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This is the UN's civil service. Headed by the Secretary-General, the Secretariat is made up of an international staff that agrees to preserve their neutrality by not accepting instructions from their home governments.
The Secretariat is made up of an international staff working around the world to carry out the day-to-day work of the UN. They help resolve international disputes, they oversee peacekeeping operations, they analyze economic and social data -- and that's without mentioning developing the UN budget, organizing international summits and translating documents into the UN's six official languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish).
At the top of this huge staff (about 8,900 people) is the Secretary-General, who is appointed by the General Assembly on the Security Council's recommendation for a five-year renewable term. (See Job at a Glance for more on the Secretary-General). Kofi Annan is responsible for staff selection based on the person's "efficiency, competence, and integrity" and with regard for recruiting on a wide geographical basis. The Secretariat's staff answers to the UN and must take an oath not to take instructions from any member state.
Although many staff members as seen as pencil pushers -- there are many out there working in the field -- as peacemakers or observers in sensitive elections. Also, the practice of giving top jobs as gifts has recently been abolished as part of Kofi Annan's reform initiative.
But this is no high-paying job. When the UN was being formed, it was decided that the staff's salaries would be based on the highest-paid national civil service -- at the time, the U.S. federal civil service. But since the U.S. government civil service has not kept up with private sector pay, the UN staff salaries have also lagged behind. This has lead to difficulties in recruiting professionals from countries such as France, Germany and Japan with better civil service pay.
- Contributions to the UN budget are based on countries' Gross Natinal Product. For 2002, the U.S., the largest contributor, was assessed $283 million. The world's 43 least developed countries were assessed at $11,104 each.
- The top contributors per capita to the UN budget are Luxembourg and Liechtenstein at $2.15 and $2.13, respectively.
- The UN's 2002-2003 budget is $2.6 billion -- the same amount it was in 1994.
- The Secretariat employees 8,900 people, while the entire UN system has approximately 61,000 employees.
Peacekeeping in East Timor
In 1975, after Portugal withdrew from East Timor, the island was invaded by Indonesia. The next 24 years were filled with violence -- culminating in August 1999 when Indonesian militia groups and the army responded with force to an East Timorese vote for independence. UN peacekeeping forces, who were observing the elections, returned a month later to restore peace and stability after many East Timorese were killed and 500,000 were displaced from their homes. That same month, Indonesia's forces and administration withdrew and the UN set up a transitional government that coordinated institution building -- from creating an official currency, to setting up a legal system. Finally, on May 20, 2002 East Timor gained independence and shortly thereafter became a member of the UN.
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