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The UN and governance
Written by Diana Thebaud Nicholson // March 4, 2010 // Government & Governance, United Nations // Comments Off on The UN and governance
The decline of the international civil servant
(Foreign Policy) The U.N. practice of hiring political appointees has ensured American, French, and British dominance of key U.N. jobs in management, peacekeeping and political affairs. But it has chipped away at the U.N. ideal of the impartial international civil servant, loyal to the founding principles of the U.N., and not beholden to the state that helped get them the job.
The U.N. Charter’s Article 100 set out the loyalty standard for U.N. employees, saying U.N. staff “shall not seek or receive instructions from any government or from any other authority external to the organization.” It also requires states “respect the exclusively international character” of U.N. staff and “not to seek to influence them in the discharge of their responsibilities.”
The late Swedish Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold championed the culture of the impartial U.N. civil servant, clashing with both the United States and the Soviet Union over the importance of ensuring a level of U.N. independence in hiring, according to his biographer, Sir Brian Urquhart. And former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who rose from the U.N. civil service himself, frequently promoted his colleagues within the U.N.’s own ranks to senior political posts.
But the pendulum has swung back in favor of political appointees under Ban Ki-moon, who accepted the favored candidates of each of the U.N.’s powerful permanent five members in his first year in office, according to senior U.N. officials. Ban has used appointments to strike a careful geographical balance among the interests of influential member states.