UNDP to establish crisis response unit

United Nations Development Program Administrator Helen Clark meets with staff at the UNDP headquarters in New York. The organization wants to reverse its staff distribution so that more employees work in regional and country offices. Photo by: UNDP / CC BY-NC-ND

The U.N. Development Program on Friday shared more details about upcoming human resources reforms, including plans to establish a special unit handling crisis situations and to reverse the current 60/40 ratio of employees based at headquarters versus elsewhere around the world.

According to an official statement, UNDP’s new Crisis Response Unit will allow the U.N. institution to “deploy staff with the relevant expertise more promptly and efficiently as crises develop” and lead coordination with partners “to ensure a seamless transition from short-term relief to long-term development.”

This unit was not specifically included in the organization’s 2014-2017 strategic plan approved in September 2013, a document which cited the need to work “within a smaller staffing envelope” and to scale up the role of country officers over headquarters. With this last goal in mind, UNDP now clarifies that it wants to reverse its current staff distribution ratio so 60 percent of its employees are based in regional or country offices and 40 percent at its New York headquarters.

The U.N. agency said those and other changes — such as in the future integrating all policy and program support efforts into a single bureau — will “produce a leaner organization, eliminating areas of duplication,” provide greater support to country offices and save up to 10 percent in staffing costs.

Devex already reported last week about the U.N. agency’s plans to eliminate many senior positions, especially at the director level (grade D), and create more entry-level and middle-management ones. Barbara Tavora-Jainchill, president of the U.N. Staff Union, said at the time that many employees are concerned about the decision-making process, the types of jobs being cut and the structure around the entire downsizing plan.

Friday’s statement noted the goal was to “provide staff with better career opportunities, with improved accountability.”

What do you think about UNDP’s plans to downsize staff? Let us know by emailing news@devex.com or leaving a comment below.

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    Carlos Santamaria

    As associate editor for breaking news, Carlos Santamaria supervises Devex's Manila-based news team and the creation of our daily newsletter. Carlos joined Devex after a decade working for international wire services Reuters, AP, Xinhua, EFE and Philippine social news network Rappler in Madrid, Beijing, Manila, New York and Bangkok. During that time, he also covered natural disasters on the ground in Myanmar and Japan.