Legal Framework for Management 

The legal framework governing administration and management in the Secretariat consists of the Charter, Regulations, Staff Rules, Secretary-General’s Bulletins (SGBs) and Administrative Instructions (AIs), in that order, as the hierarchy of norms.

The United Nations Charter establishes the broad principle; here are a few examples:

Article 101.3, about the staff of the Secretariat

“The paramount consideration in the employment of staff and in the determination of the conditions of service shall be the necessity of securing the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity.  Due regard shall be paid to the importance of recruiting the staff on as wide a geographical basis as possible.”

Article 17.2, about budget and finance

“The expenses of the Organization shall be borne by Member States as apportioned by the General Assembly.”

Article 97, about the role of the Secretary-General

“….. The Secretary-General shall be the chief administrative officer of the Organization.”

Key concepts managers
need to know

Creating a harmonious workplace
Understanding your role in preventing discrimination, harassment and abuse of authority 

Manager's role in administration
of budgets, procurement processes, and leave requests

Performance Management
Accountabilities in managing staff


Just as Member States’ resolutions and decisions provide the mandates for programmes of the United Nations, the General Assembly by its resolutions and decisions establishes regulations (the Staff Regulations and Financial Regulations), from which flow the Staff Rules and Financial Rules. [more....]

The regulations may be changed or amended only by decision of the General Assembly. The responsibility for developing, issuing, and amending rules consistent with the regulations, as well as enforcing them, rests with the Secretary-General.  Amendments to rules are provisional; they take effect after their submission to the General Assembly.

Hierarchy of Norms explained

Charter of the United Nations

The fundamental source of law, establishes broad principles regarding staff, budget and finance, sets out the role of the Secretary-General. 
> Charter of the United Nations


Overarching legislative directives adopted by the General Assembly for the management of staff and financial resources and the planning, budgeting and monitoring of programme implementation. Staff Regulations lay out the fundamental conditions of service and basic rights, duties and obligations of the United Nations Secretariat—the broad principles of human resources policy for staffing and administration of the Secretariat. Financial Regulations are the broad legislative directives of the General Assembly governing the financial management of the United Nations. In case of a conflict with the rules or administrative issuances, the regulations prevail.


Formulated by the Secretary-General within the framework of the regulations to define the parameters within which the regulations are to be exercised, Staff Rules provide detailed elaboration of the Staff Regulations on matters related to staff rights, obligations, duties and conditions of service and explain how they are to be applied. Financial Rules provide details to further define the parameters within which staff and Administration must exercise their responsibilities, and state the manner in which the Financial Regulations are to be implemented.

Administrative issuances

In order, Secretary-General’s Bulletins (SGBs), Administrative Instructions (AIs) and information circulars (ICs), communicate regulations, rules, internal policies and procedures to staff. SGBs are issued for the promulgation of rules to implement regulations, resolutions and decisions of the General Assembly, for promulgation of regulations and rules to implement Security Council resolutions, decisions on organization of the Secretariat, establishment of specially funded programmes and for any important decision of policy made by the Secretary-General. AIs prescribe instructions and procedures for the implementation of Regulations, Rules or SGBs.  Guidelines in support of AIs are issued when more specific details are needed. ICs provide information and updates, such as on Secretariat work hours, holiday schedules, and membership in selection bodies. Information circulars, guidelines, handbooks and manuals offer guidance and complement the law, but do not overrule or amend it.

Delegation of Authority

You should understand the nature of any delegated authority that you are given, on the basis of your function or duties you must undertake on behalf of the Organization. Review the specifics of the authority with your manager. At all times you will operate within the parameters of the Staff Rules, Staff Regulations and administrative issuances.[more....]

Some examples of delegated authority in practice:

  • Designated Officers-in-Charge can hold the same authorities as the official whose functions they temporarily exercise, unless this authority is expressly specified differently.
  • Discretionary decisions may be exercised on behalf of the head of department/office/mission by the executive/administrative/local human resources office, in particular in the case of field missions.
  • Managers assist the head of department/office/mission in the exercise of the delegated authority through recommendations (for example, in selection decisions, transfers of staff, and renewal of contracts, and in procurement exercises).
  • Managers may make some decisions directly, such as approving annual leave. (Learn which approvals will come to you directly through the Umoja system by completing the manager e-learning for Umoja.)

Click here to learn more about delegation of authority in the administration of the staff regulations and rules

Ethical Management

The Standards of Conduct for the International Civil Service lay out the standards for leading by example as an International Civil Servant. [more....]

  • Managers and supervisors are in positions of leadership and it is their responsibility to ensure a harmonious workplace based on mutual respect; they should be open to all views and opinions and make sure that the merits of staff are properly recognized.
  • They need to provide support to them; this is particularly important when staff are subject to criticism arising from the performance of their duties.
  • Managers are also responsible for guiding and motivating their staff and promoting their development.
  • Managers and supervisors serve as role models and they have therefore a special obligation to uphold the highest standards of conduct.
  • It is quite improper for them to solicit favours, gifts or loans from their staff; they must act impartially, without favouritism and intimidation.
  • In matters relating to the appointment or career of others, international civil servants should not try to influence colleagues for personal reasons.

> Standards of Conduct for the International Civil Service

Setting tone and expectations for an accountable workplace

Ensure that the annual Leadership Dialogue provided by the Ethics Office for manager-led discussion in every office is carried out, and that you and your entire team complete the ethics e-learning. [more....]

Staff members have a duty to report any breach of the Organization’s regulations and rules to the officials whose responsibility is to take appropriate action. Managers and leaders are the first-line officials to whom staff may bring their concerns. You have the duty to act when any staff member brings a report to you. If you are not sure about the situation or how to proceed, you can consult your own manager. Often situations present ‘gray areas’ and you may be unsure about the best course of action. Contact the Ethics Office for confidential advice—that is always the preferred alternative to doing nothing.  
If you or any staff on your team are among the staff members required to make an annual financial disclosure, ensure that it is done and on time (March) when you receive an email from the Secretary-General and from the Ethics Office about the process for submitting financial disclosure and declaration of intent statements.

> Ethics e-learning
> Leadership Dialogue
> Ethics Office
> Financial Disclosure

Internal Justice 

The United Nations has immunity from local jurisdiction and employment related matters cannot be pursued in a national court. [more....]

The Organization has set up an internal justice system to resolve staff-management disputes, including those that involve disciplinary action. The internal justice system exists to address situations where staff members feel that their rights have been violated and the rules of the Organization have not been respected, and access to it is a fundamental right of staff at all levels. 
Managers must understand how the process works and their responsibilities to build and maintain a harmonious workplace where any concern can be resolved early and in alignment with the UN values. Managers and leaders are responsible for the appropriate application of human resources policies and practices.

Disciplinary process 

Chapter X of the Staff Rules deals with disciplinary procedures and measures.  [more....]

Failure by a staff member to comply with his or her obligations or to observe the required standards of conduct may amount to misconduct and may lead to the institution of a disciplinary process and the imposition of disciplinary measures for misconduct. ST/AI/371/Amend.1, on Revised disciplinary measures and procedures, provides guidelines and instructions on the application of Chapter X and outlines the due process requirements for  staff members against whom misconduct is alleged. 
> Link to the Staff Rules 
> Go to the site of the Office of Administration of Justice to get detailed information and resources. 

Key pages: 
Important documents: