What the new mobility policy means for you
The team behind the new mobility policy explains how it will work
1 Feb 2023

Think of where you are now. Is your career heading in the right direction? Have you felt like you have reached the ceiling in your current role or lacked certain skills and experience to explore other opportunities within the UN system? Navigating your career in the modern work climate can pose quite a challenge.

The future of work will require staff to adopt new sets of skills to effectively deliver on the constantly evolving mandates of the organisation. Consequently, the need to introduce a new approach to staff mobility has gained significant momentum in the past years.

Zurab Elzarov, the Chief of Learning, Leadership and Management Development, and the Head of Mobility Implementation Team in the Office of Human Resources (DMSPC), has spent over 26 years of his career at the UN working at more than 10 different duty stations. Previously engaged in humanitarian action and protection of civilians in the field, he is now driving organisational change in the area of human resources at its headquarters. When looking back at his career, Zurab states: “I feel lucky that I had a chance to move between different UN entities, duty stations, and functions. 

I have enjoyed each of those experiences, generated knowledge and skills to support the UN’s efforts to bring about peace and stability from different perspectives. The Secretariat is now working on offering its staff a unique opportunity to move between different duty stations in their career. 

I would encourage colleagues to make use of this opportunity and, if they can, serve in different duty stations and in different entities. Mobility will empower you, enlarge your horizon, and significantly boost your professional knowledge, skills, and capacities.”

Why mobility?

Mobility is foundational in creating a workforce that is dynamic and adaptable. We subscribed to this when we joined the organisation. It represents a key element of organisational agility, one of the three long-term outcomes of human resources management reforms, and it reinforces the other two long-term reform outcomes: diversity and inclusion, and accountability.

At a broader level, the new approach to staff mobility aligns with the vision of a more agile organisation outlined in the People Strategy 2021-2025. It features under the Agility outcome as part of the long-term outcomes, as well as part of the intermediate results to be achieved by 2025 on Proactively Preparing for the Future of Work.

Mobility is a prime source of creating opportunities for staff to deepen experience and broaden skills while taking on roles laterally in a variety of organisational contexts and duty stations, as a key driver of achieving career satisfaction. Under the new approach to staff mobility, particular attention will be paid to staff serving in hardship duty stations. Previous service and staff’s preferences in hardship duty stations will be given due consideration in matching staff to mobility assignments.

Responding to the Secretary-General’s Gender Parity Strategy and Geographical Diversity Strategy, the new approach to staff mobility may have a favourable impact on achieving both gender parity and geographical diversity at the entity level. Special constraints reviews will be provided to mitigate potential risk to staff safety, security and well-being. Staff members will be able to submit requests for medical reasons attributable to themselves and their spouse and children, or compelling personal circumstances. To protect participating staff members from potential discrimination because of race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, gender identification, language, religion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, more information will be provided in collaboration with staff representatives and advocate groups to ensure the safety and inclusion of staff members.

4 things you need to know about mobility

The new approach was developed following a comprehensive review of the previous mobility framework, with feedback collected from participating staff, staff at large, and entities. Here are 4 things you need to know about what makes the new approach different compared with previous approaches:

Definition of mobility

The new approach to mobility is, in principle, geographical mobility. Therefore, staff members will be requested to express interest in positions outside of their current duty station, with at least one position in a duty station with a different classification from their current duty station.

Movement between job networks and job families

Unlike the previous mobility exercises that were conducted by job networks, there will be one global exercise encompassing all job families conducted annually. Staff members are encouraged to take roles laterally through geographical mobility in a variety of functional and organisational contexts.

Target population

The new mobility scheme applies to staff members in the professional and higher category and in the Field Service category holding an appointment other than a temporary appointment. It is mandatory for new staff members who join the organisation on or after the effective date of the policy and voluntary for currently serving staff members until they retire. For staff members in the general service and related categories, functional mobility may be the preferred option for fulfilling career goals, and more opportunities will be explored.

Process ownership

In the context of the delegation of authority framework, the processes of the new approach to staff mobility will be owned by entities while supported by the Office of Human Resources, who will be responsible for making available central policies and guidelines to ensure consistency.

How it works

The general timeline of the new approach is simple and straightforward. The annual mobility exercise is expected to begin in the fall with final decisions made in the following spring to allow staff members to prepare for relocation throughout the summer. Keeping our staff members’ family situations in mind, the timing of the mobility moves is expected to coincide with the school calendar. Considering that new staff members will be subject to mandatory inclusion in the mobility exercise upon reaching their maximum duty station occupancy limit, the first few rounds of global mobility exercises will be opt-in only. Moving forward, the pool of mobility job opportunities will gradually expand. As an example, the first opt-in mobility exercise is expected to launch in autumn 2023. Participating staff members are expected to assume their reassignments in the new duty station by autumn 2024. Throughout the process, participating staff members will be provided with all-around support from their releasing entity and the Office of Human Resources.


There are a lot of opportunities out there for every one of us, and while career development at the UN remains to be a broad and complex topic, we believe that staff mobility does not have to be complicated. Not only it is viewed as an effective tool for professional growth and successful delivery of mandates, but also as an important long-term sustainability measure that is necessary for nurturing a culture of continuous learning and organisational change. 

Are you ready for the next chapter of your career? It is time to be the change. Uncap your potential with mobility. As we look forward to the promulgation of the new ST/AI on mobility, more information will be available to staff members. Communities of practice will be established, and multiple events will be organised for information sharing, featuring staff members with experience in both headquarters and field locations. Be on the lookout for more mobility-related updates on platforms such as iSeek, Knowledge Gateway, HR portal and more. 

* The Mobility Implementation Team (MIT) is responsible for making arrangements for implementation of the new approach to staff mobility.
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