United Nations:

Targeted Strategies Could Help Boost U.S. Representation

GAO-01-839: Published: Jul 27, 2001. Publicly Released: Jul 27, 2001.

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The United Nations (U.N.) and its affiliated entities face the dual challenge of attracting and retaining staff who meet the highest standards of efficiency, competence, and integrity while maintaining the international character of the organizations by ensuring equitable geographic balance in the workforce. Nevertheless, U.N. organizations have made slow progress in addressing U.S. concerns about underrepresentation, and, except for the U.N. secretariat in New York, the organizations with representation targets that GAO studied have not achieved equitable employment of Americans since 1992. Although the U.N. organizations are ultimately responsible for achieving fair geographic balance among its member countries, the State Department, in coordination with other U.S. agencies, plays a role in ensuring that the United States is fairly represented. U.N. organizations have not fully developed long-range workforce planning strategies, and neither State nor the U.N. agencies have formal recruiting and hiring action plans to improve U.S. representation in the U.N. system. Without these measures, the United States' ability to even maintain the number of Americans employed in the United Nations could be hampered.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In the July 2001 report (United Nations: Target Strategies Could Help Boost U.S. Representation, GAO-01-839), GAO recommended that the Secretary of State Develop a comprehensive U.S. strategy for achieving equitable representation of Americans in U.N. employment that includes efforts to improve interagency coordination and specifies performance goals, time frames, and resource requirements and incorporate these goals and progress achieving them into State's Annual Performance Plan and Annual Performance Report. In response, the State Department incorporated U.S. employment targets for the United Nations and a strategy for implementation into its fiscal year 2002 performance and accountability report. This report notes that the Department recruitment strategy includes (1) establishing and coordinating USG-wide efforts; (2) promoting the detail and transfer of federal employees; (3) enhancing employment information and offering applicant support; (4) monitoring UN staffing and hiring efforts; and (5) working with UN agencies to encourage their hiring of more Americans. Similar targets and strategies were established in subsequent years, as noted in the State Department Fiscal Year 2005 Performance Summary. No similar targets or strategy were mentioned in the fiscal year 2001 Program Performance Report. As a result, increasing U.S. employment in the United Nations has become a more formal part of the State Department performance goals.

    Recommendation: Because equitable representation of Americans employed at U.N. organizations has been determined to be important to United States, U.S. interests, the Secretary of State should develop, with other U.S. government agencies, a comprehensive U.S. strategy for achieving equitable representation of Americans in U.N. employment that includes efforts to improve interagency coordination and specifies performance goals, time frames, and resource requirements, and incorporate these goals and progress achieving them into State's Annual Performance Plan and Annual Performance Report.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In the July 2001 report (United Nations: Target Strategies Could Help Boost U.S. Representation, GAO-01-839), GAO recommended that the Secretary of State work with human resources directors of U.N. organizations in which Americans are underrepresented, particularly in light of anticipated retirements in the next several years, to help ensure long-range workforce planning efforts include measures targeted to achieve equitable U.S. representation within a specified time frame. In September 2003, in response, the State Department Bureau of International Organizations instructed their missions in Geneva, Montreal, Nairobi, New York, Rome, and Vienna to redouble their efforts to promote increased U.S. representation on the staffs of UN agencies by meeting with each of the heads of the major UN agencies for which they were responsible. Each mission received specific guidance on what either the prescribed geographic distribution targets or negotiated targets were for each organization. A similar request was sent to the Geneva mission in July 2002. In addition, the State Department means for achieving FY 2005 UN employment targets include annual meetings with senior officials of key international organizations about recruitment of American citizens. Consequently, some UN agencies are more aware of US employment issues and have taken strides to ensure that the United States does not fall below its geographical target. For example, because many of their American employees will be eligible for retirement soon, the Secretariat has invited the United States to offer the National Competitive Recruitment exam.

    Recommendation: Because equitable representation of Americans employed at U.N. organizations has been determined to be important to U.S. interests, the Secretary of State should work with human resources directors of U.N. organizations in which Americans are underrepresented or are close to being underrepresented, particularly in light of anticipated retirements in the next several years, to help ensure that long-range workforce planning efforts include measures targeted to achieve equitable U.S. representation within a specified time frame.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: No action taken.

    Recommendation: Because equitable representation of Americans employed at U.N. organizations has been determined to be important to U.S. interests, the Secretary of State should develop guidelines that define State's goal of securing an equitable share of senior-level and policymaking posts, and use these guidelines to assess whether the United States is equitably represented in high-ranking positions in U.N. organizations.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In the July 2001 report (United Nations: Target Strategies Could Help Boost U.S. Representation, GAO-01-839), GAO recommended that the Secretary of State provide heads of U.N. agencies, for their appropriate attention and action, with copies of the State Department annual report to Congress on efforts by the United Nations and other international organizations to employ Americans. In September 2003, State Department Bureau of International Organizations distributed their Annual Reports to Congress to their missions in Geneva, Montreal, Nairobi, New York, Rome, and Vienna with specific instructions to share the report with UN officials and encourage better recruitment of U.S. citizens. A similar request was sent to the Geneva mission in July 2002. Consequently, some UN agencies are more aware of US employment issues and have taken strides to ensure that the United States does not fall below its geographical target.

    Recommendation: Because equitable representation of Americans employed at U.N. organizations has been determined to be important to U.S. interests, the Secretary of State should provide heads of U.N. agencies, for their appropriate attention and action, with copies of State's annual report to Congress on efforts by the United Nations and other international organizations to employ Americans.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

 

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