their families, the Committee will undertake a stock-taking exercise to identify best practices, gaps and problem areas; clarify scope; and identify and explore differences in eligibility and coverage for different categories of personnel.
The CEB secretariat facilitates the negotiations on the agreements between organizations of the United Nations and international associations of interpreters and translators. It ensures that the agreements which regulate the conditions of employment of short-term staff performing interpretation, translation and related functions are adhered to by all parties. The agreement with the International Association of Conference Interpreters is negotiated every five years. The agreement with the International Association of Conference Translators has not been reviewed since 1991 and is therefore currently being realigned to the current realities of the United Nations common system. In 2011-2012, negotiations with the International Association of Conference Interpreters and the International Association of Conference Translators have been ongoing with a view to reaching new agreements by 1 July 2012. Monthly net rates for interpreters and translators are calculated and published by the CEB secretariat.
In March 2012, the High-level Committee on Management completed its review — in consultation with the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund — of the mandatory age of separation, including innovative and flexible modalities in applying the mandatory age of separation, and transmitted its report to the International Civil Service Commission in view of the Commission’s upcoming consideration of this matter. The Committee recognized that there was no pressing financial need to raise the retirement age from the perspective of the Pension Fund. The harmonization of practices and the introduction of flexible retirement programmes could instead represent areas to explore further.
Supporting organizations in attracting and retaining a talented and mobile workforce is a priority for CEB. In this context, the High-level Committee on Management has given priority to the development of tools to support increased mobility within and between organizations. At its spring session, the Committee endorsed the Inter-Organization Agreement Concerning the Transfer, Secondment or Loan of Staff among the Organizations Applying the United Nations Common System of Salaries and Allowances. The Agreement, which came into effect on 1 January 2012, provides the first building block of a framework to foster mobility throughout the system. In view of future discussions by Member States on mobility within the United Nations, the Committee will continue its work, addressed by a working group established by the Human Resources Network, under the leadership of the United Nations Secretariat. The Network also established a working group to identify common elements of performance appraisal systems across the United Nations organizations. The CEB secretariat issued the annual report on personnel statistics in May 2012.
In order to improve system-wide planning and budgeting for information and communications technology, the Information Communications Technology Network initiated a project that assists organizations in analysing the cost of information and communications technology. Led by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, this project will improve the ability of the United Nations system to budget and plan their investments in information and communications technology on the basis of comparative information on costs.
Data communications services remain at the heart of information and communications technology operations for many organizations, and the Information Communications Technology Network has initiated several projects that allow for increased harmonization across the system. One project, called the United Nations Core Gateway will, for the first time, allow for the interconnection of internal agency networks, thereby allowing for an unprecedented ability to communicate easily and efficiently across agencies. In addition, the United Nations Secretariat is leading an effort for all agencies to migrate to the latest version of the Internet Protocol. The entire global Internet will be required to adopt this protocol in the coming years, and it offers a unique opportunity to harmonize and standardize agency networks.
In addition, the Information Communications Technology Network continues to address the issue of cybersecurity, and during the first-ever global United Nations system conference of Chief Information Security Officers, led by the International Telecommunication Union, agreed to adopt shared standards and build common awareness training modules.