Thursday, June 7, 2012

So What is a UN Mission Like?

(Updated June 8, 2012)

Haiti: It seems like all of the contract companies are bidding on Haiti - it is a UN Mission.  What I will try to do is give you an over-view of a UN Mission.  I have never been to Haiti – but I do know UN Missions, as I was a Chief of Personnel for UN Police in Liberia. Currently PAE holds the contract for Haiti.

What I will discuss is more about UN missions in general than about the specific mission in Haiti.  If anyone deployed in Haiti would like to add to or correct this, feel free to do so in the comments.

The important question: how much will you get paid? Whoever gets the bid, chances are you will get a "Salary" of about 75K/year. There are a lot of games played when it comes to discussing salary - technically, you will likely get a Salary of around 51K, plus “post differential” pay (this means you work overseas) of about 15.5K and likely hazard pay (pretty self explanatory) of around 7.75K  (all annually) to make up that 75K salary.  The company will probably provide health insurance for yourself with an option to pay for dependents.  This works out to roughly a $6k a month deposit per month less Social Security and Medicaid deductions.  Yes, that will be deducted from your pay.

MSA: The last information I had from the UN (most recent information from their website) was that MSA in Haiti is $150/day.    The first Month's MSA is always higher - I believe $216.   MSA is money paid by the UN once a month. This is paid directly to you by the UN - it is also why you have to live on your own off of the local economy.  

Who is your Boss? You will be “seconded” to the UN when working there.  This means the UN is your boss (but don't kid yourself - so is the company and so is the US State Department) The UN will tell you your work schedule and work assignment - the US Government and the contracting company will not have any real say so on how you will be deployed (your work assignment).  Working for the UN is a bit frustrating, but it can be a very rewarding experience.  They never over work anyone. Just remember this when work for the UN - just get something done every day and don't expect any big changes and you will be OK.  Updated: MINUSTAH is fixated on "national balance" so administrators & supervisors will frequently have fewer skills and less experience than you do; it is just something you have to deal with.

Where will you work? There are advantages to being deployed out in the Boondocks (no one from HQ bothers you except for an occasional visit) but the creature comforts of life can be sparse.  There are obviously a lot less “social” activities.  It is all about adapting and adjusting.  Do not expect a huge amount of logistical support from the UN (everyone in every mission is fighting over vehicles) and UNPOL (UN Police) are at the bottom of the list as far as support goes.  Local Nationals usually get treated better by the UN than do the police. There is a bit more support at HQ, and a lot more social activities and creature comforts.  There are also a lot more headaches and time consuming requests from the HQ staff.

What kind of logistical support do I have? You will pay for your own food and lodging and any trips you make in and out of Haiti besides your initial flight to the country, and your final flight at the end of your mission. (There used to be a free flight 2-3 times a week to someplace in Florida, on a 1st come 1st serve basis.  I hope someone deployed to Haiti will help with this information)  MSA is also calculated so that you will be able to take an occasional trip out of country. Update: PaP has several supermarkets and you can usually get whatever you want if you're willing to pay. It is a different story in the regions where fresh fruits, vegetables and safe meat can be very hard to come by. There is a Contingent Meeting or Medal Parade every 3 months that the UN provides time off and transportation to attend, you have to find your own lodging.
What about trips home? The UN Pays for your flight to and from Haiti for the mission itself.  (One flight)  The company will claim they are paying for it, but they are not, the UN does.  I know because I saw the invoices for the flights. The Company will likely provide you with bottled water.  There is usually a company house (but not for lodging) where you can trade DVDs and Books in a library.  There probably won't be much else provided, besides what is required like uniforms and basic equipment.  You will only be issued a sidearm (has always been a Berretta) and not much else.  Update: The UN has free flights to/from Port au Prince to Santo Domingo (DR) 3 time/week, but UNPOL are at the bottom of the list and can be bumped by civilian staff. PAE has the current contract; their house has a small gym, internet & satellite TV.

Healthcare: The Company is obligated to have a medic there, but the UN will be your main Healthcare provider (free Doctor and Hospital while in Haiti).  UN Doctors and hospitals range from pretty good to worthless - kind of like any other position in the UN.

All of this is based off of my past experience and what is available on the Web from the UN.  I have never been in Haiti - but I have been on 3 UN Missions.

Special thanks to Bill Mitchell who is currently deployed to Haiti for the updated information.

Whatever you do - stay safe!