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Senior Management Team rallies for sharper reform

As 2015 begins and UNESCO marks its 70th anniversary, the Senior Management Team (SMT) joined together during a retreat, on 31 January-1 February, to welcome new members and explore new measures for focused programme delivery. Reform was the leitmotif for the meeting. 

Discussions centred on equipping UNESCO for a year that will see the adoption of the post-2015 global development agenda and Sustainable Development Goals by the UN General Assembly. The Director-General’s Action Plan to address the recommendations of the Independent External Evaluation (IEE) provided a framework for the discussion.  

The Members of the SMT discussed the ongoing assessment at UN level of the system’s ‘fit for purpose’ to support Member States in taking forward the Sustainable Development Goals, including at country level. This is an opportunity for UNESCO to work with partners in the United Nations system, by adapting new, innovative, more efficient and effective programme delivery systems that will enable agencies and the system as a whole to lead forward the post-2015 agenda.  

In this context, the SMT reviewed imperatives for advancing UNESCO reform -- by further streamlining workflows and processes, by scaling up delivery on core priorities and by ensuring greater coherence and consistency of UNESCO messages across the world and vis-à-vis key networks and partners.  

The discussion addressed current financial constraints, stressing the need for simplifying business procedures, improving monitoring and evaluation of impact, as well as extra-budgetary funding efforts, and the development of new partnerships. 

The SMT reviewed ways to enhance the promotion of gender equality by taking forward the Priority Gender and its related Action Plan for 2014-2021. Discussion also focused on profiling the Organization in the context of this year’s major conferences and initiatives hosted or led by UNESCO at its Headquarters – including the UN Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) in Paris, for which UNESCO is providing support; the World Education Forum in Incheon, Republic of Korea; and the hosting of the Chief Executives’ Board of the United Nations system under the leadership of UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-Moon; and the adoption by the Organization’s 38th General conference of  a new Programme and Budget for 2016-2017. 

Senior managers also explored ways to strengthen Field Offices through greater mobility and the pooling of human resources.  They agreed on the need to enhance communication and visibility through a revised Action Plan, laying emphasis on the visibility of work in the field. 

The retreat provided an opportunity to discuss the launching of the Fit-for-Purpose Initiative, to strengthen programme delivery and improve operational support services. The initiative is designed to pursue two objectives: (i) establishing operational modalities that are better suited to deliver, both globally, regionally and locally and tailor-made, UNESCO’s programmes; and (ii) achieving a better, clearer and more strategic global, regional and country-level positioning and leadership of UNESCO within the context of the post-2015 Agenda. 

To these ends, the strategy encompasses ongoing as well as new initiatives to improve programme delivery, efficiency and effectiveness, while working with other actors in the UN system to better identify synergies and cost effectiveness. Similarly, this initiative will pursue ongoing efforts to streamline the Secretariat’s internal governance system to ensure, while also better aligning organizational work with the emerging global agenda. 

The SMT discussed also the need for more integrated and inter-sectoral programme implementation, to build greater synergy across the Organization.

In this context, senior managers examined the need to revise the structure of the Senior Management Team (SMT) for it to become a more effective driver of change and strategic reflection, and to enhance overall organizational performance. 

The retreat concluded with a focus on the opportunities offered by the post 2015 agenda.  The key message for the entire UN system is that programme must be at the core of all efforts and that systems need to be adapted to ensure better delivery.

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