"If I am obliged to reduce UNCTAD´s overall capacity to respond to your needs -- as I must -- then we all should refrain from suggesting further mandates. And, at the same time, we should be prepared to face the need to terminate some programmes. The moment of decision is rapidly approaching", the UNCTAD Secretary-General, Rubens Ricupero, warned member States in the light of financial constraints weighing on the Organization. In an address to the UNCTAD Trade and Development Board on 27 February, he urged Governments to be flexible in setting priorities for future work in UNCTAD at the UNCTAD IX Conference.
UNCTAD´ s daily work and its future work programme will unavoidably be affected by the financial crisis of the United Nations system as a whole and the correlated issue of reform. The Secretary-General said that it was therefore fortunate that UNCTAD IX would convene shortly (27 April to 11 May) to give guidance in this respect, taking into account the budget realities of today.
Mr. Ricupero explained that "in order to achieve all the savings required by the General Assembly, UNCTAD is aiming to achieve during the biennium a 12 percent vacancy rate among the Professional staff -- one in eight of our full roster -- as well as a seven percent rate among the General Service staff." He added that the main options available to meet this vacancy target were the non-renewal of short-term contracts and the non-replacement of permanent staff who reach retirement age. UNCTAD today has a staff of 437, of which 252 in the Professional category and 185 in the General Service.
In response to the financial crisis affecting the United Nations system as a whole, UNCTAD has been compelled to freeze 735 work months out of approximately 6000 among the Professional staff, which translates to the equivalent of 30 positions.
"Achieving and then preserving managerial flexibility to be able to bring in new blood and respond quickly to the changing needs of member States is vital to me, as the Secretary-General of an organization which must adapt significantly in the way that it is conducting its activities", Mr. Ricupero stated. "Without being able to bring in new talent and skills, especially at the senior levels of the organization, I am convinced that UNCTAD is simply condemning itself to a slow death", he warned.
On an optimistic note he indicated that despite the gloomy financial outlook, he was not discouraged and viewed opportunity in crisis. "I personally do not believe that financial constraints or administrative questions, should be a prevailing factor in determining our approach to the issues we are going to deal with. There is of course a need for efficiency in costs and savings. But my ultimate goal in UNCTAD is to reach efficiency in a broader sense: better services to meet the expectations of the international community in the best possible way and with costs as low as possible".
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