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Turning Points: Defining Moments for the International Civil Service at the United Nations

This paper by Alanna O’Malley explores how certain turning points since 1945 have influenced, both directly and indirectly, the development of the international civil service.

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Publication:Turning Points: Defining Moments for the International Civil Service at the United Nations
Type:100 years of International Civil Service
Issue:7
Author:Alanna O'Malley
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2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, an appropriate juncture at which to assess not just its historical achievements and failures, but a moment to consider different views of the organisation. One feature of the system which has lacked significant or sustained analysis is the position and functions of UN officials and experts who actually carry out much of the work.

Flying under the radar, from New York to Nairobi and from Santiago to Sydney, men and women have toiled for decades in the international civil service to deliver the policies of the UN, while developing a series of political practices and experiences to enhance its work.

The integrity and development of the international civil service deserves sustained analysis, especially in the context of any discussion of UN reform. From 1945 to the present day, it is possible to chart moments of crisis and opportunity which have both enhanced and limited the efficacy of UN experts and officials.

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100 years of International Civil Service


This publication is part of a series issued by the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation commemorating 100 years of international civil service, which originated in 1919 with the birth of the League of Nations.

The series features inspirational and reflective think pieces on the concept of the international civil service by former and present United Nations’ officials, as well as representatives from civil society and academia.

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