Statement to the First Regular Session of the Executive Board, UN-Women – Item 2: Introduction of Proposals for the Use of Voluntary Resources for the Support Budget 2011
Date: 24 January 2011
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I am pleased to present today to the Executive Board the first proposals by UN-Women for the use of voluntary resources for the support budget for 2011. I value this opportunity to initiate a discussion with the Executive Board, which will be a continuing one, on how to build a UN-Women that is a strong, responsive and effective agent for the advancement of gender equality and the empowerment of women. With your guidance and support we will build on the foundation of the four former entities, one strong organization that will have the necessary capacity to provide our partners with timely and effective support. While the full development of our organization may require successive budgets, we must take meaningful strides now to expand its reach and shore up its foundation.
The support budget is important for two main reasons. It is intended to be the vehicle for the sound and sustainable funding of the core infrastructure and human resources that enables UN-Women to carry out its operational mandate. It should also facilitate effective governance by the Executive Board. It is through the approval of the support budget that the Executive Board builds the sustainable capacity of UN-Women.
The support budget has been prepared in the first months of UN-Women's existence, and before it became operational on 1 January 2011. It therefore has not had the benefit of a Strategic Plan, which will be presented to you in June this year, nor the comprehensive data resulting from the field capacity assessment, which is still on-going.
It should also be noted that we are not starting from a sound support budget and growing from there. The support budget inherited by UN-Women does not offer an accurate baseline for understanding the core requirements of the new organization. For a variety of historical reasons, the support budget was employed almost exclusively for headquarters capacity, while virtually all field presence was funded from programme or project funding. As a result, that presence was generally not seen by the Executive Board as the human resources dedicated to presence in programme countries were not paid for from the support budget. Further, while over the past four years contributions to UNIFEM multiplied, the enhancement of capacity through the support budget lagged far behind. As a result, an array of unsustainable, ad hoc arrangements, have been employed to date to respond to operational needs, both at headquarters and the field. The support budget now needs to correct the past inadequacies and make visible the requirements of UN-Women's presence on the ground.
Given this background, my budget proposal is centred on two major themes: first and most urgently, is to start enhance the capacity of UN-Women to enhance its support at the country level in accordance with its mandate to do so on a universal basis. Putting this country focus into effect is pressing.
The second theme is to replace the legacy of past arrangements with a sounder institutional foundation on the basis of standards applicable to United Nations organizations.
I have three things in mind.
To make the support budget a more transparent and effective mechanism, we will work closely with UNICEF, UNDP and UNFPA towards harmonized budget methodologies so it will be clear what should be included under support and how to relate resources to results. Their Executive Boards have recently taken applicable decisions. In doing this work, we will consult informally with the Executive Board and I will apprise you at our annual session this year of the progress made.
Second, we will progressively move to finance core support functions from the support budget that have been funded from programme resources. This will both increase transparency, and allow UN-Women to attract and retain the best professional staff available. Change of funding source is a significant feature of my present proposals. Given the rapid growth in the numbers of staff and contractual personnel in the recent past, I will work to ensure that the resources and staffing arrangements used are appropriately aligned to the functions required.
One of the challenges I have faced in preparing the support budget has been the misalignment of the budgetary and the programme processes in this first year of UN-Women's operations, with the budget being considered now and the Strategic Plan being taken up in June. I recognize that the Executive Board would prefer to meaningfully consider UN-Women's budget proposals once it has a full-fledged Strategic Plan. However we all agree that the expectations are very high, and that UN-Women must begin immediately to produce results for women. The quandary is how to reconcile the immediate need for UN-Women to enhance its operational support of countries and manage a smooth transition process with the need for the Executive Board to give policy guidance through the Strategic Plan. Stimulated further by the thoughtful report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), we have identified a set of immediate measures for approval that will enable UN-Women to respond to pressing demands without prejudging the decisions of the Executive Board on the Strategic Plan. These are elaborated upon in the Management Response to the ACABQ Report, and I believe that they should now be the main focus of the budget discussion.
In presenting this revised proposal, my main concern is to strengthen support for countries through measures at the regional, sub-regional and country levels. An immediate step is to develop UN-Women capacity in the six United Nations Development Group (UNDG) regional support centres. UN-Women has sub-regional teams already in Bangkok, Dakar, Johannesburg and Bratislava, which we propose to strengthen. UN-Women would also develop a new presence in Panama and Cairo to work in association with the UNDG regional teams there. These regional support centres allow us to reinforce the principle of universality, as they would be sources of support for both developed and programme countries where UN-Women has no ongoing field presence. Substantive engagement in the regional centres is an important element in UN-Women's responsibility for leadership, effective coordination and coherence of the United Nations system's work on gender equality. UN-Women's teams in regional centres will join regional teams of other UN organizations in providing technical expertise and quality assurance in relation to the creation and assessment of UN Development Assistance Frameworks and other joint planning efforts, in identifying technical experts to support United Nations Country Teams in a variety of thematic areas, and in forging joint regional initiatives.
Until now, our programming at country level has been overseen by 15 sub-regional offices. Four of these are in locations that are regional hubs. The sub-regional offices will remain important even though their functions and profiles may evolve over time as direct country support is strengthened. For 11 sub-regional offices, I am therefore proposing that the Executive Board agree to finance their core capacity from the support budget rather than programme resources. Placing this capacity in the support budget makes it transparent to the Executive Board and subject to its decisions through the support budget process.
As I have said on many occasions, my main preoccupation is to act on the high expectations for intensified and sustained UN-Women engagement directly at the country level as part of United Nations Country Teams. I fully understand that decisions the Executive Board will take on the Strategic Plan, and insight gained through the field capacity assessment, will be critical in shaping how and where UN-Women deploys presence and resources but I also think essential to avoid unnecessary delay in strengthening support for countries. This situation illustrates the challenge posed by the misalignment of budget and programme cycle. But the problem is also a limited one, applying really for the five months between now and our June session. Mutual trust and a little creativity can resolve it.
I am proposing that the Executive Board provide budgetary approval for core capacity for 15 country offices, which has been defined in the past as including two posts in each country. This step involves changing funding sources of existing posts, and would have no net financial implication. Additionally new resources to equip UN-Women to respond to particularly complex programme requirements in up to two countries are proposed. These resources would be deployed in light of the Strategic Plan. However, in the period between now and then, I would use my discretion to draw on some of this capacity to respond to urgent needs. Should this occur, I would of course report to the Board at the June session.
While overall, the resource proposals focus on improving country support, I am also asking you to approve three posts for my senior management team, five other urgently needed posts at headquarters, and two upgrades to the D-1 level. The details of these proposals are in our management response to the ACABQ report.
My proposals are prudent. In terms of staffing, 32 new posts are proposed. A further 117 existing posts are proposed to be brought into the support budget from programme funding. The total cost of the support budget is US$51.5 million. To this sum will need to be the added the requirements for change management, the move of premises and certain General Assembly costs.
The proposals I have described are but a beginning. The UN-Women team and the Executive Board have much work to do together in developing the Strategic Plan, assessing the field capacity assessment and strengthening the internal workings of UN-Women to support our ambitious agenda. I will update you in June on the progress we are making in implementing this budget and reserve the right to make further proposals that may be required in light of the Strategic Plan and operational needs.