New Workplans Push UNESCO Reform Forward

The UNESCO Director General has approved the Workplans for the 2016-2017 biennium, which will guide the work of the Organization to implement the 38 C/5 programme and budget, as adopted in November 2015 by the General Conference.

These Workplans have been completed by all sectors, bureaux and Field Offices across UNESCO during the first week of December, guided by the Decisions of the Organization’s two Governing Bodies – the Executive Board and the General Conference -  and it is the first time they are finalized and adopted at such an early date. This bears witness to the effective streamlining of procedures and to the in-house commitment to strengthening UNESCO and its implementation mechanisms.

A preliminary analysis of the Workplans was conducted by the Bureau of Strategic Planning. The Workplans were also assessed from the perspective of the two global priorities, Gender Equality and Africa, providing analytical insights into the need to further develop and refine indicators to assess how these two global priorities are reflected in UNESCO’s programmes. Girls and women are de facto first beneficiaries of most UNESCO programmes, notably in the field of education, even when gender equality does not come up as an explicit target. IOS, Gender Equality Division and BSP are currently working on new indicators to reflect this reality throughout programmatic planning. This workplan exercise has also benefitted from the Operational Strategy for Priority Africa, put in place by UNESCO to improve coordination and alignment of priorities with Member States and African regional organization, taking also into account the outcome of the audit of the Field Office reform.

The Director-General held an in-depth discussion on the Workplans with the members of the Senior Management Team on 11 December, to review the state of play and catalyze immediate action across the board, including further refining and adjustment of remaining weaknesses to be addressed with regard to monitoring implementation (such as benchmarks, indicators and evaluation mechanisms) with a view to further reforming the Organization. All of this illustrates the progress achieved in the advancement and shared understanding of the reform process by staff across the board over recent years and the determination to accelerate the pace.

In this respect, the new Workplans feature innovations at several important levels.

First, the process benefitted from UNESCO’s new 4 year programme cycle, designed to match the UN’s quadrennial comprehensive policy review (QCPR) and which encourages greater programme continuity between the biennia.

This is a concrete example of how UNESCO is working closer to the entire UN System, for greater relevance and synergy in planning. UNESCO’s participation in the UN common country programming exercises is ensured through sufficient budget provision under all the programme sectors. This was a strong recommendation of the Independent External Evaluation report in 2009.

Second, this exercise represents the finalization of the new Result Base Budgeting process which started already in 2014, and whose principles guide the entire programme and Budget, putting UNESCO at the forefront of UN’s effort in this regard.

It highlights also continuous progress in the overall effort to bring UNESCO closer to the Field, showing an improved decentralization rate compared to that of the 38 C/5 Approved (49% as opposed to 47%) – while, at the same time, preserving the decentralization rates to the various regions.

Third, this reflects serious efforts to simplify the workplan entry in UNESCO’s information tools, notably SISTER, through an intensive in-house collaboration, which contributed to the rapid and easier workplan accessibility and readability.

This is an integral part of UNESCO’s effort to increase transparency and data sharing, in order to improve accountability towards Member States, donors and beneficiaries.

“The adoption of the 2030 Agenda and the historic agreement reached at the COP 21 call on us to deliver on our programme with even more efficiency and ambition,” declared the Director General.

The 2016 funds will be made available by 1 January 2016, allowing for immediate implementation of the programme adopted by Member States, and in line with the reviewed calendar of Executive Board meetings and ordinary sessions adopted by Member States.