United Nations Secretariat

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This article is about the organ. For the building it is housed in, see United Nations Secretariat Building.
United Nations Secretariat
Formation 1945
Type Primary Organ
Legal status Active

Secretary-General of the United Nations

Ban Ki-moon
 Republic of Korea
Website www.un.org/documents/st.htm

The United Nations Secretariat (French: le Secrétariat des Nations unies) is one of the principal organs of the United Nations, an intergovernmental organization charged with the promotion of aiding states to collectively maintain international peace and security; it serves as a forum for member-states to discuss and resolve pressing issues in the international field through primarily diplomatic resources. The Secretariat is composed of a Secretary General, assisted by a staff of international civil servants worldwide. The Secretary General is appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council. It services the other principal organs of the United Nations and administers the programs and policies laid down by them. The Secretariat carries out myriad duties ranging from the administration of peacekeeping operations to making surveys/studies about different countries' economic and social trends.


The activities of the Secretariat are performed by a staff of 44,000 civil servants from around the world under the leadership of the Secretary-General. Eligibility for civil service is based on a UN-administered examination offered worldwide, in addition to a competitive application process.[1] Qualifications for membership include "the highest standards of efficiency, competence, and integrity",[2] according to the UN Charter. Staff-members are appointed by the Secretary-General alone and are assigned to the organs of the United Nations. Staff members are appointed on a temporary or permanent basis, under the discretion of the Secretary-General.[3] During staff recruitment, geographical variety is an especially prominent selection factor in order to accurately reflect the scope of member states present in the UN.[4]

While the Secretariat seeks to represent UN membership fairly through diverse geographical representation, staff members are foremost international officials. The charter states that staff members are responsible "only to the organization" and are prohibited from any action or influence that would suggest affiliation with a government or organization outside the UN.[4]

Headquartered in New York, the Secretariat functions through duty stations in Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Beirut, Geneva, Nairobi, Santiago and Vienna, in addition to offices all over the world.[1]

Though ambiguous in description, the UN states that its daily activities are most often carried about the secretariat.[5] But its functions are difficult to define. The UN Charter is not specific about the Secretariat's powers. However it is clear that the Secretariat, and the Secretary-General, are vital parts to the UN. It is in charge of notifications and the arrangement of the meetings of the secretary-general. The Secretariat is also in charge of publishing all of the treaties and international agreements that the UN makes. The role of the Secretariat varies with the agenda of the UN. Sometimes it is required to act as a mediator and other times it is set to administer different peacekeeping operations. This body also has the important job of relating what the UN has accomplished to the different media outlets around the world. Often this can be done through the organizations of international conferences. Another notable job of the Secretariat is their duty of translating speeches and documents into the UN’s official languages. The secretariat is also in charge of approving the salary and allowance for the general service as well as providing advice to different UN agencies. Due to these powers, all the members of the UN are supposed to be impartial. According to the UN, its secretariat "services the other principal organs of the United Nations and administers the programmes and policies laid down by them", and "The duties carried out by the Secretariat are as varied as the problems dealt with by the United Nations."[6]

Leadership under the Secretary-General[edit]

The Secretary-General's duties include helping resolve international disputes, administering peacekeeping operations, organizing international conferences, gathering information on the implementation of Security Council decisions, and consulting with member governments regarding various initiatives. Key Secretariat offices in this area include the Office of the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. The Secretary-General may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter that, in his or her opinion, may threaten international peace and security.

Interaction with other UN Bodies[edit]

"Formed by an international staff, drawn from over 170 countries, the Secretariat constitutes the skeleton of the organization, allowing the entire system to work, supporting the activities of other organisms."[5]


Since its creation, the Secretariat has undergone extensive reforms. On 21 March 2005, Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposed several reforms for the Secretariat. He announced his intentions to appoint a Scientific Adviser, create a peacebuilding support office, establish a cabinet-style decision-making mechanism, and strengthen the mediation function. He also asked the General Assembly to appropriate funds for a one-time staff buyout; to work with him in revising budgetary and human resources rules; to grant the Secretary-General more managerial authority and flexibility; to strengthen the Office of Internal Oversight Services; and "to review all mandates older than five years to see whether the activities concerned are still genuinely needed or whether the resources assigned to them can be reallocated in response to new and emerging challenges".[7]


The Secretariat is divided into offices and departments. The hierarchy within each is as follows:[5]

Office: a minimum of 20 high level professionals under the supervision of a D-2 staff member (Division Head), or in few cases an Assistant Secretary General or Under Secretary General
Division: a minimum of 15 high level professionals under the supervision of a D-2 staff member (Division Head)
Service: a minimum of 8 high level professionals under the supervision of a D-1 (General Administrator) staff member
Section: a minimum of 4 professionals under the supervisions of a P-4 (8-12 years experience) or a P-5 (13-17 years experience) staff member
Unit: a minimum of 4 positions under the supervision of a chief
Offices Away from Headquarters


Ban Ki-moon is the current UN Secretary-General

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Secretariat - United Nations". The United Nations. 
  2. ^ Charter of the United Nations. pp. Chapter XV. 
  3. ^ "UN Staff Regulations - 2003". 
  4. ^ a b The UN Charter. pp. Chapter XV, Article 101. 
  5. ^ a b c "A Guide to a Career with the United Nations". Retrieved 9 February 2012. 
  6. ^ United Nations. (2011). Official web site http://www.un.org/en/mainbodies/secretariat/
  7. ^ V. Strengthening the United Nations In Larger Freedom, United Nations
  8. ^ DGACM

    With more than 1,100 staff members in New York and 2,200 worldwide, including the conference-servicing staff based in Geneva, Vienna, and Nairobi, the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management (DGACM) is one of the largest departments in the Organization. Our mission is to enhance communication among Member States by facilitating dialogue and cooperation and, in the process, contributing to the realization of the goals and objectives outlined in the Charter of the United Nations.

External links[edit]