The Roadmap to Financial Sustainability: how UNESCO efforts paid off

Paris, 31 October 2013 - Having started the 2012/2013 biennium with a $220 million gap between the required and available funds, resulting from dues withheld by the United States following the admission of Palestine to UNESCO (a 22.39% reduction from the initially planned $653 million), the Organization managed within two years to balance the shortfall.

What measures were taken to avoid a financial crisis?

UNESCO accelerated its reform to make the Organization more effective at Headquarters and in the Field, based on the recommendations of the Independent External Evaluation (IEE). 

As a first step, a rigorous management was achieved, including reorganizations, restructuring, streamlining and simplified processes.

After having determined the incompressible and statutory costs, mission costs were reduced by 73%, consultancies by 70%, furniture and equipment expenses by 64%, and temporary assistance by 44%. To reduce staff costs, all vacant posts were frozen except for posts approved as mission critical, and a Voluntary Mutual Separation Programme was established.

From staff reductions to programme priorities

To cope with the reduced number of staff, senior management set priorities among expected results in each major programme to concentrate on activities where UNESCO makes a difference.  Human resources were allocated in a strategic manner, and inter-sectoral and interdisciplinary approaches were established. The staff, “the Organization’s main asset” according to the Director-General, played an essential role in weathering the crisis. They took on extra assignments and worked under pressure to accelerate the reform process.

The crucial role of the Emergency Multi-Donor Fund

In addition to reducing costs, UNESCO mobilized more funds by creating an Emergency Fund.

Launched in November 2011, the Emergency Fund - open to all donors, from Member States to public institutions, foundations and individuals - received $75.1 million, an essential component of the formula UNESCO used to balance the books.  The new money was used to support priority programmes, field costs and reform, and intersectoral platforms.

Maintain UNESCO’s mandate with a reduced budget

“Our mandate is ambitious, so must be our action. Expectations are high. I am determined we must meet them… Uncertain times call for more UNESCO. They call for a better UNESCO”, said the Director-General when launching the Emergency Fund.

Two years later, after an accelerated reform to meet expectations despite a critical financial situation, the result is already visible and the impact of the financial crisis is behind us.  Thanks to concerted effort by all UNESCO’s staff, the 2012/2013 biennium will end with a zero deficit.

More information:

192 EX/4 (Part II)

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