Category: Archive

Mary: not ready for culture shock of UN

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — Adjusting to the pace of UN bureaucracy was "painful and initially debilitating" as she settled into her new office in Geneva, according to Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson.

"I knew it would be daunting, but nothing prepared me for the culture shock of the UN bureaucracy itself," she said in an article reflecting on her first year in office in the Irish Times.

The former president says it took 331 days from her decision to readvertise to have two vacant senior management posts filled.

She said resources for her office had been pared drastically in recent years — and not just in terms of finance.

"Several human rights experts wished to work with me and, aware of the lack of resources, offered to come and work as volunteers," she said. "I had to refuse their help as a resolution of the General Assembly prohibits gratis personnel."

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The office’s higher public and UN profile had brought a dramatic increase in the volume of work.

Member states, she said, continue to place additional mandates on her office to be achieved "within existing resources."

"The dangerous underprovision of personnel and finance has resulted in many staff working longer, harder and under greater pressure," she said.

Robinson says the whole issue of integrating human rights into the work of the UN provided both an enormous challenge and an opportunity.

"I have no illusions — it will be a long and winding road — but there have been positive developments," she said.

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