Saturday, November 1, 2008

UNfair and UNbelievable

I probably shouldn't have wrote this or I should know better but what the heck, it never shut my mouth before.

Recently, I wrote to a former colleague  who is now working for the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operation (DPKO) in New York.  Since I left Afghanistan, I have applied to an endless list of UN field positions. It has been three years and still nothing. It's not such a shocker because the UN takes forever to recruit people, and even then, it can't get it right.

Being me, I am very reluctant to lobby for myself or suck up to people so that I am well connected. That's why I have been waiting for 3 years. But this time, I thought, why not? Let's send this girl an email to see what kind of advice she could give me. (Actually, to be honest, I sort of pounce on her on Facebook chat in my moments of desperation.)

She was kind enough to entertain me and provided me with some tips on the recruitment process. I made it clear to her that I don't want her to get me a job, I just need her to point me to the right or let's say shortest direction.

Then, she listed down some of the criteria for an application to be cleared, shortlisted and then approved.  Some of them I knew before, typically one whereby if someone wants a specific person for a job, he or she will request DPKO to clear that person. So, yes, connections play a huge part in the UN recruitment system. Fair enough if the applicant is favoured for his/her performance but I have known many who are favoured for their ass-licking skills.

Then, there is another criteria which surprised me and unfortunately applies to me. She said that if I haven't served enough time with the UN, my application is deemed weak. Of course, this is an unpleasant revelation to me since I had only officially worked for DPKO for 4 months in Afghanistan. They have failed to take into account the other 25 months which I had served as a UN Volunteer (UNV) in Timor Leste and part of Afghanistan.

When I was first recruited as a UN Human Rights Officer in Afghanistan, which is a DPKO P-2 position, I was forced to remain under a UNV contract due to the agreement signed by UNV and DPKO which makes it compulsory for a UNV to serve at least 18 months in the same mission before being "promoted" to a P-2 position.  I did my time and when I finally received a P-2 contract, I had to leave the mission for health reasons as well as receiving death threats.

Since I treasure my life over a contract with substantial salary, I made the choice to leave but of course I think I am paying for it now.

I know life is unfair but it is even more unfair when it comes with a capital U and N.

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