An effectively Managed and Responsive Organization
To fulfill its mandate of coordinating effective and timely humanitarian action for those most in need, OCHA must identify, recruit, and deploy humanitarian workers to affected areas in the shortest time possible. Once deployed, OCHA staff must be provided with the tools and guidance to function with the greatest cohesion possible, concentrate on achieving agreed upon priorities, and be rendered accountable. To facilitate all this, OCHA financial management tools must enable clear and defined allocation and expenditure of funds, ensuring that resources are effectively managed and monitored to ensure the maximum possible impact.
Human resources management
In addition to the normal safety, security, and hardship challenges associated with staffing locations where there is humanitarian need — as well as high staff turnover rate — OCHA must grapple with a set of elaborate and complex human resources rules and regulations. In 2008, a particular emphasis was placed on improved accountability, delegated responsibilities and management processes for the delivery of more efficient and effective human resources management.
In 2008, OCHA established a Senior Human Resources Committee composed of the Under-Secretary-General, Assistant Secretary-General and Senior Directors in order to agree upon critical human resources policy and staffing issues. In February, OCHA was delegated authority to recruit, deploy, and administer its staff in the field, with OCHA becoming fully accountable in the second half of the year. The new authority, coupled with relevant guidance provided to the field in March 2008, laid the ground work for revamping recruitment action and should allow for an accelerated deployment of staff to emergency locations.
To expedite recruitment for field positions, a new Roster Management Programme was initiated to establish and maintain a pool of qualified, competent and pre-screened candidates available for rapid field deployment. OCHA interview policy was developed to ensure the Roster Management Programme is run fairly and transparently. Towards year-end, an increasing number of candidates began to be recruited from the roster of roughly 1,000 eligible applications. At least 70 percent of field recruitments are expected to be filled through the roster in 2009. Closer collaboration between OCHA’s organizational divisions also ensured that emergency deployment through the emergency roster was implemented more smoothly.
Meanwhile, OCHA worked closely with system colleagues towards the approval of significant United Nations-wide human resources management reform initiatives. Under “One UN”, a unified contract type is to be granted to all staff regardless of appointment type (temporary, fixed-term, continuing), and a rest and recuperation scheme (R&R) will be introduced — changes expected to enhance staff development and mobility opportunities. In addition, cooperation with other United Nations agencies expanded over the course of the year, resulting in the review and clarification of wider human resources procedures and roles and responsibilities in the field. Discussions on the implementation of standard service level agreements with UNDP are expected to yield positive results in 2009.
OCHA made limited progress implementing its performance appraisal system, in part by clarifying reporting lines for heads of offices and within the executive and administrative offices. Compliance rose from approximately 30 percent in 2007 to 50 percent in 2008, but is still very unsatisfactory.
During the second full year implementing the new planning and reporting system, OCHA focused its efforts on building corporate cohesion around its 14 strategic objectives and fostering a more results-oriented culture. Reflecting the Under-Secretary General’s Five Year Perspective launched in 2007, the Strategic Framework’s objectives provided staff in HQ and the field with greater direction on organization-wide priorities, and improved tools to help manage planning, monitoring, and reporting. In 2008, the annual reporting and planning processes were organized for the first time around these objectives, rather than around organizational divisions, resulting in greater clarity on corporate priorities and their implementation. Joint-planning also helped identify an improved and streamlined set of performance indicators that will facilitate monitoring and demonstrate greater impact in reporting for 2009.
The end of 2008 also marked the second full year of the Guidance Management Project (GMP), which aims to do the following: fill gaps in OCHA guidance, especially relating to field activities; link OCHA policies and guidance materials to clear expectations of compliance; and, provide a more coherent platform for the induction and training of OCHA staff. Following its collection and categorization of pre-existing guidance to identify critical guidance gaps affecting OCHA operations, the GMP reprioritized its plans to develop a corporate identity document to focus instead on working with managers across the organization to close these gaps. In critical areas, the Guidance Project worked with managers and subject matter experts to develop subject-specific guidance frameworks. In 2008, guidance frameworks were developed covering integration and transition, and development began on three other frameworks. OCHA also made progress improving its corporate approach to the cross-cutting issue of gender equality. For the third consecutive year, OCHA developed, implemented, and reported on its office-wide Gender Action Plan, as the main monitoring tool for assessing the implementation of OCHA Policy on Gender Equality endorsed in 2005.
The launch of the Humanitarian Field Coordination Programme pilot provided staff training on integrated approaches to field coordination and provided critical feedback for a full rollout of the programme in 2009. Although OCHA was unable to launch its staff induction training due in part to IT constraints and delays in content finalization, the progress made will ensure its implementation in the coming year.
Financial management tools
OCHA’s financial management serves to ensure that resources are effectively allocated, managed and monitored. In order to strengthen financial accountability and management, in 2008, OCHA focused on exercising greater budgeting discipline and on providing regular financial statements that enable programme managers to effectively monitor their cost plans.
At the 2008 mid-year review, changes to cost plans were considered in light of the rate of expenditure and new requirements. While there were some additional requirements at individual programme level, most of these were offset with savings across OCHA. The preparation for the 2009 cost plans, which took place in the third quarter of the year, took advantage of increasing individual capacity to manage cost plans while ensuring that corporate priorities, programmatic as well as financial, were supported. The generation of monthly expenditure reports for programme managers improved cost planning and facilitated budget management. The next step will be the development of online reports that can be generated on demand. Meanwhile, the budgeting process was simplified through the design of standardized templates that helped with costing and oversight. The further development of online reports would result in a heightened monitoring and reviewing of areas and offices. These would address weaknesses, identify gaps, and enhance efficiencies.
In 2008, OCHA streamlined administrative processes and provided relevant training for field offices. It developed Phase I of a contribution tracking database to follow unpaid pledges and contributions, from allocation through to donor reporting. While further financial management tools were developed in 2008, much work still remains — including the kick-off of the Field Management System.
Many of the achievements in 2008 are in their initial stages. As well as internal coordination, continued efforts will facilitate access to accurate information, through agreement with official United Nations accounting records, real-time feeds, and accessibility. As tools develop and access increases, OCHA managers must be supported to guarantee proper usage of these tools and interpretation of the budgeting results.