Health, Safety, Security, and Wellbeing
Health, safety and security, welfare and wellbeing are among the most serious concerns for staff. Health facilities in most field locations are not meeting minimum quality standards in terms of both equipment and service. Safety in the workplace is yet work in progress and security of staff is often compromised by political agendas and/or lack of resources. The policy on UN standards for office and living accommodation is outdated and does not satisfy today’s requirements. In many missions, the welfare and recreation policy directives are ineffective and welfare modalities are inadequate.
Staff in extremely difficult missions feels isolated, ignored and desperate for support. Stress is one of the main characteristics of mission work while effective staff counseling and stress management are often absent or downplayed for political reasons. Survey results showed an association between poor mental health and the number of years worked at the UN, a low job satisfaction, perceived incivility, conflict in the workplace and low levels of help-seeking or receiving any mental health services. These elements have a much stronger echo in dangerous and hardship duty stations. In addition, sustained stress and remoteness from one’s natural social environment generate reunion stress, a state of chronic alienation and non-integration and other psychological impairments.
In July 2018, the Occupational Safety and Health Management System (OSHMS) has been established by the Secretary-General and a mental health and wellbeing strategy has been adopted for the period 2018-2023 and it applies to the whole of UN system. We have seen the OSH activities starting to take place but a lot more is yet needed. The Mental Health Strategy addresses the needs of staff and improves organizational capacities to prevent and protect mental health. Key to its success is the full adherence to its ambitious objectives and aims.
We shall actively engage with stakeholders and strive to achieve the following:
- Enhance visibility, transparency and information dissemination about different welfare and wellbeing policies;
- Standardize health services available to all missions in accordance with minimum acceptable international norms;
- Encourage unconventional and remote health service to provide prompt assistance to staff;
- Enhance the provisions of the medical evacuation policy;
- Develop guidelines on the management of long-term sick leave and the accommodation of staff with partial medical clearances following sickness or injury;
- Introduce an occasional paid break of a certain number of months for staff serving for long periods in hardship duty stations;
- Regularly check the efficiency of the security management at the mission level and poll the availability of evacuation plans;
- Ensure that the security of staff is not compromised by other management priorities and that enough funding is promptly made available;
- Ensure that the Program Criticality Framework is judiciously applied, and that staff is not unnecessarily deployed to dangerous zones;
- Ensure that the OSHMS is effective and given due attention at mission level;
- Strengthen staff counseling in coordination with the office of OSH and MSD;
- Ensure that high-quality psychosocial services are accessible to all missions as per the strategy objectives;
- Advance the civility initiative in the field and promote the creation of a work environment that enhances mental and physical health and well- being;
- Work with Management to ensure sufficient resources are made available for mental health and wellbeing services;
- Update the office and accommodation standards manual and enhance the current living and working conditions of staff, including the due consideration to gender requirements;
- Adapt work/life policies to the field environment in view of its special constraints and address family-related staff needs;
- Develop a comprehensive review of all welfare programs in missions and work on a more efficient standard for welfare committees and use of welfare funds;
- Extend staff welfare beyond active staff members, to include, but not limited to, support to families of deceased staff members and members on disability.