06.07.2012 - UNESCO

Summary of Senior Management Team meeting of 2 July 2012

The Director-General began the meeting with an update on the situation in Mali and the destruction of cultural heritage sites, including a summary of what UNESCO has done to call the world’s attention to the situation, which gravely concerns her.

UNESCO’s financial situation and reform

The DG then spoke about the way UNESCO should communicate its reform programme.  For her, reform involves two tracks, the first track being:

  • Progress on the roadmap and its targets, together with progress on the recommendations of the Independent External Evaluation; and
  • Improving administrative efficiencies, such as cutting costs, reducing travel, etc.

However, reform extends beyond that with a second track comprising:

  • Repositioning of UNESCO within the UN system; and
  • Development of UNESCO’s mission and mandate to make it relevant to today’s global situation.

The DG urged the SMT members and Directors to communicate reform as an integral package to Member States, not as a group of single initiatives.

The Chief Financial Officer then updated SMT members on the financial situation of the Organization, including these major points:

  • 65 per cent of Member States have already made their contributions for 2012. However, three Members States, who are among the 25 largest contributors, are later than expected with payments.
  • Activity expenditure is “as expected” against biennium work plans - at 20 per cent.
  • 30 per cent of extra-budgetary resources have been implemented against a target of 42 per cent for the year, a significant improvement over previous bienniums.  It is essential that both expenditure and cost recovery rates are improved.
  • Emergency Fund allocations total $11.6 million.  The top five recipients are: BFC – Field $3.0 million; Africa $1.7 million; Culture $1.7 million; Science $1.3 million; BKI $1.0 million.
  • Travel has been significantly reduced, and 85 per cent of travel has been financed through extra-budgetary resources.
  • Temporary assistance is slowly rising and now totals 247 positions.  The increase is due to consultant contracts that are funded from extra-budgetary projects.  Temporary assistance is still well below the total from December 2011, which was 482.
  • 19 per cent of Regular Programme posts are vacant.   (15 per cent are suspended or financing costs and four per cent are vacant and open for recruitment.) Nevertheless, Sectors have designated more “business critical” posts than expected, causing UNESCO’s deficit position to deteriorate.

When added to existing workplan deficits, the posts defined as “business critical” by ADGs and Directors will result in a $68 million deficit for UNESCO and a $35 million cashflow shortfall in 2013.  The Organization’s position at the end of 2012 will be critical, with the Working Capital Fund almost depleted, leaving UNESCO reliant on prompt payment by Member States of 2013 dues.  Therefore UNESCO must continue to cut costs or increase its revenue.  The Deputy Director-General stated that all senior staff must understand the gravity of the situation.  Globally, Sectors have classified 231 out of 379 vacant posts as “business critical.” He described that as unaffordable and unsustainable.

The Director-General then summarized her position on UNESCO’s financial situation:

1.      If Sectors recruit “business critical” posts, they must be prepared to abolish other posts.

2.      If that does not happen, she will be forced to take serious decisions.

3.      Sectors and Field offices must do more to improve the low implementation rates of both regular budget and emergency funds.

4.      It is unacceptable to return extra-budgetary funds that have not been spent to the Member States that made the donations.  All Sectors must ensure that this does not happen.

The DG instructed Sectors to ensure that money allocated from the Emergency Fund gets through to the Field, especially Africa.  All Sectors must work together to improve implementation.

The Deputy-Director General then spoke about consolidating services, and announced that the DG has decided to create one consolidated Administrative Office (AO) for Corporate and Programme support services at Headquarters (MSS, BFM, HRM, ERI, BSP, AFR, BFC, GBS, ODG), with focal points for each sector and bureau.  This decision will release seven positions for Field Offices and result in immediate savings for Headquarters operations ranging from USD 1.9  to USD 1.5 million per biennium depending on the final structure.

The Director-General invited Assistant Directors-General to comment on resources and staffing in their Sectors. The ADGs, or their representatives, from all programme sectors and bureaus took turns to respond and update the group on their respective situations.

The Director-General reminded ADGs not to cut languages in their quest for savings and to abide by established rules on translation and interpretation.

Preparation of 37C/4

The Senior Management Team then discussed the next Medium Term Strategic Plan (C/4), with Directors from sectors and bureaus joining the session. 

The Director-General started by stating that “Our next C/4 is in the making. By the two important initiatives in education and science on which UNESCO has assumed leadership, our Organization is positioning itself as a leader for the next years to come. This is our core mandate and this is the responsibility conferred to us by the Member States that we take up very seriously”. In her view, the next C/4 should not be “business as usual” and should focus on two major themes:  a Culture of Peace and Sustainable Development.  The High Level segment of the General Conference started the development of the C/4.  Other steps in the process include the questionnaire for Member States, which has received an unprecedented 113 responses, consultations with National Commissions, Thematic debates (three in 2011, on the cross-cutting priorities, Africa and gender, and on UNESCO’s contribution to SIDS; and two in 2012, on culture of peace and on sustainable development), Information Sessions with delegates and Executive Board Meetings.  Through these consultations, the major programming components for the next C/4 are becoming clear and include:

  • Re-positioning Education with a new architecture for Education for All and the Secretary-General’s Special Initiative on Education;
  • Leadership on the contribution of Science to Development;
  • A strong Oceans component including work on Tsunami Warning Systems;
  • A stronger strategic focus on Post Conflict Post Disaster (PCPD) responses, including a new architecture for the 1970 Convention and the possibility of developing PCPD with a different name so that it includes both conflict prevention/culture of peace and disaster risk reduction;
  • Leadership on Culture and Development;
  • Leadership on Freedom of Expression and the safety of journalists;
  • Re-thinking knowledge-based societies to make them more trans-sectoral; and
  • Development of UNESCO’s two cross-cutting priorities (Africa and Gender) to reflect new tendencies and focus on emerging countries in need;

Across all of these areas, the Director-General stressed, that UNESCO must work closer and better with the other Agencies and Funds and Programmes of the UN system.

She said that UNESCO’s major mandates and functions should be maintained but that they should be read differently.

The Deputy Director-General said the current financial situation should encourage thinking “out of the box” and added that poverty reduction remained a theme to be discussed within the C/4.  He urged senior staff to avoid single sectoral issues and to think of UNESCO’s overall comparative advantages when they were developing the next strategic plan. The DDG summarized the four open brainstorming sessions that have taken place in the formulation of the DG’s draft C/4 report. These sessions reaffirmed the overarching objectives of Sustainable Development, the Culture of Peace (broadly defined) and Poverty Reduction. Subsequent meetings covered global challenges (demography, development in science, technology and innovation, peace and governance and environmental challenges). It was considered important to consider these challenges in order to clearly match UNESCO’s comparative advantages in what the Organization wants to do, how it wants to do it, with whom, for whom and the likely outcome and impact of its engagements. Subsequent sessions will delve into UNESCO’s comparative advantages in detail and the strategic choices that need to be made.

The Director-General gave instructions that an inventory should be drafted soon listing all activities that have been the subject of a ‘sunset clause’, with a view to officially terminating them.

She concluded by urging all ADGs to hold a meeting with all of their staff by the end of the week to communicate and pass the message  from this meeting and the overall reform process underway in the organization.

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