The framework is not merely a tool for human resources management, but also an important vehicle through which to foster broader cultural change within United Nations system organizations. The leadership qualities outlined in the framework can be embedded in all areas of work of the United Nations system, at all levels and in all functions and locations. Globally, the United Nations System Staff College supports the adoption of the framework and realization of its principles through training and learning events.
The framework features in the Secretary-General’s management reform efforts, through which it will be integrated into all leadership and management staff selection decisions at all levels across the United Nations Secretariat. The Secretary-General also instructs that leadership orientation, training, mentoring and coaching programmes be updated to align with the principles and characteristics laid out in the framework.
The “who, what and how” of UN leadership
The framework establishes that, in today’s challenging international environment, UN leadership:
is norm-based, promoting, protecting and defending United Nations norms and standards contained in international treaties, resolutions and declarations
takes a principled approach at all levels, always maintaining constructive engagement with all stakeholders on the most sensitive of issues and never discriminating, turning a blind eye to abuses, or giving in to pressure
is inclusive and respectful of all personnel and stakeholders, embracing diversity and rejecting discrimination in all its forms
is mutually accountable within the system, to beneficiaries – especially the most vulnerable, excluded or marginalized – and the public beyond, for the causes the organization serves and the way it conducts its work
is multidimensional, engaging across pillars and functions, connecting knowledge and experience, and ensuring coherence in support of the fully integrated SDG framework
is transformational at all levels, supporting the overall mission to achieve positive change as well as the significant change effort to implement the 2030 Agenda while leaving no one behind
is collaborative, reflecting the interdependent imperatives of the United Nations Charter and the comprehensive nature of the 2030 Agenda, seeking collective “as one” thinking, joined-up approaches and solutions, and recognizing that better connecting universal goals to people-centered initiatives requires investment in collective United Nations efforts to achieve them, and
is self-applied, so that United Nations principles and norms are exhibited in the behaviour and interactions of all leaders.
Four ways of working exemplify these leadership characteristics:
focusing on achieving impact for the people the United Nation serves
driving transformational change to respond to the demands of the 2030 Agenda
employing systems thinking to deal with the complexities of sustainable development, and
co-creating solutions through inclusive partnerships.
The path towards operationalization deliberately gives organizations broad flexibility to define the best entity-level implementation roadmap, taking into consideration their own mandates, unique value offerings and specific needs. At the heart of implementing the framework is behavourial and organizational change, a long-term process that requires dedicated leadership and a purposeful, sustained effort over time.
About the development of the leadership framework
The CEB Common Principles for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, highlight the critical importance of transformative leadership across the UN system in Principle #10. A joint task team of the High-Level Committee on Programmes (HLCP) and the High-level Committee on Management (HLCM), led by the UN System Staff College, was formed in June 2016 to work towards translating this vision into reality, with HLCP contributing on the programmatic and policy viewpoints, and HLCM providing managerial perspectives towards its operationalization. In September 2016, HLCP supported building on the UNDG leadership model to develop a unified proposal, a decision seconded by HLCM. Subsequently, the comprehensive proposal – highlighting eight defining characteristics of United Nations leadership, describing leadership in action, and outlining a path toward operationalization – was approved by both HLCP and HLCM in March 2017, and thereafter endorsed by CEB in April 2017.