FICSA urges its members to actively get involved in discussions on technological and organizational changes

Earlier this month, the Federation of International Civil Servants' Association (FICSA) held its first ever virtual Annual Council. With peaks of over a hundred attendees, members, observers and guests - a record high for the FICSA Council - many highlighted both FICSA's long history and its profound commitment to staff representation.

"When we met in London last February for our 73rd Council, none of us could have imagined the impact Covid-19 has had on our world." said FICSA President Tanya Quinn-Maguire in her opening statement. "We all had to adapt to this new reality: the fact that we are here today is proof we have succeeded. As we formally open the first virtual Council, we want to acknowledge the importance of all contributions throughout what was a difficult year. We are also very happy to welcome colleagues who may not have been able to attend an in-person Council."

The FICSA President was joined at the opening of the Council by International Civil Service Commission Chair, Mr. Larbi Djacta, and High-Level Committee for Management Vice-chair Kelly Clements. They briefed attendees on the ongoing activities and future plans for their respective high-level bodies and responded to questions submitted by the membership. 

The importance of properly consulting staff representatives throughout key organizational processes was emphasized by all attendees. Delegates expressed support for the adoption of recommendations on all topics related to the “Future of Work”, including enabling technologies, remote work, flexible working arrangements . The Council decisions focus the work of the FICSA Executive Committee around these key issues which are increasingly relevant to its membership. 

"Technology is not homogenous and at least should be thought of in terms of enabling and replacement technologies " explained Associate Professor Aditya Jain at the final FICSA Joint Session on The Future of Work. “With frequent changes in work processes, job insecurity will increase, as well as social isolation. This might foster interpersonal conflicts, cyberbullying, and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Staff associations must support the design of digitalization strategies and related policies that are inclusive and useful for all." 

Important recommendations to the FICSA Executive Committee included: 

•    For FICSA to advocate for unified administrative guidelines on remote working arrangements;
•    That FICSA formalize its relationship with the UN International Computing Centre (UNICC), and work closely with them on digitalization processes within the UN common system; and
•    For the UN Strategy on Mental Health to be systematically integrated and implemented across all initiatives of the UN Common System.

The FICSA leadership strongly encouraged members to engage in discussions with administrations on the impact of the "Future of Work" and its consequences, sharing any lessons learned FICSA will continue active debates around these issues throughout the year. 

FICSA members actively engaged on the risks of implementing a digital transformation agenda, mainly in terms of ensuring the "fair use" of digital tools and vulnerability of systems to privacy and security threats. They reported on the increased speed of digitalization brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, and on the importance of making resources on the digital transformation accessible to all staff, irrespective of grade or location. They also acknowledged the specific obstacles and challenges faced by UN staff deployed in field-based duty stations. 

In addition, FICSA members highlighted approaches and pre-conditions that could bring a staff perspective to the design and implementation of human-centered digitalization strategies within the UN common system, including: sharing knowledge and experience between and across FICSA members and its sister federations; building partnerships with specialized bodies and agencies, such as the UNICC; and in supporting staff associations by providing their members with the necessary tools and resources to meet the challenges ahead. 

Decisions taken by the FICSA Council can be consulted in the Report of the 74th FICSA Council
 

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