From the onset of her mandate, the Director General, Irina Bokova, has initiated a Reform process focusing on UNESCO’s core mandate and expertise including the reduction of administrative processes and costs. The Reform was accelerated by the Organization's financial crisis due to the suspension of the assessed contribution by one of its largest donors.
The Director-General and Member States have since engaged in an in-depth dialogue to agree on a limited list of priorities for UNESCO’s programme. Following a difficult, yet constructive, review by Member States and the Secretariat, the General Conference of UNESCO adopted an expenditure plan of $507 million for the next two years – a reduction of nearly $150 million from the planned budget – together with priority activities.
Since the UNESCO General Conference in November 2013 and during the first months of 2014, the Director-General assisted by the Senior Management Team devised a number of proposals for the reorganization of the Secretariat which included the streamlining of reporting lines, the reduction of Director-level posts and above functions and the abolition of a number of professional and support posts, including for the distribution of funds within certain established parameters; at least 20% for activities versus staff costs, 60/40 ratio between HQ and Field and 0.9 support to 1 professional expertise.
“UNESCO’s strength is its people,” stated the Director-General, Irina Bokova, on several occasions. “We are a knowledge-generating organization and our knowledge comes from the dedicated specialists on our team. We must ensure that we have the competencies required as we refocus and redeploy in support of our new priorities and the reduced financial resources available to us.”
In light of the above, to address the resulting redundancy of posts due to the reduced expenditure plan versus the approved budget a number of initiatives were put in place in the last two years and a half. Mutually Agreed Separations (with different modalities to attract as many interested staff) were launched strategically and part-time and Leave without Pay options were offered, when in the interest of the Organization.
An in-depth review of posts against the priorities established by the General Conference resulted in the realignment of posts, re-definition of competencies, grade levels and location of functions and the abolition of vacant and occupied posts. To address the latter in a transparent and effective manner a Redeployment Group was established to review and align affected staff on abolished posts against the competencies required of the new positions. The Director-General tasked the Deputy Director-General with its Chairmanship and the Members of the Redeployment Group composed of all Assistant Director-Generals, the Director of HRM and the Presidents of Staff Associations were requested to review staff profiles, performance and other criteria as per established Staff Rules and Regulations and to make proposals for the Director-General consideration and decision. Such a process is always difficult, but the effort has been defined by all its Members as having been accomplished with full transparency, constructive participation and respect. As stated in the most recent announcements to staff by UNESCO’s two staff associations: “Team spirit and mutual respect between senior management representatives and the staff associations characterized the first session of the Redeployment Group, and ISAU welcomes this approach”, “We welcome the good will demonstrated at these meetings by representative of the programme sectors, the Administration and both staff associations.”
The results of the first meeting of this Redeployment Group are an encouraging step. Of the 111 affected staff, 93 staff have been offered posts following approval by the Director General. Efforts will continue to identify possible placement for affected staff throughout the established Redeployment Period which will end on 31 August 2014. Posts for which staff profiles were not matched against required competencies will shortly be advertised to ensure that all posts required for UNESCO to continue delivering on its mandate are filled competitively as soon as possible.