There are over 76 thousand people working for the United Nations and its various entities around the world. That does not include the staff of the autonomous UN Specialized agencies (like the World Health Organization), but does include programs like UNICEF initiated by the UN General Assembly.  Of that grand total, fewer than 10,000 are subject to a national quota system linked to the size of a country's budgetary contribution. 

Most UN staff have contracts ranging from a few months to five years. A minority have permanent or continuing contracts. There are two major categories of staff, Professional (P) and the mainly secretarial General Services (GS). The Professional entry level is P-1 and goes up to P-5. Above that are two Director levels, D1 and D2 (the latter being more senior), and then the political appointee levels of Assistant-Secretary-General (ASG) and the more senior Under-Secretary-General (USG). The General Service ranks also ascend numerically and those who qualify can move up into the Professional ranks.

The charts below show the June 2015 breakdown of all UN staff by entity and location.


Where 41,081 UN staff were posted as of 30 June 2015

Duty station                          Country                               # Staff    

New York                           United States                           6 545   Geneva                                Switzerland                             3 459

Nairobi                                     Kenya                                    1 836

El Fasher                                  Sudan                                   1 710  

Vienna                                       Austria                                  1 156

Port-au-Prince                         Haiti                                     1 101

Juba                                      South Sudan                           1 090

Monrovia                                 Liberia                                    1 041

Goma                                    DR of Congo                                988

Kabul                                     Afghanistan                                938

Addis Ababa                          Ethiopia                                     899

Naqoura                                 Lebanon                                     861

Bamako                                      Mali                                           819

Kinshasa                              DR of Congo                                 806

UN Gets $5.4 Billion Budget for 2016-2017
The 70th session of the UN General Assembly concluded work for 2015 by approving a biennial budget of $5.4 billion for the Organization. It sliced $170 million from the amount requested by the Secretary-General. The approved total is $400 million less than the 2014-2015 budget.

Much of the cut imposed by the Assembly was in expenditures for Public Information, one of the largest UN Departments with 734 posts in the 2014-2015 biennium.

The Assembly also adopted a new scale apportioning the shares each Member State will pay. The United States will pay the most (22 per cent) and Japan will remain the second largest contributor (9.68 per cent); third on the list for the first time is China (7.92 per cent).

UN Specialized Agencies, Funds and Programmes

Mahatma Gandhi (1869 - 1948), Nelson Mandela (1918 - 1913) and Mother Teresa (1910 - 1997) are legendary figures but each has enduring lessons to teach. Click the links above for more. 

The 8 Secretaries-General So Far

Undiplomatic Blog

Report on the Work of the United Nations

The Report on the Work of the Organization (A/70/1),  the annual report submitted by the Secretary-General to the General Assembly, is one of the rare UN documents that gets media attention.
That is not only because it is submitted to the opening session and offers an overview of the Organization's work but also because its Introduction reflects the Secretary-General’s primary political concerns. 
The Report itself has always been a distillation of many departmental submissions and even at its best is a committee-designed horse, its ill fitted parts of varying worth and integrity.
The Introduction to the 2015 Report is remarkable for several reasons. At the top of my list is that it makes no mention of a major change in UN policy announced sotto voce in the penultimate section of the Report itself: “The United Nations advocates a rebalancing of the international policy on drugs, to increase the focus on public health, human rights, prevention, treatment and care, and economic, social and cultural measures.” 
That is the closest the UN has ever come to calling for an end to the prohibitionist approach to psychoactive drugs which has for over a century failed in its main purpose while rewarding organized crime with sky-high profits. It is certain to raise expectations that the 2016 General Assembly special session on drugs will rewrite international drug policy.      Read More

       Some Older Posts


No More “Developing Countries” for World Bank
2 May 2016: The World Bank has stopped distinguishing between developed and developing countries in its most widely used dataset, World Development Indicators (WDI). An official blog on the 2016 edition (released on 15 April) offers the rather lame explanation that “with the focus of the Sustainable Development Goals on... the whole world, we should start phasing out the term developing world.”

In previous editions of WDI low- and middle-income countries were categorized as developing and high income as developed countries. The blog notes that as a result of the change a new aggregate for North America has been included in tables, and aggregates for Europe and Central Asia include countries of the European Union.

The rationale for ending the distinction makes no sense when we consider that the World Bank says meeting the “Sustainable Development Goal of eliminating extreme poverty in all its forms everywhere by 2030 is very ambitious” and probably cannot be met. It says if "national growth rates for the past 10 years prevail for the next 15 years, the global extreme poverty rate will fall to 4 percent by 2030, with variations across regions. If national growth rates for the past 20 years prevail, it will be around 6 percent. Eliminating extreme poverty will require a steep change from historical growth rates."

In terms of the reduction in the number of people living on less than $1.90 a day there has been major progress globally. In 1990, 37 per cent of the world population lived below the international poverty line of $1/90 a day. In 2015 it was calculated at 13 percent and is estimated to have continued falling to below 10 percent. However, different regions advanced at varying rates. In East Asia and Pacific the extreme poverty rate fell from 61 percent in 1990 to 7 percent in 2012, and in South Asia it fell from 51 percent to 19 percent. In sub-Saharan Africa the extreme poverty rate did not fall below its 1990 level until 2002.

Since the formation of the Group of 77 in 1964, the division between developed and developing countries has been one of the firmest political lines at the United Nations. Over the decades there have been many maneuvers to break that division but developing countries have hung fast to it because of the collective bargaining power it provides in negotiations. Although there is a great variety within the G-77, the Group has been ingenious in melding different sub-group positions. In fact, in the context of South-South Cooperation, the variety has proved to be a strength, with providers emerging even from the Least Developed Countries sub-group. The latest sub-group to emerge is at the other end of the spectrum, the Middle Income Countries.   

Development Financing as Theater
The inaugural session of the UN Forum on Financing for Development Follow-up (19-21 April), was more theater than international diplomacy. There was a great deal of strutting and fretting on the stage of the new ECOSOC subsidiary that will oversee support for the broadest plan the UN has ever made to transform the world: but to what effect was unclear.

The plan’s three components, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement to combat climate change, all adopted in 2015, aim at “eradicating poverty, combating inequality, preserving the planet, creating sustained economic growth and fostering social inclusion” (to quote the UN System’s Chief Executives Board). The new Forum will keep track of that complex effort by focusing on the “holistic, coherent framework” for financing development set by the Addis Agenda.

Supporting the Forum will be a UN Inter-Agency Task Force reporting not only on the “several hundred concrete actions” States “have pledged to undertake ... Read More

“The United Nations cannot prosper, nor can its aims be realized without the active and steadfast support of the peoples of the world." So said the Preparatory Commission that worked to create the United Nations after its Charter was adopted in 1945. It saw the Secretary-General as the key to ensuring such support. "The aims and activities of the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council will, no doubt, be represented before the public primarily by the Chairmen of these organs. But the Secretary-General, more than anyone else, will stand for the United Nations as a whole. In the eyes of the world, no less than in the eyes of his own staff, he must embody the principles and ideals of the Charter to which the Organization seeks to give effect.”

UN ENTITY                    TOTAL STAFF                                %
Secretariat                         41 081                                       54.0 
UNICEF                                12 386                                       16.3  
UNHCR                                   9 728                                       12.8 
UNDP                                     7 456                                         9.8   
UNFPA                                   2 621                                         3.4  
UNOPS                                   1 009                                        1.3 
UN-Women                             816                                         1.1
ITC                                               298                                        0.4  
UNJSPF                                     240                                        0.3
UNRWA                                      144                                        0.2
UNU                                            123                                        0.2
ICJ                                               117                                         0.2  
ICSC                                              56                                         0.1    
UNITAR                                        40                                         0.1  
Total                                     76 115                                    100.0