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Update on Project Delphi

Executive Committee Meetings

Update on Project Delphi

7 January 1997

7 January 1997

6th Meeting


1. At its 4th meeting on 2 October 1996, the Standing Committee reviewed the Project Delphi Plan of Action outlined in document EC/46/SC/CRP.48 and endorsed its broad direction. Since then, work has begun to effect this high level plan of action. This Conference Room Paper describes the various initiatives taken to date and, in particular, efforts to transform the Plan of Action into an Implementation Plan. The format of this report follows the chapter headings of the Plan of Action, which remains the reference point for all change activities upon which the organization is embarking.


2. The Plan of Action highlighted the need for UNHCR to have a clearer strategic vision of its role. To this end, and as a first step, in September 1996 the High Commissioner issued an in-house Global Strategy Paper entitled "UNHCR Strategy towards 2000". This paper deals with a number of issues relevant to UNHCR as it moves into the next millennium. Policy guidelines are provided for managers to ensure that their operational objectives and policies fall within the broad parameters of this global policy.

3. As a second step, the terms of reference of the Policy Committee have been drafted and are expected to be reviewed by UNHCR's Senior Management Committee in January 1997. A number of position papers are under preparation by both the Division of International Protection and by the Centre for Documentation and Research (CDR) for review by the Policy Committee as it assumes its responsibility for overseeing strategic policy formulation and dissemination.

4. Efforts to enhance UNHCR's strategic policy formulation also require sustained policy research into the external factors which relate to UNHCR's work. CDR has embarked upon research on policy issues as a basis for some of the position papers mentioned above. Internal resources available for these endeavours are limited and, therefore, linkages are being established with a number of external academic and policy institutions to support these efforts. One example is the recently established External Research Advisory Committee, comprised of twelve eminent academics, to advise UNHCR on policy issues and research.


5. As indicated in the Plan of Action, the new Operations Management System (OMS) is the core process to which all changes must relate. In preparation for the design of the OMS, the following steps have been taken since the Plan of Action was issued:

(a) Two field workshops have been held for the Operations in the Former Yugoslavia and Southern Africa to review in detail the application of the field situation management concept. A third workshop planned for the Great Lakes Region had to be postponed due to the recent developments there. Over 300 recommendations were put forward by the two workshops and a summary of these recommendations were reviewed by the Senior Management Committee in early December. A detailed examination of the implication resulting from these recommendations is now being carried out by the Support Divisions;

(b) The terms of reference of the new Operations Review Board (ORB) have been finalized and approved by the Senior Management Committee. This Board has been established, effective 1 January 1997, and will deal with all issues relating to resource allocation, inter alia, approving operations plans with due regard to policies, standards and norms, global priorities and anticipated resources;

(c) The examination of current processes and procedures has continued, resulting in the identification of a number of "quick fixes", mainly in the areas of resource allocation and budgetary control. These constitute improvements which can be implemented relatively quickly to streamline administrative procedures and provide increased delegation of authority and flexibility, within current implementing instruments, to field managers, pending the design and introduction of the new OMS.

6. A small OMS project design team has been formed. In recognition that the new system must be field-oriented, leadership of this team has been entrusted to a senior Field Representative with considerable UNHCR experience in diverse field programmes, as well as at Headquarters. The core of the multi-functional project team is made up of officers with expertise in the areas of protection, programming and operations. As work progresses, the team will call upon in-house expertise in areas such as finance, human resources, and information and communication systems. The Team is expected to present its first recommendations by mid-February, which will allow design work on the various modules to commence.

7. Following a determination of OMS requirements, work will commence on software specifications. In this context, UNHCR is reviewing comparable software being developed by other UN agencies.


A. Protection Support

8. The Division of International Protection has carried out a review of its structure and staffing, focusing, in particular, on the implications of its role as set out in the Plan of Action. Work is being undertaken in the following areas:

(a) Upgrading of protection expertise - to enable field offices to assume increased protection responsibilities, a comprehensive training programme to enhance and broaden protection expertise throughout the organization is being planned and will be initiated in 1997;

(b) Monitoring - a multi-tiered monitoring system, based on measurable objectives, is being designed and will be put in place in order to ensure consistency in the application of, and compliance with, global protection standards;

(c) Regional legal advice - this function, previously reporting to both the Division and Operations management, is now being integrated into the structure of operations management;

(d) Resettlement functions - a review is being undertaken of respective central and field responsibilities with regard to the assessment of resettlement needs and the need to streamline procedures for the processing of resettlement cases;

(e) Design of a database - this database will record protection data specific to an operation, permit the analysis of trends, serve to manage and monitor protection issues at various levels, and assist in the formulation of policy.

9. Work is underway to reorganize the Division to take account of these new functional requirements and initiate systems design, while strengthening its continued central role in the areas of protection standards setting, promotion and policy advice. Most of the work involved in planning and implementing the reorganization is being undertaken internally by Division staff. In the area of resettlement, a management consultancy has been engaged to assist with detailed design work.

B. Operational Support

10. The Division of Operational Support (DOS) has undertaken an organizational review and its structure has been adapted to the requirements of the Plan of Action. This structure, which will be further modified as the implementation of Project Delphi advances, focuses on three broad areas of support to UNHCR operations:

(a) The mobilization of resources is the responsibility of the Funding and Donor Relations Service (previously Fund Raising Service);

(b) Support to the management of programmes, including support for consolidated reporting on UNHCR's activities required by the Executive Committee and others, is provided by the new Programme Coordination Section (PCS). PCS will play a central role in the elaboration and functioning of the OMS. In the course of 1997, budget and control functions of the previous Programme Coordination and Budget Section will be assumed by the Division of Financial and Information Services, and operation-specific programme and administrative responsibilities will be assumed by the respective Directors of Operations;

(c) Support to programme delivery is provided by three sections, namely the Programme and Technical Support Section (PTSS), the Emergency Preparedness and Response Section (EPRS), and the Supply and Transport Section (STS). In the course of 1997, major changes will be introduced in the way in which UNHCR approaches the function of supply chains, building on the recommendations of the report referred to in paragraph 18 below. A single supply chain will be established to provide an integrated service to operations managers covering the whole procurement process. STS will have overall responsibility for servicing this supply chain. The work of the three sections providing support to programme delivery is being more closely integrated, both among the sections themselves and with the coordinators for refugee children, refugee women and the environment, located in the office of the Director of DOS.

C. Financial Services

11. Apart from pursuing structural changes in the last quarter of 1996, as foreseen in the Plan of Action, the Division of Financial and Information Services has established four multi-functional teams, comprised of staff from throughout the organization, with the objective of developing a set of recommendations to rationalize and streamline financial processes and systems. The first report was received on 19 December and contained a number of quick action proposals, as well as short-term recommendations, for which implementation is being undertaken as from January 1997.

12. As the Division consolidates its plan of implementation, it will focus on the following three main areas:

(a) Implementation of those actions defined as "quick fixes", including streamlined procedures and systems in the areas of finance and travel, thereby eliminating the need for routing some of the current processes through the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG);

(b) Development of a workplan for improved processing of accounts in the field, including the definition of finance-related roles, responsibilities and support services, and the development of related training, tools, policies and procedures. This initiative will provide more accurate, timely and comprehensive information at all levels of management that will, in turn, facilitate decision-making;

(c) Within the context of the OMS, a definition of the requirements for processes, procedures and tools to meet the longer-term strategic objectives for financial services within UNHCR.

D. Human Resources Strategy

13. The initial phase of the reorganization of UNHCR's Human Resources Management and the creation of integrated units covering key human resource administration functions with responsibilities for specific geographic areas, has been completed, although training and development of the staff involved continues.

14. The Division of Human Resources Management (DHRM), during a two-day strategic planning workshop held in November 1996, developed a Human Resources Management Framework for the implementation of the human resources policies and processes to support Project Delphi. Teams have been established to develop workplans for six priority areas: delegation of authority; recruitment; management capacity; performance assessment; staff - management relations; and staff welfare and security. These workplans will be reviewed, prioritized and resourced at a follow-up workshop to be held in early 1997, with implementation scheduled to take place over the next two years.

15. Work is now well under way for further delegation of human resources authority to the field, commencing with installation of a human resources information system in field locations during the first half of 1997. Locations for implementation have been selected and should be operational by mid-1997.

16. The implementation of the Career Management System (CMS) continued as planned. Training has been provided to nearly 300 managers as part of a process which will cascade down through the organization. Consultations with staff representatives is in the final stages, with the introduction of the new performance appraisal system for all staff, scheduled for 1 April 1997.

E. Information and Communications Systems

17. Installation of the new Headquarters-wide office automation standard under Windows will be completed in early 1997. The extension of the Windows standard to the Field has begun and, in anticipation of the new software, a major training exercise has been completed. In addition, a prototype of the planned "Intranet" (i.e. a private Internet for the use of UNHCR staff only) has been completed and presented internally for management review. Installation of the final version will commence in 1997 and will permit easier access for field office staff to information held in central databases. A new Internet web site has been successfully launched. Testing of new digital radio communications, enabling exploitation of UNHCR's radio networks for e-mail and other data traffic, is progressing. New Windows-based interfaces have been introduced to older computer systems, with emphasis being given to donor reporting needs.

18. It will be recalled that the Project Delphi Plan of Action outlined the use of consultancy services donated to UNHCR by the US Government's Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) for a review of options to improve UNHCR's field response capacity. The Final Draft report, which was submitted to UNHCR by DISA in the early part of December 1996, is a comprehensive document of some two hundred pages, providing a number of recommendations for the "improvement especially in the area of technical insertions and upgrades that will facilitate the organization's business processes". The recommendations focus specifically on the areas of "communications, logistics, automated data processing and training components of the technical architecture". Although the report is still only in final draft stage, its recommendations are considered, for the most part, to be complete. Some of the most pertinent recommendations may be briefly summarized as follows:

(a) Communications: the report acknowledges the breadth and coverage of UNHCR capabilities and notes that there are a "number of forward looking initiatives currently being undertaken". Further action is recommended to clarify the communications structure to enable optimal planning of standards for the technology architecture, and for planning the migration between present and new systems;

(b) Logistics: the report places great emphasis on logistics as a major component of operational delivery. It recommends that greater importance be given to the logistics function and makes many recommendations on how to improve commodity tracking;

(c) Automated Data Processing: the report recommends that emphasis be given to standardization of data elements and that resources be allocated to "data warehousing", including executive information system technology. Whilst noting that the finance system provides "excellent overall management of UNHCR programmes", it recommends greater inter-operability with other systems, including purchasing;

(d) Training: the report recommends that, with the global dispersal of staff and the expectation that "complex emergencies often require individuals to perform tasks outside their area of expertise", there should be improvements to the techniques of training, with particular emphasis on new technologies.

The concerned units in UNHCR are now reviewing the detailed recommendations with a view to incorporating them, in appropriate form, into future work plans within the Delphi framework and, in particular, in regard to their ultimate inclusion by the information and communication system section in a new information system strategic plan.

F. Training

19. A training strategy and implementation plan, within the context of Project Delphi, will be presented and reviewed in the first quarter of 1997. The plan will be guided by the Training Advisory Board and will focus on priority areas identified in the Plan of Action. Special attention will be given to strengthening management capacity; induction and reassignment training; people-oriented planning; expanded protection training; support for new processes; developing external relations competencies; and evaluation, testing and certification of training results. Training activities will be directed at both UNHCR staff and staff of its implementing partners.

20. The current significant training initiative, which began in the last quarter of 1996 and will continue into 1997, is the introduction of the CMS. One component of this system will be the introduction of annual competency development plans for each staff member, to assist in acquiring or augmenting competencies required for current or new responsibilities.


21. A meeting was held in October 1996 with the Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, followed up by an exchange of correspondence, on how to make the audit function, as it currently operates under the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), more responsive to the management needs of UNHCR. The following issues, in particular, are under consideration:

(a) Procedures for the establishment of the annual audit plan, and subsequent modifications to it;

(b) Additional audit arrangements to support UNHCR's operational and administrative decentralization process;

(c) Initiatives to better familiarize the auditors with the operations and management concerns of UNHCR;

(d) Procedures for early feedback and reporting of audit findings and recommendations;

(e) Level of resources dedicated to the audit function.

It is anticipated that an agreement on the issues under discussion will be reached in the first quarter of 1997.

22. The terms of reference of the new Oversight Committee have been finalized and approved by the Senior Management Committee. The Oversight Committee has been established effective 1 January 1997. Its role is, inter alia, to review the annual Internal Audit Plan, the annual Evaluation Workplan, the findings and recommendations of the Board of External Auditors and follow-up to these various oversight reports.


23. The report of the Ad hoc Working Group on Internal Communications has been examined by the Senior Management Committee and it is expected that a Communications Review Board, to be established in early 1997 as foreseen in the Plan of Action, will begin implementing a number of recommendations through tasking specific units with follow-up action.

24. The deployment of the File Mailbox system (to manage and store official E-mail communications) has now been completed throughout 60 per cent of the Montbrillant building. The inventory of archives is continuing and it is anticipated that it will require a further year to finalize this inventory and to ensure that all archive records can be accessed easily.

25. Changes in the procedures for mail and pouch systems are being planned in order to identify more efficient and cost-effective methods, including the possibility for outsourcing.

26. The series of "Delphi News" information newspapers has continued to be issued, providing brief updates to all staff on progress being made on Project Delphi. Communications regarding changes, including information about the Career Management System, will be enhanced by the appointment of a Communications Officer who will take up these new duties in January 1997. In addition, "Delphi Sessions" have been instituted at Headquarters with the dual purpose of providing staff with a briefing on Project Delphi and of obtaining feedback from staff on their perceptions of the change process.


27. It will be recalled that the Standing Committee was informed, at the October 1996 meeting, of the changes made in senior management. Incumbents for all the senior management positions were named in September and were in place by October 1996. During the course of implementation of Project Delphi, the management structure will be kept under review.

28. In the last quarter of 1996, considerable work has been done to adjust the structure of the old Bureaux/new Operations in order to provide management teams with the ability to cover the various refugee/returnee situations. This adjustment is expected to be finalized in early 1997. Structural changes undertaken thus far in the various Divisions have been described above.

29. The Change Management Support and Coordination Unit became operational in October 1996, but has yet to be fully staffed. Work, however, has begun on coordination of the various initiatives taking place throughout UNHCR, facilitation of oversight by Senior Management and on the preparation of an implementation plan. Delphi Implementation Focal Points have been identified in all Operations and Divisions at Headquarters to support inter-action with regard to activities and to assist in completing implementation plans.


30. As indicated in the Plan of Action, the implementation of Project Delphi will also lead to post reductions at Headquarters. While some posts have already been identified for discontinuation, these were mainly the result of a reduction in activities. The overall economies to be achieved depend largely on the timely design and implementation of the changes envisaged to the various processes and systems foreseen in the Plan of Action. A comprehensive review of Headquarters resource requirements, both in terms of funding and posts, is now scheduled to take place at the end of February 1997. This review will take stock of progress made under Project Delphi and of the consequent resource implications. The results of this review will be shared with the Standing Committee during its next meeting at the end of April 1997. It is anticipated that another similar review will again be needed in the latter part of the year in order to stay abreast of the staffing implications of Delphi implementation.

31. To minimize the impact of these changes on the staff, a human resources transition strategy is currently being reviewed with full collaboration from staff representatives. As already indicated in the Plan of Action, a freeze on external recruitment has been in place since 1 September 1996 so as to ensure staff on board receive priority consideration for any vacancies that occur. Options for a voluntary separation programme, as well as increased recourse to agreed terminations, are being examined within the context of formulating the human resources transition strategy, including any resulting financial implications. A final proposal for review by senior management should be available in February 1997.


32. As noted in the Project Delphi Plan of Action, the principal financial implications relate to improvements in information and communications systems and implementation of the Career Management System, with particular emphasis on training. Some of these costs will be covered through existing budget lines, while others, especially development costs of new information systems, will be programmed into the 1998 budget. Pending completion of the design stage of the new Operations Management System, detailed specifications of the new system requirements will begin. The review planned for February 1997 will provide greater details of the cost implications of change initiatives being planned at Headquarters and these will be made available to the April 1997 meeting of the Standing Committee.


33. As mentioned above, the transformation of the Project Delphi Plan of Action into a detailed, comprehensive implementation plan is currently a top of the priority of the Delphi process. The many initiatives underway need to be consolidated in a structured, coherent manner, providing the following information for each activity and task:

(a) Relationship/reference to the objectives set out in the Plan of Action;

(b) Summary description of the activity/task;

(c) Desired output;

(d) Unit responsible for implementation;

(e) Time frame for implementation;

(f) Resource implications;

(g) Linkages to other units or other activities/tasks.

34. While primary responsibility for preparing detailed plans rests with the substantive units concerned, overall coordination responsibility will be assumed by the Change Management Coordination and Support Unit. The unit will also facilitate examination of the Plan for approval by the Senior Management Committee, follow-up on resource implications, monitoring its implementation and, as the need arises, modify and update of the Plan.

35. A majority of this work should be completed by February 1997. The task is an urgent one, not only to ensure a smooth evolution of the work still outstanding, but also to be able to give staff a better feel of overall progress on Project Delphi and a detailed picture of its implications. The implementation plan, in summary form, will be presented to the Standing Committee on its completion.