The Secretariat

 A Statistical Profile of UN Staff

March 2016: 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


"Restoring Humanity"

The Economic and Social Council has decided to convene an “event” on the morning of 27 June that will consider the theme “Restoring humanity and leaving no one behind: working together to reduce people’s humanitarian need, risk and vulnerability.” It will be an informal panel discussion of what used to be referred to as the transition from relief to development. ECOSOC has decided that it will be known hereafter as “rethinking the humanitarian-development nexus.” The event will have no negotiated outcome.

Music by Pau Casals (not Pablo)

Former Assembly Prez Ashe Dies in Gym Accident  

4 June 2016 — In a surprising turn of events,  John Ashe, the president of the 68th UN General Assembly was reported dead of a heart attack on 23 June and the next day the cause of death was changed by a Westchester Medical Examiner to “traumatic asphyxia.” It seems he suffered neck trauma while doing a bench press at his home gym in Dobbs Ferry, New York. 

Whether there will be further investigations to rule out homicide is not clear.
Ashe, 61, had been indicted of tax fraud amidst allegations that he received some $1.3 million from Chinese businessmen including billionaire Macau real estate developer Ng Lap Seng. At a hearing in May, Prosecutor Daniel Richenthal announced that Ashe, who had pleaded not guilty, would be facing additional charges. Seven people have been indicted so far in the case. NG and two others have pleaded not guilty; three others have pleaded guilty.
                                                                                                                                                                         Read More 


May 2016: Three times in the 20th Century elite groups propelled by imperial ambition plunged the world into disastrous wars. Amidst growing signs that we are going down that same path again it has become imperative to broaden understanding of why the world is in such a mess and what can be done to deal with it. In particular, it is necessary to know how the United Nations must change if it is to succeed in its Charter aim of establishing a world without war. To those ends this two-part article provides a new narrative of modern international cooperation, telling of its rationale, experience and prospects. It looks both at the systemic and structural underpinnings of international cooperation and conflict as well as the superstructures of power relationships and policy that steer history.


The Roots of Cooperation: Historians are prone to note the congregation of Europe’s crowned heads at the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) as the precursor of modern multilateral organizations; but there is little real link between them. The roots of the United Nations lie instead in the scientific and industrial revolutions that required cross-border cooperation to set common measures and use standardized technologies, in particular the telegraph, the railroad and the steamship. In 1865 the International Telegraph Union was established in Paris. Today it is the oldest Specialized Agency of the United Nations System; renamed International Telecommunications Union in 1932, it now helps steer global cooperation as the latest wave of transforming technology pushes us ever deeper into the Information Age.

The second oldest UN Agency, the Universal Postal Union (UPU), was created in 1874 because the steamship and railroad created such a boom in the volume of international mail that it swamped the old system of bilateral postal agreements. The International Meteorological Organization, precursor of the World Meteorological Organization, was founded a year before the UPU but it was officially replaced by the WMO in 1951. The push to found the IMO came from naval and shipping interests seeking to use the new telegraphic capability to share information on changing weather conditions.                                                                         Read More

Peace & Security

Rich Debate on UN Peace Ops Misses key Issue    
A richly detailed and lively two-day discussion of United Nations peace operations and architecture (10-11 May), left untouched the basic reason for the Organization’s 70-year failure to achieve its primary Charter aim. Although the debate was shot through with facts and themes pointing to a malign and actively hostile international environment, no one tried to define it or say how the UN should respond.                                 Read More

21 July Straw Polls on SG 
17 June 2016: The Security Council has set 21 July for the first straw polls on candidates for the post of UN Secretary-General. Council members will be able to Encourage Discourage, or express disinterest in each candidate.    

                                Read More 

   The SG's Role

The Preparatory Commission that worked to establish the United Nations after its Charter was adopted in 1945 saw the Secretary-General as the key to ensuring popular support for the new Organization. “The United Nations cannot prosper, nor can its aims be realized without the active and steadfast support of the peoples of the world," it said. "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.”      Read More

Erratic service from UNTV!

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. 

Talking about Yoga at the UN

Drug Trafficking Massive Source of Terrorism Finance 

The failure of the General Assembly thematic debate on peace operations (see above) to focus on drug trafficking and money laundering is a serious one, for they are a massive source of terrorist financing. According to a 2014 study on financial flows linked to the production and trafficking of Afghan opiates published by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) a 1989 initiative of the Group of 7 largest industrialized countries:

"Drug trafficking is a business, but our understanding of this enterprise and response to it remain limited - less than 0.5% of the total laundered funds are seized. 

"Terrorists profit from and are engaged in opiate trafficking - over half the Afghan Taliban Senior Leadership listed under United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1988 are involved in drug trafficking. 

"International opiate traffickers rely on the services of financial professionals, either unwitting or complicit, to manage their assets but no global system exists to alert countries or the private sector of these individuals and entities, or to freeze the assets of opiate traffickers."      


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

NEW! Who are the CEOs of the UN System?

  $5.4 Billion Two-Year Budget for UN
The UN biennial budget for 2016-2017 is $5.4 billion, $170 million less than the amount requested by the Secretary-General. The approved total is $400 million less than the 2014-2015 budget. Most of the cut came from Public Information funding. Acting by consensus in December 2015, the Assembly also decided how much each Member State will pay. The United States and Japan remain the top two contributors to the budget, with 22 and 9.68 per cent); for the first time is China will be third, with 7.92 per cent. 

UN Specialized Agencies, Funds and Programmes

Some Older Blog Posts

UNEP Gets New Head

Erik Solheim of Norway took over in June as the new Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), replacing Achim Steiner of Germany. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had announced his selection following consultations with the Chairpersons of the regional groups in the UN General Assembly earlier this year. Mr. Solheim was the Chair of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a post he held since 2013. From 2007 to 2012, he was Norway's Minister for the Environment and International Development, and before that, the Minister for International Development from 2005 to 2007. Photo by Magnus Fröderberg/Nordic Council  norden.org