The sheer number is impressive: 12 289 professional staff worked at the United Nations Secretariat as of 14 July 2012 (United Nations, 2012, p. 10). They are supposed to safeguard, facilitate and promote progress in peace and security, economic and social development, environment and sustainability, refugee protection, disarmament and non-proliferation, and human rights. Given their number and tasks, it is hardly conceivable that they restrict themselves to only following instructions of member states or to only helping member states to achieve what member states want to achieve. Likewise, it is hardly conceivable that member states have put in place control mechanisms that are so effective that they leave staff no other choice than restricting themselves to these roles. This is even less conceivable if the required level of education and the expected skills of secretariat staff are taken into account. Typically, they are required to have an advanced-level university degree and are expected to command ‘a high degree of analytical and communication skills, substantive expertise and/or managerial leadership ability’ (United Nations, 2013). Why should secretariat staff with such education and skills restrict themselves to passive and submissive behavior vis-à-vis member states? It is rather conceivable that some attempt to act autonomously and seek to achieve independent influence. This is certainly also true for (at least some of the) professional staff in many of the more than 3000 intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), which exist today (UIA, 2013).
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