Reform report card on UNESCO efficiency: significant progress, but even more work is required
A mid-year review of UNESCO’s financial situation shows it is well on the way to achieving the Director-General’s goal of creating a leaner, more sharply-focused Organization. But it also reveals that efforts must be intensified if UNESCO is to balance its books by end of the year.
The Road Map to Reform, presented by the Director-General to Member States last February, shows how UNESCO’s programme of work for 2011-13 can be implemented within the constraints of a sharply reduced budget. One of those conditions called for “systematic savings in administrative areas, staffing and non-staff costs (travel, publications, consultants, temporary assistance) and the streamlining of work practices. UNESCO is making rapid progress in this area.
In reducing the cost of travel, for example, the review shows that from 1 January to 31 May, the cost of staff travel has been reduced by 65 per cent and now accounts for less than two percent of UNESCO’s expenditures ($2.5 million). It also shows that travel is being planned more efficiently, with average ticket prices falling over the past few months, despite a slight rise in the number of missions undertaken.
Over the same period, significant savings were made on staff costs. Almost all recruitment has been frozen, resulting in 291 vacant posts. Temporary assistance has been cut in half, as shown in the graph below. As of 1 June, 2012, there were 247 such positions at Headquarters, down from 482 in December 2011. Eighty-two percent of these contracts were funded by contributions from Member States over and above their contributions to UNESCO’s regular budget.
UNESCO is also saving money by reducing Publications. The Director-General, Irina Bokova, has asked all Sectors to cut the production of printed materials in half during the 2012-13 biennium. That goal has almost been realized. Overall, the number of publications planned for the period has been slashed by 45 per cent, with further savings achieved by reducing the number of copies to be printed. The Publications Board is also encouraging the production of online publications to reduce print costs and increase the global reach of its work. More publications are now published online only, while others are published online with a minimal print run for targeted distribution purposes.
“I’m very impressed by our progress so far,” stated the Director-General. “We are rapidly becoming a more efficient organization. Many of our best cost-savings ideas come from the staff themselves. It shows how committed they are to improving UNESCO and solving our cash-flow problems.”
Other initiatives aimed at improving efficiency and cutting costs are still under study or are in the process of being implemented. Nonetheless, the Director-General, stresses that UNESCO’s financial difficulties, provoked by the suspension of contributions from the United States last October, remain acute. Unless further savings are made or more contributions are received, the Organization will end the year around $30 million in the red.