State Department Eyes New Tool for Advertising UN Jobs to US Citizens

    National flags, including that of the U.S. (second from right), fly in front of the United Nations headquarters in New York. The U.S. State Department plans to develop a new web-based tool to better advertise U.N. job opportunities to U.S. citizens. Photo by: U.S. Agency for International Development / CC BY U.S. Agency for International DevelopmentCC BY

    In a bid to improve the representation of the U.S. within the United Nations system, the State Department said it is creating a new tool to better advertise to U.S. citizens the various job opportunities available at the U.N. and its many programs and agencies.

    The web-based tool will also allow the State Department to better evaluate the result of its outreach to U.S. citizens in relation to employment at the United Nations.

    “We expect this will be one of our key tools on which to base decisions on priorities and direction for some of our approaches,” the department wrote in response to a new report from the Government Accountability Office, which called attention to the underrepresentation of the U.S. in at least four U.N. bodies.

    The GAO report noted that despite ongoing efforts by the State Department, including improving its website and boosting its outreach activities, the U.S. remains underrepresented in geographic positions within various U.N. organizations. It added that the country’s representation in senior-level and policymaking positions generally decreased between 2006 and 2009, the time period of the report.

    GAO said it recognized that the majority of the factors contributing to the poor representation of the U.S. at U.N. organizations were beyond the control of the State Department. It identified these reasons as U.S. candidates’ lack of proficiency in most U.N. working languages, challenges in obtaining spousal employment, the lengthy hiring process in most U.N. organizations, and the limited promotional and professional growth offered by most U.N. bodies.

    But GAO maintained that the State Department could address this problem of underrepresentation by further boosting its outreach efforts and implementing means to evaluate the effectiveness of these initiatives.

    The GAO report offered three courses of action for the department:

    - Include data on U.S. representation on all professional positions within the U.N. in the department’s annual report to Congress.

    - Develop a means to assess the effectiveness of the department’s efforts to increase U.S. representation. Existing efforts should be included in the evaluation. 

    - Consider implementing a pilot initiative to fund junior professional officer programs at U.N. organizations where the U.S. currently does not have JPOs.

    The State Department welcomed the findings of the GAO report and said it noted its recommendations. However, on including U.S. representation data on all U.N. professional positions in its annual report to Congress, the department explained that this task would present a major logistic challenge because required information could not be easily gathered.

    Meanwhile, the development of the new web-based tool should begin to address GAO’s second recommendation, the State Department wrote in its response.

    About the author

    • Ivy Mungcal

      As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.