Is there a career development for YPP staff members at the UN?
Some suggestions on the way forward
1 Jun 2021

National Competitive examination (NCE) and Young Professional Programe (YPP) staff members, having passed through highly competitive and rigorous written and oral examinations, which are mandated by the General Assembly to improve the geographic representation of the organisation and attract and retain talented young professionals, join the Organization with pride, excitement, determination and expectations for career advancement and develpoment.

However, a great number of them experience stalls in their career advancement and have become frustrated and dissillusioned by a system that did not give the expected attention to them after they are recruited. Many NCEs/YPPs, who have excellent credentials and extensive work experience, including in the field, have remained at the same level for many years, including at the P2 level.

Frustration with the lack of career prospects has led to some resignations among YPPs at the P2 and P3 levels with others reconsidering long-term careers with the United Nations, which is disconcerting, in particular given the significant investments in administering the programme.

While it is understood that the YPP staff play a leading role in their professional development, the UN Secretariat and Departments are expected to play a supporting role, putting effective systems in place to enhance and support career decisions. Information provided to YPP candidates highlights that from the moment a YPP joins the United Nations, that YPPs can be certain of a support system for career development. It goes on to emphasis that the United Nations is “serious” about career support and that managers are there to provide a work environment to “positively and qualitatively” support career development. Unfortunately most YPPs receive little or no support from managers or the system as a whole.

In the case of OHCHR for example, frustration with the lack of career advancement led to a group of NCEs/YPPs staff members to take action. In 2020, the OHCHR NCE/YPP Group, in consultation with the UNOG Staff Coordinating Council and the OHCHR Staff Committee, began to meet and organize themselves in search of positive changes. They also met with Senior Management and Human Resources to discuss experiences and propose solutions. As a result, Management has agreed to expand measures to make NCE/YPP applicants more visible in promotion processes, expand coaching services, provide data and statistics and to report on progress. These are steps in the right direction and the UNOG Staff Coordinating Council welcome this positive development. We will continue to follow-up to ensure that these YPPs/NCEs are no longer left behind in selection exercises, so that the NCE/YPP programme delivers on its objectives for the benefit of the UN as a whole.

* Bradford Smith works at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
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