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 UN Staff

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

“The United Nations cannot prosper, nor can its aims be realized without the active and steadfast support of the peoples of the world" 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.”

The Secretary General

Undiplomatic Blog

The annual Report on the Work of the Organization (A/70/1) is one of the rare UN documents that gets media attention.
That is because it is submitted to the opening session of the General Assembly every year and 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.

UN Gets $5.4 Billion Budget for 2016-2017

The UN General Assembly has approved a biennial budget of $5.4 billion for the Organization, slicing $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 comes from 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).

What's New

UN Peacekeeping’s $8.5 Billion Shaggy Dog Story

Despite growing evidence that UN “Peacekeeping” seems to have lost its way and perhaps even its rationale, the United Nations now spends significantly more on “peacekeeping” than it does on regular budget activities. In theory, the $8.5 billion budgeted for peacekeepers (120,000 at last count) is meant to finance the transition out of regional conflicts but in reality most UN missions now are policing long-standing political stalemates or trying to survive amidst vicious guerrilla wars. The “Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali” and the “African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur” do little more than defend themselves against everything from snipers and improvised explosive devices to armed groups and criminal organizations. Meanwhile, peacekeepers in the Central African Republic have drawn global attention by the sexual abuse of numerous children.

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

The United Nations System

Specialized agencies, funds and programmes

The founders of the UN took a lesson from the fact that when the League of Nations failed its Offices dealing with Labour and Health stayed alive. They created a set of autonomous agencies to ensure that international cooperation would continue if the UN itself failed.  

Sidelights to History

The relevance of Gandhi, Mandela and M. Teresa

Call for UN Action on Journalist Killings

The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has urged in its annual report on journalists killed in countries around the world that the UN Secretary-General appoint a Special Representative to help mobilize an adequate global response. According to the RSF 67 of the 110 journalists killed in 2015 were targeted because of their work and 43 died in undetermined circumstances. Another 27 non-professional "citizen-journalists" and seven other media workers were also killed. Read More

       Some Older Posts

UN Begins Search for Next Secretary-General

For the first time in its 70-year history the United Nations has begun a formal search for its next Secretary-General. It began with a General Assembly resolution in September setting the ground rules for the search, followed by a letter sent out on 15 December 2015, signed jointly by its president and that of the Security Council, inviting member States to submit candidates.

Two paragraphs in the Assembly resolution (which deals broadly with the revitalization of the General Assembly), focuses on the qualities of the person being sought. One “stresses the need to ensure equal and fair distribution based on gender and geographical balance,” and “invites Member States to consider presenting women as candidates.” The other “stresses, in particular, the need to ensure the appointment of the best possible candidate … who embodies the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity … demonstrates a firm commitment to the purposes and principles of the United Nations and has “proven leadership and managerial abilities, extensive experience in international relations and strong diplomatic, communication and multilingual skills.”...