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Update on Project Delphi

Executive Committee Meetings

Update on Project Delphi

15 September 1997



1. At its seventh meeting on 1 May 1997, the Standing Committee reviewed document EC/47/SC/CRP.23 which contained an update on progress achieved in Project Delphi and the Delphi Implementation Plan. At its eighth meeting on 26 June 1997, the Deputy High Commissioner provided an update on Project Delphi in his remarks to the Standing Committee, the text of which was shared with delegations. This conference room paper focuses on progress achieved since the seventh meeting of the Standing Committee and builds upon the remarks of the Deputy High Commissioner at the eighth meeting.


2. Substantial progress has been achieved in a number of important areas of Project Delphi since the Standing Committee last met. Significant achievements include:

(i) Implementation of the Career Management System (CMS) starting 1 September 1997;

(ii) Delegation to the Field of authority for the administration and management of locally-recruited staff beginning with the Operations in the former Yugoslavia, in the Great Lakes region of Africa, and in Southern Africa and progressing to all operations by the end of 1998;

(iii) Approval of the Global Training Strategy by the Senior Management Committee (SMC) in July and the immediate implementation of an intensive training programme for managers;

(iv) Completion of a Strategic Plan for Information Technology which will be reviewed by the SMC in September 1997;

(v) Reorganization of the Division of Financial and Information Services, and the Division of International Protection, effective summer 1997; and

(vi) Introduction of an Intranet (an Internet service accessible only by a defined group of users) for staff at Headquarters in July 1997.

These achievements, as well as others, are discussed in the sections that follow.

3. As reported to the Standing Committee at its eighth meeting, the High Commissioner's SMC met in a special session on 20 and 21 June 1997 to review the status of implementation of Project Delphi. In their review, the SMC reached a number of conclusions, two of which have particular significance for how the next phase of Project Delphi will be managed and implemented. These are:

(a) In order to achieve greater momentum in the change process, there is a need for increased capacity and more direct senior management involvement in Project Delphi to ensure transparent participation and harmonious implementation.

(b) There is a need to prioritize activities within Project Delphi and to focus in the first instance on those change initiatives which will have the greatest impact for UNHCR's work in the Field and in Headquarters.

4. As a consequence, the High Commissioner decided, in consultation with Senior Management, to appoint a full-time "Director for Change". She also identified the change initiatives which should receive priority attention. These two developments are described in the paragraphs that follow.

A. Director for Change

5. On 17 July 1997, the High Commissioner announced that Mr. John Horekens, Director of the Bureau for Europe, would assume the full-time responsibilities of "Director for Change" as of the beginning of September 1997. Through this appointment, the High Commissioner has significantly strengthened management's capacity to direct efforts in implementing change and to ensure full coordination at all levels of the organization. Mr. Horekens will report directly to the High Commissioner, whilst working closely with the Deputy High Commissioner, the Assistant High Commissioner and all colleagues in Senior Management. He will be supported in this task by the Change Management Support and Coordination Unit. In the context of priorities identified by UNHCR's Senior Management (see paragraph 6 below), the Director for Change will accord particular importance to human resources and to communications. Among the objectives set by the Director for Change for the next few months, is the intention to revitalize the process at all levels of UNHCR's staff, including strengthening of the commitment to change by Senior Management, and achieving greater ownership of a new UNHCR by all staff. As the results of Project Delphi will gradually become operative, it is vital that UNHCR as a whole be fully engaged in building a more effective organization.

B. Priority Areas of Change

6. In its deliberations on 20 and 21 June 1997, the SMC concluded that it is crucial that a tangible output be drawn from Project Delphi, within a reasonable and realistic time frame. It is also important that the process itself reaches a point of conclusion, and thereafter to move forward in a rejuvenated UNHCR. To achieve this, the High Commissioner, in addition to appointing a "Director for Change" has identified the organizational improvement initiatives which should receive priority attention during the coming months. While efforts will continue in furthering implementation of all activities within the Delphi Implementation Plan (EC/47/SC/CRP.23), the following areas will be given priority:

(i) Operations Management System;

(ii) Design of protection database and information systems;

(iii) Global Supply Chain;

(iv) Outsourcing;

(v) Introduction of the Intranet to the field; and

(vi) Improvement in communications.

C. Operations Management System (OMS)

7. The design of a new OMS for UNHCR is one of the most challenging tasks within Project Delphi, and it has proven to be more difficult than originally anticipated. The result is that the original targets for completion and endorsement of the new OMS design have not been met . Steady progress, however, has been made. On 28 July 1997, a series of Operations Management Charts reflecting the situational management approach that underpins Project Delphi were completed for all operations. As planned, the OMS Phase One Team presented a revised draft conceptual design of the new OMS to the SMC on 17 July 1997. Following a review of the draft design by senior managers in Headquarters, the SMC agreed at its 24 July 1997 meeting that the draft design should serve as the broad framework for the next phase of design work on the OMS.

8. For this next phase (OMS Phase Two), a new OMS team has been established. The team is led by Mr. Chris Ache, the UNHCR Representative in Ghana, who is on mission to UNHCR Headquarters. The team's task is to complete the detailed design and initial development of the new UNHCR Operations Management System, develop detailed OMS information system requirements and specifications, and to finalize a roll-out plan for the new OMS.

9. The design work which remains to be carried out by the OMS Phase Two Team is substantial. It includes significant additional consideration and refinement of OMS processes and procedures, the development of a new generation of OMS "tools" to support UNHCR field operations, the determination of what changes are needed in UNHCR's monitoring and control systems both in Headquarters and the Field, and the definition of management responsibility and accountability within the new OMS framework. The OMS Phase Two Team will present its proposal for carrying out the remaining OMS design and development work in September 1997 with the expectation that the remaining months of the year will be used for OMS development activity.

D. Design of Protection Database and Information Systems

10. The Division of International Protection (DIP) has taken steps to enhance UNHCR's protection management capacity and expertise. DIP will continue for the remainder of the year to implement an intensive programme of protection training on a worldwide basis as part of its campaign to reach out to the largest possible number of UNHCR staff members. In addition, DIP has undertaken a review of existing protection information resources, previous protection information needs and new needs arising from the changes brought about by the Delphi process, as a preliminary step in the design and development of a new protection information management system. An expert has been engaged to assist in the design and development of this new system, including a protection database, which would facilitate guidance, monitoring and reporting on protection activities worldwide. A design workshop for senior protection staff focusing on protection information management systems is also planned for the first week of October 1997. DIP has initiated an assessment of the Office's global protection staffing requirements, the output of which will be a series of measures to enhance protection staffing resources and to improve protection staff selection and deployment procedures. DIP is also represented on a full-time basis on the OMS Phase Two Team.

E. Global Supply Chain

11. At its eighth meeting, the Standing Committee reviewed document EC/47/SC/CRP.33, an update on international procurement. Included in the update was a description of the Ideal Supply Chain Project. This report focuses on the progress in developing the Ideal Supply Chain concept and the translation of the concept into specific improvements.

12. The underlying intent of the Supply Chain project is to create a fully integrated supply and related services function. The supply chain function will be supported by a complete information technology system comprising both hardware and software so that the eventual result will be a single and unified supply chain for all supplies and services, regardless of the end-user or requester. Significant progress has been made in translating UNHCR's Ideal Supply Chain initiative into a practical set of obtainable measures. Specific achievements include:

(i) The endorsement of an "Ideal Supply Chain Concept Paper" which will guide ongoing and future Supply Chain implementation activities; and

(ii) The identification of a series of improvements in supply chain activities that can be implemented prior to full realization of the "ideal" supply chain.

13. Among the improvements envisioned is the early involvement of Supply Chain officers with other professionals in functional areas during all budget and planning activities, increased use of "Frame Agreements" for a wider range of products and services in order to streamline and accelerate the procurement process, and strengthened inter-agency cooperation during initial assessment and planning missions.

14. Process and structural analysis of the ideal supply chain, including process mapping, will be the central activity throughout the next six months. From this analysis, the future supply chain processes will be generated, which in turn will lead to the creation of corresponding staff structures, training needs, and information technology system requirements. This analysis will be focused on the five major functional areas of planning, sourcing, transport/shipping/customs, asset management, and fleet operations and maintenance.

15. In addition to the process mapping exercise, software requirements and specifications will be determined prior to the procurement of an integrated information technology system.

F. Outsourcing

16. UNHCR already makes extensive use of external service providers at Headquarters and in the Field. To ensure that all opportunities for outsourcing in its broadest sense are considered, a consultant has begun to review work currently outsourced, examine all outsourcing opportunities, and prepare outsourcing options for consideration by the SMC. This work is primarily focused on Headquarters functions.

17. The assignment will build on the work already being undertaken by the support divisions of UNHCR, and will involve a series of interviews with management, with external suppliers, and with other agencies which have relevant experience of outsourcing different administrative functions. Information gathered from these interviews will be supplemented by analysis of the Headquarters resource allocation and cost base.

18. Opportunities for outsourcing which meet one or more of the following objectives will be identified:

(i) Cost-effectiveness as a result of economies of scale;

(ii) Benefits through the enforcement of consistent practice; and

(iii) Cost-effective access to specialist resources and/or technologies.

The report on outsourcing options will be presented to the SMC at the end of October 1997.

G. Introduction of the Intranet to the Field

19. In July 1997, the Information and Communications Systems Section (ICSS) introduced at Headquarters an Intranet, known internally as "HCR-Net". An Intranet is, in essence, an Internet service accessible only by a defined group of users. HCR-Net will only be available within UNHCR, and because of its advanced security features, can carry information of a confidential nature, as well as general administrative and operational information.

20. It is intended that all UNHCR staff, both at the Headquarters and in the Field, will have access to HCR-Net within the next two years. As with electronic mail (to which nearly 200 Field Offices are now connected), the technical ease of Field connection to Intranet will vary widely. The first Field Office connections to Intranet are scheduled for early 1998.

21. UNHCR believes that the Inter/Intranet interface has enormous potential. Not only will it become a standard, through which it will eventually be possible to process transactions, handle electronic mail, access document stores and a variety of published information, but the Internet/Intranet will also enhance access to training, facilitate planning and the coordination of operational activities, and promote dialogue among UNHCR and its operational partners.

H. Improvement in Communications

22. Improving the quality of information and its dissemination throughout the organization is an important priority within Project Delphi. In February 1997, the High Commissioner established a Communications Review Board (CRB) as a means of furthering the implementation of the recommendations of the Working Group on Internal Communications, which completed its work in 1996. A report has been prepared which examines UNHCR internal and external communications needs. The report emphasizes the need to rationalize the flow of information within the organization and to promote more dialogue between management and staff. The report argues it is crucial that UNHCR have a pro-active external communications strategy that enables it to convey effectively the challenges the organization faces, the rationale for the policies it adopts, as well as to continue building support for its mandate and activities. The SMC will determine over the next few weeks what actions are needed in order to enhance UNHCR's internal and external communications.

I. Information Technology

23. UNHCR increasingly requires extensive use of information technology to carry out its mandate for international protection and solutions to refugee problems. The nature of its extended global operations and the identification by Project Delphi of major changes in the way UNHCR should conduct its business will require significant investment in new information systems and an improved communications infrastructure. As part of the Project Delphi implementation plan, UNHCR's Information and Communications Systems Section has produced a Strategic Plan for information technology. The principal purposes of the Plan are to ensure that UNHCR aligns its future information technology expenditure with the needs of the organization, and to provide a framework within which the required new developments can be undertaken. The Plan is in final draft and is presently under review by the management of UNHCR. Once approved, the Strategic Plan for Information Technology is expected to guide decision-making in the realm of information technology for the next five years, with reviews of the strategy planned on an annual basis.

24. As part of its information technology strategy, UNHCR has embarked upon a path in Project Delphi which will lead to the eventual replacement of its main Financial and Budget Information System (FMIS), and the introduction of new systems to provide technological support and enhanced managerial control to many, if not all, of UNHCR's operational activities. A key step in the preparation for the tender and evaluation of potential information systems as well as their eventual configuration and customization, is the development of a comprehensive data model which comprises all the types of information the organization will need to capture and manipulate in its new information systems. In June 1997, UNHCR initiated a data modelling exercise which will be completed before the end of the year. The expected output of this exercise is a conceptual data model which covers all dimensions (quality/ impact, timeliness of delivery, and cost) of UNHCR's operations and includes all of UNHCR's activities.

25. As part of the process of replacing UNHCR's information and decision support systems, a Request for Information (RFI) was issued in July 1997 to various suppliers of integrated business software. The RFI is the first step in the investigation, evaluation and selection of replacement systems. The document contains background information on UNHCR business practices and listings of key functional requirements which new systems need to support. The responses to the RFI will be evaluated in November 1997 in order to select a short-list of products for detailed evaluation.

J. Financial Services

26. Continued progress is being made in the implementation of UNHCR's Financial Services strategy, the aim of which is to ensure more effective financial management at all levels of the organization. Key elements in this strategy are the professionalization of the financial support function in the Field, improved guidance and training combined with enhanced policy and standard-setting at Headquarters, and decentralized processing of accounts at the field level. Specific achievements include the following:

(i) The Division of Financial and Information Services has been restructured so that all financial functions and services including Budget, Finance and Treasury are now integrated at Headquarters under Financial Services;

(ii) The prerequisites to effect financial decentralization have been defined within a Financial Management Accountability Framework which outlines the organization's policy on financial accountability;

(iii) Financial Management Advisor positions are being created in the Field. Senior Financial Management Advisors have been appointed for two operations - former Yugoslavia and Southern Africa - and a third position for the Great Lakes operation has been advertized;

(iv) A programme of in-depth training for all management and staff is envisioned. Two training modules for general financial management and basic financial management and control have been developed and successfully tested. A third module on financial management and control for general services staff is under development;

(v) The first two locations identified for decentralized, field-level processing of accounts are the former Yugoslavia and Southern Africa. Financial management training courses will be held in former Yugoslavia in September and October 1997, and then in Southern Africa in October and November 1997 in preparation for full delegation of authority to these locations for accounts processing starting 1 January 1998; and

(vi) FMIS at Headquarters will be made available to selected locations in the field which will provide financial and budgetary information to UNHCR senior management in a user-friendly Windows-based application.

K. Career Management System

27. Consultations between staff and management representatives on the CMS concluded at the end of June 1997. Following a recommendation from the Joint Staff-Management Advisory Committee, the High Commissioner has now established CMS, with the first full 12 month annual performance cycle running from 1 September 1997 to 31 August 1998. With effect from 1 September 1997, the Performance Appraisal Report (PAR) will consequently supersede the Performance Evaluation Report (PER) previously used at UNHCR.

28. CMS comprises first, an enhanced performance appraisal system; second, a skills management and competency development method; third, a career planning process; and fourth, CMS Information. This includes data about post requirements (in terms of competencies) as well as individual staff members (their profiles, the competencies they possess, etc.). The progressive implementation of CMS over the next several years should result in a significant improvement in the area of human resources management. At present, staff members are preparing to engage in

Step 1 of the CMS cycle, which involves agreeing with their supervisors on their work objectives, the competencies to be demonstrated as well as their training and development needs for the year.

29. A Joint Monitoring Committee, made up of staff and management representatives, will soon be established. It will have responsibility for monitoring the implementation of the new system with respect to the timeliness of the performance appraisal process, the application of procedures and its overall results. It will also propose improvements and further refinements to CMS for a period of three years as UNHCR gains experience through the implementation of the new system.

L. Training

30. In July 1997, the SMC endorsed an overall training policy and strategy for the period up to the end of 1998. This strategy should help to make UNHCR a learning organization that maximizes the transfer of skills for the benefit of all staff, thus enhancing the effectiveness of the organization as a whole.

31. The main actions to implement the training strategy include:

(i) A major review of the current training options, as these will need to be aligned with the new competency framework introduced as part of the CMS;

(ii) An extensive management skills development programme which will include intensive training to meet the immediate needs of managers, with progressive extension from senior to middle management;

(iii) Mandatory training in key areas for staff members;

(iv) More flexibility in training approaches, including greater use of technology, for example, in remote learning;

(v) Increased emphasis on training for operational partners;

(vi) Communications to ensure that staff members, even those posted in the most remote locations, are aware of what is available in terms of training; and

(vii) Continuous monitoring and evaluation of training activities in order to assess the impact on the effectiveness of individual staff and the organization as a whole.

M. Delegation of Human Resource Management Authorities for Locally-Recruited Staff in the Field

32. As the result of a substantive review of the manner in which UNHCR administers its locally-recruited staff members in the Field, the Director of the Division of Human Resource Management (DHRM) announced on 22 August 1997 the full delegation to the Field of the authority for the administration and management of locally-recruited staff members. The process of delegating this authority is currently underway for the Operations in the former Yugoslavia, the Great Lakes region of Africa, and Southern Africa. The gradual delegation of this authority for all operations will be completed by the end of 1998.

33. The delegation of the authority to the Field of the administration and management of locally-recruited staff members will better enable DHRM to concentrate on its central role of global standard setting and establishment of UNHCR's personnel policies for all categories of staff. DHRM will monitor and support these delegated functions worldwide, ensuring that standards and norms are applied consistently across the organization.

N. Resettlement

34. A key to strengthening resettlement as a durable solution is the proper definition of the objectives, criteria and procedures for UNHCR's resettlement activities. As reported to the Standing Committee in September 1997 (EC/47/SC/CRP.47), the Resettlement Handbook has been issued to all UNHCR Offices and is also available to Governments and to NGOs. The Handbook serves as a basic reference for resettlement training, as noted in the Delphi implementation plan.

35. Field Offices will also have the facility to prepare and send resettlement referrals by electronic means. The electronic submissions process is in its final stages of development, after initial field testing in April 1997. This new process is designed to help field staff provide full information, as required by resettlement countries, and to increase the efficiency of submissions. In the discussion of Delphi issues at the June 1997 annual consultation on resettlement, several resettlement countries announced that they will continue to require that submissions be channelled through the Resettlement and Special Cases Section at Headquarters.

O. Staff Security and Stress

36. Ensuring the well-being of staff members, in particular in difficult field locations, continues to be a high priority for UNHCR's senior management. Two key reports containing recommendations for improvements, together with a detailed plan of action to address the issues concerned, have been presented to the SMC. These will be reviewed in the course of September 1997. A number of seminars have been conducted at Headquarters and in the Field to raise awareness of staff to stress issues and their management. Counselling and Critical Incident Stress Debriefing are being provided for staff members on request.

P. Headquarters Resource Review

37. As reported in the Update on Project Delphi (EC/47/SC/CRP.23), the comprehensive review of Headquarters resource requirements (February 1997) recommended a net reduction of 128 posts over a 28-month period, which is now being implemented. A second review of post requirements at Headquarters will be carried out in the fourth quarter of this year.


38. As this report shows, significant progress is being achieved in the change process. However, many of the improvements planned within Project Delphi can only be implemented after additional development work. The scope for change initiatives is vast, and much of the visible impact on UNHCR operations will only start being perceived in 1998 and beyond. As a whole, UNHCR remains committed to change, and the staff at large is keen to see the practical results of Project Delphi. The remaining months of this year are critical as significant progress must be made if the targets established in the Project Delphi Implementation Plan are to be met.