Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning and welcome to this follow-up meeting on the OHCHR Report 2011.
As you know, on 30 May, I gave an overview of the work of OHCHR for the year 2011. In response to your request, I called the meeting today so that I, the Deputy High Commissioner and all my senior managers can provide you with more information and answers to your questions and I welcome your comments. Before opening the floor for discussion, allow me and the Deputy High Commissioner to address a few key issues raised on 30 May.
Let me begin by addressing our financial situation. So far this year, we have received $56.2 million in voluntary contributions from 47 donors. In total for 2012, we expect to receive around $110 million. Our extrabudgetary plan, however, has reached $151 million.
I have indicated many times that the financial status of my Office is of critical concern to me. Usually this has been in the context of the United Nations regular budget and the need to match new mandates with the resources to implement them. However, new mandates adopted by the Council without commensurate resources also impact on our extrabudgetary resources. The doubling of the number of treaty bodies without a corresponding increase in funding means that we have to use extrabudgetary funds to cover 21 staff for the treaty bodies. We are obliged to use voluntary contributions to support activities that should be fully financed by the regular budget. In a context of declining contributions, this reduces my ability to undertake other important activities that do not benefit from regular budget funding. For instance, we are unable to respond positively to the growing number of requests from States for field offices or human rights advisers.
Let me recall that, following the 2005 World Summit and the international community’s commitment to increase funding for OHCHR, the Office benefitted from a large increase in both regular budget funds as well as voluntary contributions. As the Office was in a period of growth during those years, our expenditures did not reach the level of income, and so we developed an extrabudgetary surplus. In 2009, that surplus had reached approximately $135 million – just as the financial crisis began to develop and voluntary contributions declined. For 2010, it was determined that OHCHR could continue activities at essentially the same level during what was foreseen as a “dip” in income, using the budget surplus to carry the Office through approximately five years of reduced extrabudgetary income. But while we intend to continue relying on those funds for a few more years, we recognize that we cannot do so if we continue to increase our activities.
We are now at the stage where we have fully implemented the five-year Plan of Action developed by my predecessor. This has entailed higher expenditure rates overall. In the meantime, there have been various developments in the world that have had considerable impact on the Office. Requests for us to assist Member States have grown consistently, as was plainly evident in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, but also in the number of demands for assistance we receive from all corners of the world. To respond favourably to as many of these requests as possible, we have continued to add to our annual cost plans. While some of these new activities have been supported through several specific contributions, there has been an offsetting decline in other contributions. The result is that our extrabudgetary income has remained relatively stable but our expenditures continue to grow.
Next year, OHCHR will celebrate 20 years of existence. In that time, it has grown tenfold. We have expanded and consolidated our capacity to support the human rights mechanisms. We have established a solid presence in the field. For a number of years, my Office was in the privileged position of receiving more funds than it could spend. But this is no longer the case. Following a change management exercise, we have consolidated management practices, though much remains to be done. The results-based management process was the beginning. Now we are taking three further steps to meet the challenges we face.
The first step was a forecasting exercise. We developed possible scenarios for OHCHR expenditure planning, considering the degree of prioritization and cost-cutting that may be required.
As a second step, and taking advantage of our scheduled mid-year review, we began a prioritization exercise which will reduce our budget this year by 7.5 per cent or $11 million. This will set the stage for further reductions in 2013 in line with the planning scenario to be adopted.
The prioritization exercise is being done in two phases. In the first phase, each Division within my Office has been tasked to propose a 7.5 per cent reduction in their approved cost plans for this year, adjusting their work plans accordingly. The Divisions are defining their own criteria and priorities for activities that can be eliminated, postponed or modified, and will submit their reports to our internal Programme and Budget Review Board (PBRB).
The proposals under phase one of the prioritization exercise will be analysed by the PBRB for immediate and long-term impact, in light of the scenarios developed in the forecasting exercise. This will then, as phase two, inform my senior managers’ review of the strategic direction of the Office and the PBRB’s consideration of priorities for the allocation of resources in 2013, ensuring that proposed reductions take into account criteria such as project underperformance, essential versus non-essential nature of activity, and bearing in mind those areas of work where OHCHR has demonstrated clear results.
This prioritization and cost-cutting exercise will not be easy, especially since I do not foresee that requests for our assistance will decrease. I was asked on 30 May about the impact of resource constraints, and as an example I can tell you that I currently have 23 requests from States for human rights advisers that unfortunately cannot be accommodated.
But our efforts will not be limited to merely rejecting new requests for assistance – we are also looking at ways in which to be more efficient in our existing work. This is why, as a third step, we have commenced this week with a functional review of the Office, supported by the Management Support Service of the UN Secretariat. While this will be an ongoing exercise, I expect this to result in some internal structural realignment on how we approach our work.
Allow me to share one example of structural realignment which has already been implemented. Following the closure of the Nepal Country Office, I decided to redeploy to Geneva the D-1 position heading that office. This D-1 will serve as Chief of External Relations, overseeing all of our communications, fundraising and outreach activities. It is a conscious investment in an area of our work which I believe requires reinforcement. By grouping our different outreach sections under one coordinator, greater synergies can be found, achieving more targeted outreach and establishing proactive and sustainable fundraising mechanisms. The vacancy announcement for this position was published last week.
My team and I are always exploring new and better ways of presenting to you the information you need. And I can assure you that I take full ownership of the capacity of my Office to meet all of its obligations – whether substantive or administrative. The OHCHR Report is one of these ways; today’s briefing is another example. It has become clear to me that many of you would like to gain further insight into the budget and recruitment processes and the Deputy High Commissioner will provide further details on both of these in a minute.
Let me conclude by saying that much as we undertake initiatives to improve our performance at the Department level, we remain reliant on the Secretariat and the procedures established by the General Assembly – for recruitment as for finance, planning and management. In that respect I wanted to mention the Secretary-General’s Agenda for Change which is currently being rolled out. I am fully supportive of this initiative which I believe will lead to sustainable improvements throughout the United Nations system. We will follow the implementation of the various recommendations with great interest to see how OHCHR can benefit.
I look forward to your questions and comments.