Close sites icon close
Search form

Search for the country site.

Country profile

Country website

Statement by Ms. Wendy Chamberlin, Acting United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at the 32nd Standing Committee of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme (ExCom), Geneva, 8 March 2005

Speeches and statements

Statement by Ms. Wendy Chamberlin, Acting United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at the 32nd Standing Committee of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme (ExCom), Geneva, 8 March 2005

8 March 2005
Status originally internal following instruction from Executive Office that AHC statements should not appear on the website, now external (e-mail from M. Van der Liet of 14/07/05 refers.)

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Committee Members:

I welcome this opportunity to open our discussion on the work of the Standing Committee in 2005. UNHCR has confronted a difficult period over the past several months. The Senior Management Committee met last Thursday to discuss our approach during the interim period before a new High Commissioner is approved by the General Assembly. The collective message to you from the SMC is that there is a strong sense of purpose and unshakable solidarity throughout the organization. Our capable staff remains focused on the mission of helping refugees worldwide. Indeed, as crises loom large in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Darfur where the unique expertise of UNHCR staff members will be put yet again to test, we have not and must not miss a beat. At the same time, we are quite optimistic about the challenges and the prospects before us. The signing of the peace treaty in south Sudan, peaceful referendum in Burundi, and conditions permitting repatriation in Liberia and Afghanistan make it promising for many hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced persons to realize their dream to return home. UNHCR will be there to help them.

Later in the week the Regional Bureau directors will provide details on the work of our UNHCR colleagues, many of them working in some of the more remote and dangerous corners on earth. These presentations are never repetitive, nor dull. The situations we face in our mission to assist both refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) require courage and physical stamina. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the commitment and personal sacrifice of UNHCR staff members worldwide. It is particularly fitting to salute the 2,374 women of UNHCR today on International Women's Day. The women of UNHCR play a unique and critical role in protecting women and children in our accelerated efforts to mainstream community service and protection programmes for this vulnerable population. The Director of Dos, Marjon Kamara, will provide additional details on our Sexual and Gender-Based Violence programmes in 2004, but let me just highlight the compelling and heartbreaking work of our female protection staff members working in Darfur.

Turning to management issues, the underlying maxim of our organization is that UNHCR is a field based agency. The primary objective of our work at Headquarters is to support UNHCR field operations. In May of last year we constituted the Headquarters Process Review team with the aim of improving the way HQ supports the field by looking at ways to streamline and simplify management processes. We focused on four key areas - resource allocation, workforce management, senior management processes and accountability.

I would like to review some of our achievements in these areas:

  • The HQ Review quickly led us to reaffirm the agency's commitment to instituting results based management as a management culture within the office. Much good work had been done in the past to lay the basis for RBM, such as standards and indicators, but we needed to, and were able to make additional advances.
  • UNHCR planning and budgeting must be based on strategic objectives. In December 2004 the High Commissioner issued Global Strategic Objectives for a two-year period (2006-2007) at the beginning of our planning cycle for 2006. These global objectives were issued to all managers in the field and at Headquarters and they were asked to use them as the basis for establishing regional and HQ priorities for 2006. The Global Strategic Objectives are an initial step to inform the planning process.
  • The key principle of the resource allocation model is to empower our managers, particularly in the field but also at Headquarters, to plan strategically, identify the comprehensive needs of refugees, make budget decisions at the field level, take initiative, raise private sector funds and shift allocated resources.
  • With devolution of empowerment comes accountability for measurable results. We are developing a monitoring and reporting system to measure and report on clearly understood objectives through our newly implemented MSRP information technology system based on PeopleSoft. Once fully implemented, and this may take a couple of years, we anticipate stakeholders will be able to obtain real time information on the progress of project management throughout the planning, budgeting and implementation phases.
  • Another key element of RBM that we are putting into place this year is the significant change to the way we plan. The country operations plan document for 2006 requires all country offices to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment. We expect UNHCR representatives to exhibit leadership and expertise to draw on stakeholders (NGO partners, local government, refugees, bilateral aid agencies and UN organizations) to define the total needs of refugees in a country operation. UNHCR will endeavour to allocate resources to meet the core needs identified in this planning session. We recognize that we cannot meet all the identified needs. There will be a gap. Representatives will be expected to galvanize partners to respond to the unmet needs.
  • These actions - the Global Strategic Objectives and our new resource allocation model - together respond to recommendations made by the JIU for a long-term strategic framework and the need to better integrate humanitarian and development needs through our Country Operations Plans. Changes to our resource allocation processes will continue to be refined as we incrementally incorporate additional elements of our new resource allocation model into the planning and budget cycle.
  • In the course of our work on resource allocation processes last year, the role and functions of HQ were reviewed. We take seriously the conclusions of the Mannet report in this respect and aim to better define the type of work that should be done in Geneva. All bureau and division directors have been asked to share the report with their staff with the purpose of developing suggestions for implementation and improvements. The aim in the future is to make Headquarters more strictly focused on management and standard setting.
  • We have set a target of no net growth in positions/bodies at HQ in 2006. At the same time, we do not want to stifle all new initiatives by putting into place arbitrary caps. Therefore, we devised a formula we refer to as the 90/10 as a mechanism to identify and allow shifts between HQ based bureaux/divisions and the field. HQ managers must identify at least 10 percent of their assets as the lowest priority for possible dropping or shifting to other areas of higher priority.
  • The results of the HQ Process Review have been measured and incremental. At the outset of the HQ Review we determined that we would not make major structural changes. Moreover, during this sensitive interim period before a new High Commissioner is named, I believe it unwise to undertake significant initiatives. It did lead to further consideration by UNHCR of the JIU proposal on the programme planning and coordination function in UNHCR. The Organizational Development and Management Section, an existing unit at HQ, will work under the supervision of the DHC to develop this proposal, as well as to build on what has already been achieved to implement RBM.
  • As I said earlier, changes in our resource allocation processes have been guided by the principle of empowering managers in the field. Greater empowerment must be accompanied by better monitoring for accountability. When we began reviewing human resource management last summer we found that our largest problems do not lie in the management of existing HR policies, but instead, in the fact that we lacked an overall workforce strategy. We set up a working group with Mannet to develop such a strategy. That work is incomplete. In 2005 we intend to further drill into the workforce framework that the group developed.
  • The most important guiding principles of the strategy are flexibility - the ability to expand and contract our workforce - aligning staff composition and competencies to our global objectives, establishing a workforce that is responsive to a field-based organization, establishing staff career development, and modernizing the IT used for HR management. Some specific areas we will implement in the near future are assessed learning, senior staff assessments before appointments as Representatives and targeted competency development and training. These actions will also achieve the objective of achieving a better balance between the interests of the organization and those of individual staff. We recognize that the current tendency is to favour individual staff.
  • I would like now to turn to the matter of accountability, which is the overarching framework for the processes we have started to streamline and simplify. I have already met with many of you on the strengthening of the Inspector General's Office and I will only reiterate here that since then we have agreed on a concrete work plan to implement the measures we committed to. The work plan aims to increase annual inspections to a target of every 3 years for each office, designate an officer in the IGO to follow-up on compliance with inspection recommendations, hold managers accountable for placing inspection findings on the performance appraisals of responsible staff, shorten the disciplinary procedures, provide for the publication of periodic reports on the types and numbers of investigation done and on disciplinary procedures, systematically link the results of disciplinary action and appointments/promotions, and implement mandatory integrity training. However, building sustainable and meaningful accountability into the system goes beyond oversight, audits, and reporting on weaknesses. Here I must return to my earlier point on Results-Based Management. The further development and implementation of RBM will provide UNHCR with an organization-wide accountability framework for performance results. UNHCR reiterated its commitment to institutionalizing RBM in the Global Strategic Objectives for 2006-07. The goal of making performance more measurable is not limited to financial or programmatic areas. Last year's audit of DIP made similar suggestions on measuring the effectiveness of protection delivery. The task ahead of us is to define an integrated strategy for RBM and coordinate initiatives across a range of areas. We have taken on board the JIU suggestion to integrate the MSRP into the RBM process and are developing the necessary utility for this for consideration by the new High Commissioner.
  • While on the subject of Information and Communications, I am very pleased to report that progress continues to be made in the Management Systems Renewal Project (MSRP). As you will recall, the Financial and Supply chain components went live in early 2004, the Divisions and Bureaux in Headquarters now use this system for all of their financial and procurement processing. The shake-down period was painful indeed, but we made advances in removing technical glitches. The organization becomes daily more accustomed to use of this potentially powerful tool. Towards the end of 2004, we also added in new budget modules to widen the scope of MSRP.
  • What I think will interest you is that we have started rolling MSRP out to the field offices. We are following a careful four-stage plan, validating and testing the product for the particular needs of the field. As of now we have gone live in ten field offices and plan to have most of our field locations on-line by the end of 2006. This will be an accelerating process as we gradually build up our training capacity. Field roll-out represents the real value of MSRP, offering global real-time access to a common database, and it will significantly upgrade the operational capability of the UNHCR.
  • The other major MSRP initiative that I would like to bring to your attention concerns Human Resources and Payroll. Following a competitive bidding process, we have selected a contractor to work with us, and as of January this year, the MSRP team has extended its scope to include these vital elements of our administrative processes. I am expecting that global payroll and HR administration will go live in the first part of next year, integrating fully, of course, with all the other MSRP components.
  • Finally, I repeat that the MSRP is a major investment that will enable introduction of RBM and modernization of our business practices.
  • Another success story has been Project Profile with the completion of the initial phase of development of new standards and tools to improve and expand UNHCR's registration systems. The field implementation phase is now underway and additional resources are being devoted to support operations which are working to meet the new standards. While the Project is on schedule, additional training and resources may continue to be required in some operations in order to ensure the quality of their registration data and to provide refugees with appropriate documentation.

I believe that progress has been made in streamlining and simplifying processes we identified as in need of attention last year. Some progress has been made on reducing reporting requirements emanating from HQ on the field. More progress is in the offing. We will be carefully reviewing the responses we receive from the field on our instructions to develop a comprehensive needs assessment for the COP in 2006 and make additional changes to our instruction for 2007 to more fully implement a streamlined resource allocation process. We will also focus our attention on institutionalizing Results-Based Management, further development of standards and indicators and designing the software needed to integrate the MSRP into the RBM process.