UNESCO that is fit for purpose: New high-impact tools, policies and practices

The below provides an overview of recently developed and adopted high-impact tools, and policies, informed by inter-agency good practices and standards, that serve to further support UNESCO’s position as a trusted partner of choice. The policies and documents listed below cover a wide array of areas around increased accountability and sustainability, and are regularly updated.
Last update: April 21, 2022

Accountability and ethics

  • Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) Policy (2021) The ERM policy provides a framework to identify, assess and mitigate diverse categories of risks and enables to strike the appropriate balance between opportunities and threats in the pursuit of the achievement of objectives. It clarifies UNESCO's overall approach to risk management and ensures that risk management processes (i) are known and understood by the staff to support decision-making, (ii) are consistently applied across the Organization, and (iii) provide reasonable assurance regarding the achievement of the Organization's objectives. It elaborates the rationale for risk management and the responsibilities and accountabilities for managing risks, as well as how risk management will be monitored and reported on as an integral part of the governance structure.
  • Anti-Fraud, Anti-corruption (AFAC) policy (2021) The AFAC policy is part of UNESCO's ERM framework. It applies to all personnel at Headquarters, in Field Offices, and Category I institutes, reflecting UNESCO's zero tolerance for unlawful acts. Institutional mechanisms including the internal control policy framework, the Division of Internal Oversight Service (IOS), the duty to report for staff with a whistleblower protection policy to protect against retaliation, and procurement standards to prevent, detect frauds and corrupt practices.
  • The Policy on the Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) shows zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) among all personnel employed by UNESCO. It equally applies to UNESCO’s implementing partners and vendors. Mandatory training for personnel, clear reporting mechanisms, whistle-blower protections, and inter-agency cooperation have been put in place to maintain and promote a healthy and secure working environment.
  • The revised Whistle-blower protection policy reaffirms UNESCO’s zero tolerance for retaliation, which constitutes a violation of the fundamental obligation of all employees to uphold the highest standards of efficiency, competence, and integrity,  and to discharge their functions with the best interest of the Organization in view.

Transparency and results

  • UNESCO Transparency Portal remains compliant with the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), and takes UNESCO's commitment to transparency further by going beyond the IATI standard's requirements, providing enriched information on Focus Areas, improved project filtering, and a fully redesigned world map by expenditure. The new version also includes more complete data and an increased reporting frequency. Transparency and alignment are important in guiding UNESCO's resource mobilization efforts by providing a complete picture of how the programme is resourced and delivered, where funding gaps exist, and ensuring that resource flows correspond to the Organization's strategic priorities Member States' demands and needs.
  • UNESCO’s Principles on Personal Data Protection and Privacy set out an overarching framework for the processing of personal data by, or on behalf of, UNESCO. The Principles are based on the Principles on the Protection of Personal Data and Privacy for the UN System Organizations endorsed by UNESCO and formally adopted by the High-Level Committee on Management (HLCM) at its 36th meeting on 11 October 2018. They aim to (1) harmonize standards for the protection of personal data across UNESCO, (2) facilitate the accountable processing of personal data; and, (3) ensure respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals, in particular the right to privacy.
  • UNESCO actively pursues the application of RBM to improve quality results-based programme design, implementation and reporting towards collective results. This aims at ensuring the use of results information for learning, accountability and decision-making. To this effect, the Results-Based Management (RBM) Guiding Principles (2022) is the reference tool in the practice of RBM throughout the Organization, in line with the UNDS repositioning and UNSDCF guidance. The key updates include guidance and good practices on (1) a sound and comprehensive Theory of Change strongly anchored in the organizational results chain and Agenda 2030, (2) robust Results Framework, and (3) effective stakeholders analysis and engagement in line with ‘Leaving No One Behind’. The mandatory 2020 RBM eLearning is being reviewed to further develop reporting and notably showcase results stories. These developments are being reflected in the 2022 UNESCO project document and report templates, providing comprehensive guidance to ensure clear, structured, and results-oriented programmes and projects. Notably, the updated guidance regarding stakeholders engagement, Theory of Change, Results Framework, Monitoring and Evaluation Framework, Communication plan, and Budget further integrates Gender Equality, youth, human rights, and environmental sustainability considerations.

Environmental sustainability

  • The Environment Sustainability and Management Policy (2021) expresses UNESCO's determination to comprehensively integrate environmental sustainability considerations throughout its Headquarters and Field Offices' management and administrative functions, policies and practices, with all relevant stakeholders engaged. UNESCO puts a strong emphasis on making its own facilities, operations and programme activities environmentally friendly in line with the UN System Strategy for Sustainability Management (2020-2030).  This is why UNESCO has set up a dedicated Environmental Management System (EMS) in line with the ISO 14001 standard, addressing the organization’s long-term environmental performance. UNESCO's EMS functions as a key tool to translate the policy into measurable concrete time-bound action, targets, in the areas of facilities, travel, procurement, publishing services, IT, and human resources. Key performance indicators and EMS Action Plan have been established, with the ultimate aim minimize any negative environmental impact.
  • In 2020 and 2021, the UN Greening the Blue report assessed  UNESCO as “climate neutral”  because it had measured and offset all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by its facilities and official travel through the purchase of UN-Certified Emission Reduction (CER) credits. Solidifying the organization’s commitment to greener practices, UNESCO has pledged to cut carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 (compared to 2010) to further reduce its carbon footprint, in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. One policy/tool to achieve this goal is UNESCO’s internal carbon tax, applicable on all official travel since October 2020. The proceeds – on average around 3% of the travel cost – go to a Special Account for Environmental Action and are used to finance carbon offsetting as well as specific (small-scale) emission-reduction measures, and hence contribute to climate neutrality. Other environmental targets have been set in the area of water consumption, waste management, procurement and paper use.
  • Guidelines for Green Meetings – with a practical planning checklist All UNESCO programme meetings and events have to respect environmental criteria. These guidelines shall help facilitate the organization of green meetings and support its transition to make all events of more than 300 participants climate-neutral – an objective to which UNESCO has committed by 2030. Moreover, UNESCO developed a planning checklist that provides specific objectives and actions to ensure that organizers take environmental measures with respect to the meeting venue, accommodation, travel, catering, communication, venue set-up, monitoring, and reporting
  • The UNESCO Guidelines for Sustainable Procurement are an important enabler of  UNESCO's sustainability efforts.  UNESCO staff has been trained to ensure all contracts and purchases of goods and services are respectful of the environment. The guidelines provide specific advice to integrate sustainability into procurement planning, identification of needs, sourcing, evaluation process, contract award, and contract management.
  • The Staff guide for a Green UNESCO (2021) is a key tool to raise awareness of UNESCO staff on sustainable practices in everyday work life, with concrete tips and good practice examples for ‘greening’ missions, events, lunch breaks, and desk work. It is supported by comprehensive figures and facts and provides clear action-driven solutions. In addition, an online ‘Environmental Awareness and Action’ training is available and mandatory for all staff since January 2022. Staff awareness-raising measures are also driven through an internal newsletter, dedicated intranet page, and regular action campaigns.