Financial Information and Analysis
In 2006, OCHA made significant progress in its efforts to design and implement a new strategic planning process. By early 2006, OCHA management had recognized the need for dedicated planning capacity as part of strengthening OCHA’s Office of the Under-Secretary-General (USG), and endorsed a strategic planning system which links new and existing planning and reporting mechanisms with performance management. An inter-branch planning team developed OCHA’s strategic framework for 2007–09; this was presented at OCHA’s annual global retreat in late June at which field and headquarters managers also participated in a planning clinic designed to put the framework into practice. Following a review of strategic planning in peer organizations, OCHA developed a proposal for the establishment of a new Strategic Planning Unit, to be located in the Office of the USG.
From early September, OCHA field and headquarters offices were assisted through the initial stages of implementing the strategic plan, ensuring that annual workplans and OCHA in 2007 reflected the strategic framework and followed the new results-oriented planning and monitoring guidelines issued in August. Workplans were also analysed to better understand how OCHA would achieve its objectives, with special emphasis on ensuring that indicators were measurable and linked to specific objectives. Following an analysis of all workplans, a number of critical gaps were identified, as was the need for greater institutional clarity and complementarities among the objectives. In late October, the first in a series of internal workshops was held to strengthen OCHA wide consensus on these strategic objectives. A study on Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) was also undertaken – including a comprehensive risk assessment – and it was decided to integrate ERM into the strategic planning process.
While the implementation of the new strategic planning process was still in its early stages at the end of 2006, lessons had already emerged that will strengthen and guide the process. The support of the senior management team remains crucial – both in directing OCHA’s strategic vision and in its unequivocal support for a prioritization process that may challenge OCHA internal structures. While the objectives in the 2007 strategic framework were broad and inclusive, as the framework becomes more focused it could pose a challenge for some of OCHA’s internal entities, as not all of OCHA’s activities will be strategically imperative in every year. These challenges can be addressed through a transparent and participatory process for identifying annual strategic objectives, and by allowing sufficient resources for ongoing activities.
Guidance provided to OCHA staff detailing the
framework and the new planning and reporting
mechanisms was widely appreciated and seen as useful.
Planning documents completed by branches and field
offices integrated well into the new framework, and
represented a vast improvement in reporting coherence
on previous years. At the same time, the need for each
objective to be underpinned by a clear strategy was
evident. This should be addressed by involving staff more
consistently throughout the year in strategic discussions,
and by sharing the resulting strategies widely. Some
concepts of results-oriented planning were not well understood by staff, and the identification of measurable indicators proved particularly difficult. Ongoing training and guidance will be critical to ensuring improved understanding in 2007, and management will need to play an increased role in monitoring quality control and accountability.
While the initial planning exercise was primarily an internal process, future plans should be preceded and informed by strategic discussions with key partners in the humanitarian community, including the IASC, the OCHA Donor Support Group and Member States. It will also be critical that the strategic framework continues to reflect shifting paradigms, policy debates, key United Nations reports and other developments affecting humanitarian assistance.