Improving and innovating administrative and management functions of the United Nations system
The High-level Committee on Management strategic plan for 2013-2016 identifies harmonization and simplification of business practices as a core activity. In this context, the plan focuses on common and shared services, including improved common procurement practices, and other initiatives to improve efficiency and effectiveness of the United Nations system. The actions under this priority area respond to General Assembly resolution 67/226 on the quadrennial comprehensive policy review, which mandates the rationalization of business operations, the development of inter-agency framework agreements, establishment of common support services and greater collaboration in procurement.
Throughout 2014, the High-level Committee on Management’s Procurement Network, led by the UN Development Programme, actively pursued collaboration and harmonization in the area of procurement, including a project to harmonize procurement guidance. As part of the project, staff members were trained in all regions to help over 30 United Nations Country Teams set up common procurement teams. An initial assessment has shown that approximately US$ 5 million in savings have been realized so far - in eight countries alone - through common procurement and the establishment of long-term agreements with vendors, over 50 of which have been put in place to date.
The Procurement Network also continued to work on a number of projects geared towards enhancement of common services. A project on common procurement of vehicles established common standards for vehicles and United Nations vehicle fleets. It also carried out a bidding process that is expected to result in long-term agreements with at least two vehicle manufacturers. Furthermore, the location-based procurement collaboration in Geneva, Rome, New York and Copenhagen continued throughout 2014.
In late 2013, a new vendor registration system for procurement was introduced on the United Nations Global Marketplace, the common procurement portal of the United Nations system (https://www.ungm.org). This new registration system aims at increasing access to United Nations procurement by vendors from developing countries and from countries with economies in transition. Furthermore, it seeks to streamline United Nations procurement processes in order to reduce time and increase efficiency. In resolution 69/17, the General Assembly requested information on the results achieved by the new system. In 2014, the new vendor registration platform showed positive results in terms of vendor registration. One year after the launching of the Vendor Registration Reform Project, the number of vendors registered on United Nations Global Marketplace increased by 81 per cent. The number of vendors from developing countries and countries with economies in transition doubled in the same time period. Currently, 55 per cent of all vendors and eight out of fifteen of the countries with the highest number of vendors are from developing countries or countries with economies in transition.
Also in 2014, the feasibility study on enterprise resource planning inter-operability was launched. This study, which is expected to be completed in mid-2015, is being carried out in direct response to relevant provisions in the quadrennial comprehensive policy review and is expected to inform the UN system about the desirability and feasibility of inter-operability.
In the area of finance and budget, the High-level Committee on Management’s Finance and Budget Network completed the development of common definitions of operating costs, paying due attention to the different business models of United Nations system organizations, in direct response to the QCPR mandate on this subject. The work was based on an exercise carried out by UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA and UN Women to harmonize and improve the presentation of their support budgets. As a result, a common definition of operating costs has been agreed and will be used as a reference by other organizations across the UN system.
General Assembly resolution 67/226 recognized progress in improving transparency and called for further efforts to ensure coherence and complementarity in the oversight functions, audit and evaluation across the UN development system. In response, the Finance and Budget Network conducted a comprehensive stocktaking exercise of risk management oversight and accountability tools currently in place in UN system organizations. Building on this work, the Committee, through the Finance and Budget Network, further developed a “Reference Risk Management, Oversight and Accountability Model” in consultation with the representatives of Internal Audit Services of the United Nations Organisations and Multilateral Financial Institutions and the Joint Inspection Unit. The adopted model endorsed the Institute of Internal Auditors’ “Three Lines of Defense Model” as a widely recognized best practice and suitable oversight model of reference for the UN System.
The General Assembly mandated the development of the Organizational Resilience Management System, recognizing the need to clearly articulate the roles, responsibilities and relationships of the actors involved in emergency preparedness and response. At its April 2014 session, HLCM reviewed the Organizational Resilience Management System, approved by the General Assembly as the Organization’s emergency management framework. Resolution 67/254 included a recommendation to “expand the system to the specialized agencies, funds and programmes.” In response, the High-Level Committee on Management, in October 2014, approved the UN system Organizational Resilience Management System policy, its associated key performance indicators, and the supporting maintenance, exercise and review regime.
In response resolution 68/244 by which the General Assembly requested to explore options for increasing efficiency and containing cost of After-Service-Health-Insurance, the Finance and Budget Network also developed terms of reference for a system-wide study on this issue to be carried out in 2015. The study will analyse commonalities and differences among UN system organizations regarding the definition, funding and management of After Service Health Insurance with a view to identifying steps towards more efficient and effective common approaches, bearing in mind the different business models, funding sources and demographics within the UN System.
The High-level Committee on Management’s human resources management agenda has, as its overarching goal, the continued development of the international civil service as an independent, neutral, highly skilled and engaged resource to meet the ever-changing requirements of the international community, not least in the context of the preparation for the post-2015 development agenda.
The High Level Committee for Management, through its Human Resources Network, actively participated in and contributed to the ongoing International Civil Service Commission’s Comprehensive Review of the Conditions of Service. One of the key elements of the review is the alignment of rewards and recognition models to performance management practices. Representatives of the Human Resource Network participated in a number of International Civil Service Commission Working Groups and had the opportunity to share their experience and good practices in these fora. Pilot schemes for performance-based rewards and recognition have already been successfully implemented by some UN system organisations such as the International Fund for Agricultural Development and United Nations Office for Project Services.
Inter-agency mobility of staff was another focus area of the Human Resource Network in 2014. The Network analysed initial proposals for a future implementation and procedural framework for the Inter-Organization Agreement concerning Transfer, Secondment or Loan of Staff among the Organizations Applying the United Nations Common System of Salaries and Allowances, adopted by the United Nations system organizations in 2012. This work was aimed at providing a solid basis for enhanced staff mobility at both headquarter and field duty stations. At the field level, the Human Resource Network expanded the rollout of the successful pilot project to harmonize the recruitment of locally-recruited staff.
The General Assembly, in its resolution 69/17, requested the High-Level Committee on Management to share examples of good experiences and lessons learned with the human resource directors of member organizations. Subsequently, the human resources directors of UN system organizations exchanged information on practical experience and good practice in the area of performance management. Exchanges dedicated to knowledge transfer and experience exchange in the area of performance management were successfully conducted. A working group of performance management professionals started to further identify good practices in key performance management areas such as evaluation consistency, the management of underperformance and arbitration approaches.
CEB recognizes the importance of multilingualism. The Board made continuous efforts in 2014 to promote and facilitate multilingualism in response to General Assembly resolutions 67/292. Support to a coordinated approach on multilingualism was provided through collection and sharing of existing policies and tools on multilingualism across the UN system. Several member organizations have assigned dedicated focal points to improve cooperation between technical departments and language departments for the production of official documentation. In addition, a majority of the CEB member organizations offer language courses in at least two of the official UN languages free of charge to staff members. By providing language courses, and thereby promoting multilingualism, organizations aim to increase communication and organizational effectiveness in support of Member States priorities.
Over the past two years, UN system organizations have also promoted multilingualism in field duty stations. Organizations are increasingly encouraging and facilitating staff to learn local languages at field duty stations by offering courses or providing training subsidies. Progress has also been made by several organizations in offering online language courses, with the main objective of promoting multilingualism in remote field duty stations where face-to-face language courses are less widely available. Similarly, progress has been made over the last years in localized website content and presence on social media.