Senior Management Team strengthens commitment to UNESCO leadership and delivery

As the year 2016 has just began, the Senior Management Team (SMT) joined together for a one and a half day retreat on Saturday 30 and Sunday 31 January 2016. New SMT members were welcomed, notably the newly appointed Assistant Director-General for the Africa Department, Firmin Matoko, and the Director for the Field Coordination Support, Axel Plathe.

The retreat was built around a mix of plenary segments, rotating group sessions and thematic briefings that helped reinforce interaction and cohesion amongst members of the SMT as a whole. Discussions centered on how the Organization can best move forward, reiterating the importance of UNESCO working close to the Field for the implementation of the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs, and addressing the complexities, challenges and priorities of enhancing the sustainability of its field network.

Exchanges also provided effective recommendations for reviewing UNESCO operational modalities in the context of the existing Programme Monitoring Committee (PMC) and SMT mechanisms. Business processes and the way the Organization works in the current context of reduced human and financial resources were analyzed with a view to identifying those areas and mechanisms requiring further streamlining. Discussions also touched upon the current interaction between programme and non-programme sectors and services and on issues to be tackled at PMC and SMT levels for greater interaction and efficiency.

Discussions also focused on a forward-looking agenda in relation to the next Programme and Budget for 2018-2021, from both the programmatic as well as from the management perspective -- with the Senior Management reflecting on stepping up the 2 key drivers for efficient programme delivery in light of the 2030 Agenda, namely innovation and sustainability.

In order to deliver on the new Sustainable Development Agenda, it is clear that the Organization will have to prioritize -- discussions at the retreat were led in this light, with a keen sense of purpose, openness and a desire to come up with bold and innovative ways of dealing with challenges from a cross-sectoral perspective, as well as the risks and opportunities that lie ahead. 

Discussions were also directed at structured financing dialogue and resource mobilization, as ways to enhance UNESCO’s ability to deliver on the SDGs while ensuring sustainability in the implementation of its priorities.

Brainstorming on strategic managerial and funding perspectives, as well as in the current security-challenged context, helped the SMT generate a bulk of steam to move forward in an atmosphere of collegial and effective team-spirit.

Senior Managers further addressed corporate risk management -- looking at assessing the wide range of potential areas of risk, including programmatic, reputational, operational and financial, underscoring the importance of a risk based prioritization, as well as the need for a rigorous monitoring of those risks within the dedicated mechanisms, i.e. the Risk Management Committee, PMC and SMT, as well as of recommendations by the Internal Oversight Service (IOS).

In this respect, Senior Management underlined the need for a greater commitment to ensuring business continuity in the Organization, along with building an enhanced risk awareness amongst managers across UNESCO. Equally, Senior Managers committed to develop risk registers in each Sector, with a view to setting corporate indicators and a mitigation strategy. Directors and Heads of  Field Offices are to be fully integrated in the risk assessment and management effort.Regarding the Human Resources Strategy, the importance of having the right person in the right place at the right time was central to the discussion.

In this context, the issue of managed mobility, (functional and geographical), as well as the need for a coherent competency framework and a well-functioning performance management system, were addressed.  Also, the issue of an enabling work environment as well as skills development and profile reviews were touched upon.

The commitment to Priority Gender Equality was reaffirmed by Senior Managers, stressing the need to better record and report the wide range of UNESCO initiatives promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment, especially those at the Field level through better documentation and information, as well as the need to continue ensuring the necessary training by the Gender Equality Division -- in order to achieve a more systemic integration of gender equality considerations within programme implementation, along with the idea of identifying and acknowledging gender equality champions.

In keeping with the Director-General’s request to tighten effective security in the Organization, the Senior Management Team was informed of the latest developments with regard to security in UNESCO and its related Action Plan. Members of the Senior Management also took part in a mock security exercise.  

Enhanced and continued staff sensitization on security will be sustained, and the assessment and action plan on security will be presented to the Executive Board at its 199th session.

The retreat also provided an opportunity to raise the issue of access to information.  While this needs to be discussed more in depth, work has been started with a review of records management and archiving as well as information sharing. The need to better refine specific criteria in that context along with aspects pertaining to a UNESCO policy on disclosure of information was further debated.

The retreat concluded with a renewed commitment from all Senior Management to bolstering UNESCO’s global leadership to take forward the new 2030 Agenda, to sharpen the Organisation’s delivery and its effectiveness.