New project: the Integrity of the International Civil Servant

Dag Hammarskjöld shaped many of the fundamental principles and practices of international organisations, among those the ethics of the international civil servant, with impartiality and neutrality at its heart.

Today, as the UN is grappling with issues of reform and relevancy, the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation believes that the time is ripe to reflect on and revitalise Hammarskjöld’s principles as they relate to the international civil servant in today’s global context. The Foundation’s ambition with its new project on Integrity of the International Civil Servant (IICS) is to contribute to a revitalisation of the IICS concept and its practical implications in the UN.

At the beginning of December the Foundation hosted the first of two kick-off meetings on the topic the Integrity of the International Civil Servant (IICS). The meeting, which took place in New York, provided an opportunity for an open discussion around a number of key IICS issues, with the aim to shape the Foundation’s new project, which will begin early 2015. Meeting participants included former and current UN staff members, academics and independent researchers. A second meeting will take place in Uppsala, Sweden, in January 2015.

The meeting centered on three broad and inter-linked areas:

  • the contemporary relevance of the concept of the IICS;
  • current challenges to the integrity of the international civil servant; and
  • the international civil service of today – is it fit for service?

Two points emerging from the lively discussion were:

  • The continued relevance and importance of the IICS concept and the great opportunity for revitalising the concept at this point in time. An IICS renaissance is urgently needed, and the issues are just as relevant today as 70 years ago when the UN was established. There is a need to revisit the original role and purpose of the international civil servant in today’s context. Today, the UN as an international institution is being seriously tested, and with a new development agenda in 2015, it is an opportune time to initiate debate and activity on IICS related issues.
  • The importance of understanding how the world has changed and implications for IICS. The changing world and global dynamics are putting different and/or new demands on civil servants as well as on the UN as an institution and there is a need to explore this further. There is a sense that some of the “old” global norms are changing with the emergence of new powers.

Discussions will continue to evolve as this project begins to take shape in the new year.