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

Recruitment for position-specific job openings (Click for full graphic)

Recruitment from rosters (Click for full graphic)

Recruitment for a POLNET position-specific job opening (Click for full graphic)

As the UN has grown in terms of size, role, and mandate, restructuring its human resources (HR) system has become a pressing necessity. Staffing missions operating in conflict zones and managing and retaining people in hardship duty stations have proven difficult, leading to multiple attempts at organizational reform. However, past reforms have had limited, counterproductive, or controversial effects, and HR processes remain opaque, lengthy, and largely inefficient.

The report focuses on issues related to recruitment, staffing, and management of personnel in UN peace operations, drawing on the conclusions and recommendations of the HIPPO report, lessons from past efforts at HR reform, and extensive interviews. The study recommends four directions to move in to make human resources fit for the purposes of field operations:

  • Get the right people for field missions by putting in place more efficient principles and systems for recruitment of quality staff, making working conditions more flexible and acceptable to better retain staff, and improving performance management systems to make it easier to terminate underperforming staff.
  • Reduce bureaucracy by decentralizing decisions on and control over recruitment to field missions and streamlining rules and procedures for the field, including by lifting restrictions, relaxing the principle of competitiveness, and facilitating internal movement and promotion.
  • Empower HR teams in the field by ending the culture of hostility between HR staff and hiring managers, reducing the clerical duties of HR teams in the field, moving from a culture of rule-compliance to a culture of service-delivery, and encouraging HR staff to become strategic partners in finding solutions to recruitment and management problems.
  • Depoliticize human resources by building confidence between member states and the Secretariat and reducing the Fifth Committee’s micromanagement of human resources.

Beyond these technical recommendations, it urges placing people before processes in order to humanize the UN’s HR system.

IPI would like to thank the French Ministry of Defence’s Directorate General for International Relations and Strategy and the government of Norway for making this publication possible.