Where Do The 41,000 People Working for the UN Secretariat Come From?

First Phase Digital March 3, 2016 –  In Thant Myint-U and Amy Scott’s definitive The UN Secretariat: A Brief History (1945-2006), the secretariat is described as a political battleground where “the UN’s member states compete for power and influence and attempt to diminish the power and influence of others.”

The most recent Composition of the Secretariat report illustrates how political power and financial contributions impact hiring with just three of the 193 UN member states – the United States (2,636), France (1,470) and the UK (907) – accounting for almost 15 percent of the 41,081 Secretariat staff .

The Secretariat, which the UN Charter says “shall be comprised of a Secretary-General and such staff as the organization may require” essentially implements the resolutions of the General Assembly and Security Council, including managing peacekeeping operations, and also includes OCHA and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. It does not include specialized agencies such as UNICEF, UNDP and WHO.

Besides the P3, the other permanent members of the Security Council – China and Russia – contribute 461 and 551 secretariat staff. Germany and India, aspiring permanent members, contribute 537 and 593 staff while there are 259 Japanese nationals and 326 Pakistanis working for the secretariat. Japan is the second biggest financial contributor to the UN budget, followed by China and Germany. The US is the biggest.

Ethiopia and Sudan also contribute high numbers to the secretariat staff. In the case of Addis, this is because it is one of the biggest UN country offices in the world, home to 26 UN programs, funds and agencies. In the case of Sudan, this is down to the fact that Sudan is home to two peacekeeping missions (UNAMID and UNISFA) and one of the UN’s biggest humanitarian operations.

There are 1,750 Kenyans working for the UN, this also a result of Nairobi’s designation as a UN regional hub.

On the other end of the scale, there are only 2 Emiratis, 5 Qataris, 20 Saudis and 25 Moldovans working for the secretariat while there are no Kiribatis.

Two of the countries on the UN Security Council sanctions list, Iran and North Korea are also under-represented, with just one North Korean and 60 Iranians employed by the secretariat.

Other countries of note are Syria (238), Turkey (81), Canada (660), Brazil (174) and Norway (90).

The average age of a UN secretariat employee is 42 and more than 200 people apply for every open position, according to General Assembly’s advisory committee on budgetary questions.

Overall the number of female employees of the secretariat stands at 34.4 percent and there is an even wider gap at the highest level of under-secretary-general where of a total of 78 people who hold this post, just 18 are women.

- Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz