Discriminating UNV Condition of service sign now

Subject: Conditions of Service for International UNV Volunteers, August 2006

We are a group of UNV Volunteers currently working in the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).
UNV Volunteers in UNMIK Mission are in the process of signing their new UNV Volunteers contracts for the period July till end December 2007.

With these new contracts the new Conditions of Service for International UNV Volunteers would come into force. In this respect we would like to take this opportunity to present some of our views and dissatisfaction, concerning these conditions of service, as enshrined in this new document, which affects many UNV Volunteer colleagues, serving in UNMIK and in other UN Missions worldwide and we all feel strongly that these conditions are not favorable towards the welfare and interest of UNV Volunteers, as they are arbitrary and contrary towards the spirit of volunteerism

We are mainly concerned with the additional attachment, namely Special Situation, Point No. 19, covering sub-categories, 19.1 and 19.2, which deals with both husband and wife assigned as UNV Volunteers and UNV Volunteers spouse is a UN staff member, respectively.

Before we elaborate on our views, this is to remind all concerned that under these new conditions, an affected UNV Volunteer would stand to loose in one way or the other with regards to the following entitlements:

SIG plus
Accommodation Allowance
Family Allowance
Travel Allowance for the Home Visit
Residential Security Measures

Keeping the above in view we would like to highlight the following points:

1. When we joined as an UNV Volunteers, we were selected on our individual capacity, based solely on our educational qualifications and work experience. Our recruitment did not have the crutches of support, namely, family members employed as UNV Volunteers or UN staff member/s. We were recruited based on certain condition of service, which were favorable to us. Now, when this mission is culminating towards its logical end and we are reaching the end of our UN mandate here in Kosovo, changing the conditions of service to our personal disadvantage as UNV Volunteers at this stage is inappropriate and discriminatory in nature.

2. Once recruited as UNV volunteers, we are automatically entitled to standard perks and entitlements/emoluments as any other UNV Volunteer, irrespective of any further condition/s or inequality. Then why allow this disparity among UNV Volunteers? Under basic human rights and labor laws, people working at the same position and grade are entitled to the same entitlements and benefits. By creating categories such as 19.1 and 19.2, we are infusing the spirit of disparity, defeating that basic right.

3. In most UN missions, staff members who are otherwise not married are sharing accommodation and living together, which suits their purpose and requirements. They are sharing their way of life and livelihood. They are still not subject to Point No. 19. Then why penalize by discriminating people who are legally married and staying together, working in the same or other missions, trying to make an honest living and determined effort to improve their lives and lively hood. In such cases couples who have chosen to remain out of matrimony will benefit against those who are legally married. This goes against the UNs principle of promoting family values and observing World Family Days etc. We all are working in our individual capacities and should therefore be considered as equal, irrespective of certain conditions of service.

4. We as UNV Volunteers are working in UNMIK under UN Security Council Resolution No 1244. Our service and presence here is purely based on work contract with UN Volunteers Programme under UNSCR 1244. Upon successfully completing our mission here with UNMIK, we should have the right to be fully entitled to repatriate and go back to the county of our origin/home. It is the paramount responsibility of the host organization (in our case the UNV Volunteers Bonn, under UNDP) to ensure that we are properly repatriated back to our countries of origin/home. This right to repatriate should not be denied to any UNV Volunteer, irrespective of the fact that a family member is still working within any UN Mission or not.

5. Under our present and/or future contract assignment/s, our responsibilities/duties have not been reduced, our working hours remain the same, often we work overtime to meet deadlines and meet new challenges in our daily work, our commitment, solidarity and steadfastness towards our work, our efforts to diligently and professionally accomplish ours and UNMIKs mandate have not been reduced or diminished, then why must our perk/entitlements be affected, that to grossly towards our personal disadvantage.

6. Living and working in Kosovo, or for that matter in any other UN mission is not easy, as most of these missions are post conflict zones. The work environment is often stressful and living conditions are not favorable and mostly inadequate. Such living conditions lead to certain deterioration of ones health (both mental and physical), family matters/relations etc. It is a fact that a staff member is deprived of normal living conditions, often working far away from family and loved ones. This is not the way that UNV volunteers should be rewarded for their efforts and commitment. This is a non family duty station. One has the same family obligations as one had before joining a mission. A UNV Volunteer can meet and marry ones spouse while on mission duty; this does not completely end all other family obligations, especially people coming from developing countries. This reduction of our entitlements under Point 19 puts us in a very precarious situation, which is disadvantageous and discriminatory in nature, which also affects our self respect and dignity. Cost of living goes higher each day and with such conditions, we are being forced to go below the poverty line and to make it difficult for us to make a decent and respectful living. A UNV Volunteer should also not be deprived of travel allowance for home leave based on the same arguments above.

7. We feel proud and happy that as UNV Volunteers, we have at least tried our best to make a difference in this world and try to contribute in what ever way possible towards making this world a better place. We are very sorry to state that, by introducing these particular conditions of service (point 19), you are taking out the real spirit behind the words Volunteer, Volunteerism and infusing it with the word Business , as these new conditions reflect nothing more than just a business proposition.

8. Reduction in payments towards residential security measures also seems unjustified for a particular UNV Volunteer if his/her spouse is also a UNV Volunteer or UN staff member. On the other hand such couples pose as a more lucrative and strong target for theft and robbery and have been specifically targeted in many cases as records have shown. Hence they need to be compensated adequately. To further compound such problems the VLA which the UNV Volunteers are getting in Kosovo is determined in US Dollars but paid in Euros (currency in use). Due to the down value of USD compared to Euro every UNV Volunteer is losing out when it comes to actual payments.

9. Finally we would like to conclude our arguments stating that all such UNV Volunteers which are being covered by these Special Situation categories are in fact separate individuals performing the full task of one employee in the Mission and hence should be entitled to full benefits and entitlements independently.

As a direct result of the inevitable implementation these new conditions of service starting from July 2007 and beyond, many UNVs affected by these conditions are seriously contemplating either to look towards other shores or to look for other job opportunities. Some have even decided to discontinue their future contracts. The overall moral and spirit of UNVs in general has hit rock bottom and there seems little hope that someone would seriously take out time and look into our genuine problems and concerns. It is time that our concerns are looked into seriously and a decision is taken favoring the UNV Volunteers worldwide and to put an end to such disparity and discrimination among fellow UNVs, which have serious implications on their daily lives and work.

Indeed, during the last visit of Mr. Kevin Gilroy, UNV Operations Manager to Kosovo, these new conditions of service were discussed briefly. However, since that day until today, no serious debate or consideration has evolved or has been initiated by appropriate authorities, to correctly evaluate and gauge before implementing, the negative implications and impact these new conditions of service would have on the daily lives of UNV Volunteers worldwide and specially within Peace Keeping Missions. It is time that before being implemented arbitrarily, these new conditions of services should be carefully scrutinized, revisited and amended accordingly to benefit one and all UNV Volunteers serving worldwide (presently and in the future) equally without any discrimination what so ever.

Thank you

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