UNDP's new structure improves efficiency

Jan 29, 2015


The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) core goal is to help countries eradicate poverty while reducing inequalities and exclusion. It aims to do so by working with partner organizations and governments across the world to develop sustainable development pathways, promote inclusive governance and build resilience to crisis.

In 2013, UNDP’s Executive Board (EB) approved a new Strategic Plan to give the organisation a sharper focus in pursuing these goals. A key element is to improve UNDP’s organisational effectiveness in achieving and reporting results. Alongside improved management of financial and human resources, this enables the organisation to deliver higher quality programmes to address development challenges facing the world.

To this end, UNDP embarked on significant restructuring focused on the HQ and regional levels. These changes aim to produce a leaner organization, eliminating areas of duplication and relocating more staff to the regional level to provide greater support to UNDP Country Offices.

The new structure went into effect on 1 October 2014, resulting in a reduction of approximately 10 percent - including voluntary separations -of the roughly 1700 staff working at HQ and regional levels.

Consistent with the objective to provide greater support to UNDP Country Offices, UNDP is in the process of relocating staff from New York HQ to the regions. Starting from a ratio of 60% of staff in HQ and 40% in the region, the distribution has now improved to a ratio of 44% in HQ and 56% in the regions, well on track with the objective of 40% - 60%.

This new configuration promotes an improved management-staff ratio with a decrease in the proportion of senior positions, at the director level, and an increase of lower-level professional staff positions. As a result, 46 positions have been filled by staff promoted from the administrative, called General Service, to the lower professional level.

As an organization focused primarily on the developing world, UNDP enjoys a healthy North-South representation among its staff, with over 80 % of staff globally, including Country Offices, coming from the South.

The restructuring, which is limited to HQ and regional levels, has further shifted the North-South balance in favor of staff from the South, going from 48% -52% in September 2013 to 46% - 54%, with the highest increase recorded at the lower professional levels.

Structurally, the new UNDP integrates policy and programme support within one bureau, “the Bureau for Policy and Programme Support”, reducing duplication and aligning resources to deliver on the Strategic Plan and the post-2015 development agenda.

Also, a new Crisis Response Unit has been instituted to improve the organization’s ability to mount a quick response to crisis while coordinating the corporate response.

In the coming months, the focus will be on the ongoing restructuring of the Bureau of Management, the continuous refining of business processes, and further development of staff in order to foster the culture change necessary to promote the desired behaviors.

The culture change will be facilitated by a new internal accountability framework that enables everyone in the organization to clearly see where accountability for processes lies, thereby reducing duplication and improving efficiency.

These structural changes are integral to our continued pursuit of greater effectiveness, transparency and accountability of UNDP, for our partners and the people we serve.