United Nations Secretariat

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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 six major organs of the United Nations (a) the General Assembly; (b) the Security Council; (c) the Economic and Social Council; (d) the defunct Trusteeship Council; and (e) the International Court of Justice.[1][2] The Secretariat is the United Nations' executive arm. The Secretariat has an important role in setting the agenda for the UN's deliberative and decision making bodies of the UN (the General Assembly, Economic and Social Council, and Security Council), and the implementation of the decision of these bodies. Secretary General, who is appointed by the General Assembly, is the head of the secretariat.[2] The strength of secretariat staff, which is staffed by nationals of member states, has increased from 1,549 in 1949 to 43,747, in 2011.[3]

Mandate of the UN Secretariat[edit]

The mandate of the secretariat is a wide one. Dag Hammerskjold , the United Nations first Secretary General, described its power as follows: "The United Nations is what member nations made it, but within the limits set by government action and government cooperation, much depends on what the Secretariat makes it... [it] has creative capacity. It can introduce new ideas. It can, in proper forms, take initiatives. It can put before member governments findings which will influence their actions".[4] The United Nations Department of Political Affairs, which has a role analogous to a ministry of foreign affairs, is a part of the secretariat. So is the department of United Nations Peace Keeping Operations. The secretariat is the main source of economic and political analysis for the General Assembly and Security Council, it administers operations initiated by UN's deliberative organs, operates political missions, it prepares assessments that precede peacekeeping operations, it appoints the heads of peacekeeping operations, it conducts surveys and research, and communicates with non-state actors such as media and non-government organizations, it is responsible for publishing all of the treaties and international agreements.[2][5][6]


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.[7] Qualifications for membership include "the highest standards of efficiency, competence, and integrity",[8] 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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[10]

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.[7]

Secretary General[edit]

Ban Ki-moon is the current UN Secretary-General

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.


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

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[edit]

UN Regional Commissions[edit]

  • Bangkok, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
  • Beirut, Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia
  • Addis Ababa, Economic Commission for Africa
  • Geneva, Economic Commission for Europe
  • Santiago, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean


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".[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Main Organs". United Nations. United Nations. Retrieved 9 April 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c "UN Secretariat". United Nations. United Nations. Retrieved 9 April 2015. 
  3. ^ http://www.un.org/en/hq/dm/pdfs/ohrm/HR%20Factsheet.pdf
  4. ^ Dag Hammarskjöld (1968). Hammarskjöld: The Political Man. Funk & Wagnalls. 
  5. ^ Novosad, Paul; Werker, Eric (January 9, 2014). "Who Runs the International System? Power and the Sta�ng of the United Nations Secretariat" (PDF). Paul Novosad. Retrieved 9 April 2015. The article by Harvard Business School, researchers, Views the staffing of the Secretariat as a globalized power struggle. 
  6. ^ United Nations. (2011). Official web site http://www.un.org/en/mainbodies/secretariat/
  7. ^ a b "Secretariat - United Nations". The United Nations. 
  8. ^ Charter of the United Nations. pp. Chapter XV. 
  9. ^ "UN Staff Regulations - 2003" (PDF). 
  10. ^ a b The UN Charter. pp. Chapter XV, Article 101. 
  11. ^ V. Strengthening the United Nations In Larger Freedom, United Nations

External links[edit]