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Cablegate: Unhcr: Management Priorities for 2006 Described

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Summary: Donor government representatives and NGOs
were in full attendance at UNHCR,s informal consultations,
May 18-19 in Geneva. Saying &we heard you last year,8
then-Acting High Commissioner Wendy Chamberlin led the
meeting, providing donors with an update on UNHCR,s approach
to budget formulation and priorities for 2006. These proved
to have been heavily influenced by donor concerns expressed
at last year,s informal consultations. Chamberlin briefed on
progress toward needs-based budgeting and results-based
management, as well as efforts to provide transparency and
accountability within UNHCR. She also described UNHCR,s
commitment to preventing further expansion at headquarters.
UNHCR,s policy on internally displaced persons (IDPs) and
regional priorities are described septel. This cable focuses
on management issues. End Summary.

------- ------- -------
Needs-Based Budgeting: Getting Closer but Not There Yet
------- ------- -------

2. (U) Chamberlin provided detailed remarks on this year,s
country operation planning (COP) -- which was modified to
include consultations with UN and NGO partners, government
officials, and beneficiaries to identify gaps in humanitarian
assistance in order to define the &outer limits of refugee
needs.8 Chamberlin described preliminary results as
&mixed,8 but added that input from the field would help
UNHCR improve the exercise for 2007 planning. Once the 2006
exercise is complete, UNHCR plans to redirect the system to
close identified gaps. Chamberlin asserted that all actors
need to be held accountable for filling the gaps, including
donors who must provide support to meet core needs.

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------- -------
Results Based Management (RBM)
------- -------

3. (U) Chamberlin reported that UNHCR has made significant
strides in formulating its budget to support results based
management. This year, she said, UNHCR reviewed its 2006
country level objectives to produce a 2006 budget based on
the activities directly linked to meeting those objectives.
Chamberlin acknowledged, however, that country
representatives also received an indicative dollar figure,
which probably (as in past years) heavily influenced those
representatives, sense of what was feasible to request.
Chamberlin said that as guidance for 2006 planning, UNHCR
instructed the field not only to identify priorities but to
ensure that needs were linked to UNHCR,s organizational
global strategies. Headquarters will review the information
and make decisions on what results UNHCR would like to see
for 2006 based on the COPs. This will be reflected in 2006
decisions on the budget.

3. (U) A tool Chamberlin has used to address (in part) the
problem of inconsistent and/or unbalanced priority-setting
from one country or region to another is what she called the
&90-108 approach. At the bureau levels, Directors had to
identify 10% of their activities as the lowest priority; the
Executive level may shift funds from these activities to
higher priorities in another bureau. Until UNHCR,s internal
systems allow for greater analysis of goals and budgets,
&90-108 represents a first step toward global priority

4. (U) Denmark urged UNHCR not to forget to document &with
simple data8 its progress to achieve its objectives.
Chamberlin responded that a system to accomplish
results-based budgeting (RBB) is one that the Organizational
Development and Management Section at UNHCR is working on, in
order to report and gauge progress. Sweden urged UNHCR to
speed up the process and to consult with donors on what UNHCR
should be doing in terms of increases and decreases in
programs. The UK stressed the importance of the age and
gender mainstreaming approach and said the results of the
pilots done in 2004 should be reflected in the COPs for those
countries. UNHCR confirmed that they were, but only

5. (U) Chamberlin announced the establishment of an RBM Unit
that would report to her in order to flesh out RBM
organization wide. Drawing on previous Standing Committee
guidance, USDEL suggested that such a unit should incorporate
and reunite the Budget office (now under the Controller) and
the PCOS office in DOS (responsible for strategic planning).
On the margins of the meeting, the Directors of both DOS and
the Controller vociferously disagreed.

------- -------
Transparency and Accountability:
------- -------

6. (U) UNHCR is taking steps to improve transparency and
accountability within the organization. Chamberlin described
the progress made in implementing the Management System
Renewal Process (MSRP), which she noted was slow but coming
along. UNHCR has completed implementation at headquarters
and is now rolling out the new accounting system in the
field. Chamberlin said that UNHCR is now working on the
human resources management program for the MSRP, which will
create efficiencies and also allow staff to have better
access to their records.

7. (U) UNHCR is also working to improve the accountability
and oversight of staff at headquarters and in the field. The
organization has started to send out via email the results of
disciplinary procedures to send the message that staff are
being held accountable for their actions. UNHCR will also
make on-line sexual harassment training mandatory in order to
ensure that all staff are aware of these issues, and will
also streamline the disciplinary process. UNHCR is also
directly linking personnel assessment reports with
assignments. Ninety-one percent of the necessary reports
were completed in 2004, an improvement over past years. In
the next couple of months, UNHCR also will make mandatory
360-degree evaluations for assignments and promotions.

8. (U) The Netherlands expressed its concern that UNHCR's
progress be mainstreamed with the Consolidated Humanitarian
Action Plan (CHAP), while the United Kingdom asked why UNHCR
didn't begin that process in 2005. UNHCR responded that in
some cases, such as Sudan, UNHCR is in line with the CHAP and
that UN agencies developed the plan based on needs that
defined what UNHCR would do in a repatriation effort. In
terms of timing, UNHCR replied that it is often difficult to
link up with CHAPs, as they are on different schedules than

------- -------
Headquarters Budget
------- -------

9. (U) The United States pointed out that although the
Acting High Commissioner had earlier remarked that there
would be no growth in headquarters in 2006, the notional 2006
budget presented to donors indicated a $21 million increase
from 2005. Chamberlin replied that the budget figure was not
yet final but noted that $15.8 m of the increase was due to
foreign exchange losses and inflation. Chamberlin added that
UNHCR's goal was a "no net growth" for 2006 at headquarters,
and challenged donors to state their priorities for UNHCR
Headquarters. USDEL responded that Protection (especially
resettlement), HIV/AIDS, Interagency Health Evaluations, work
on standards and indicators, staff training, JPOs, MSRP,
staff security, emergency response, and deployment schemes
(e.g. the Protection Surge Capacity project and refugee
status determinations (RSD) deployments) were all important
activities funded out of the Global Operations and
Headquarters budgets.

------- -------
Needs Based Assessment
------- -------

10. (U) Alan Vernon, Chief of the Organizational Development
and Management Section (ODMS) led a presentation of progress
made in the past 3 years to develop tools to:
--improve the well-being of persons of concern
--improve the quality of delivery of protection and assistance
--strengthen resource allocation
--strengthen resource mobilization
--strengthen reporting to donors.

11. (U) Mengesha Kebede, chief of Program Coordination and
Operational Support (PCOS) in the Department of Operational
Support (DOS), said that conducting needs assessment is a
continuous process, and is certainly not achieved by donors
traveling to a capital for a Country Operations Plan (COP)
workshop. He benchmarked progress as follows: standards and
indicators have been developed for camp situations, returnee
(voluntary repatriation) situations, and urban refugees. The
standards have been agreed to be global, and include a
special category of protection indicators for each situation.
Owing to field reporting on indicators for 2003 and 2004,
quantitative gaps have been identified, which moves UNHCR
closer to identifying total refugee needs. Age and Gender
Mainstreaming (AGM) and the Situational Analysis Tool have
addressed the quality of programming, with their goals of
ensuring that refugees have input into development of
programs (including objectives and outputs), and that the
contribution comes from and addresses the needs and abilities
of women, men, and children.

12. Kebede reviewed challenges. Collecting data is
time-consuming and costly. Some data must be collected
repeatedly: on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Agreeing
on baselines with partners is often difficult. Applying the
AGM and Situational Analysis tools systematically is an
ongoing priority. Quantifying protection standards in areas
where &capacity building8 is the goal has also proved
particularly difficult. UNHCR continues the effort, however,
because as indicators are agreed, they can be monetized, and
budgets built from them. And that will lead to budgets that
are grounded in needs, and identification of real gaps
between UNHCR,s budget and refugees, needs.
13. (U) UNHCR provided some reports on the achievement of
indicators, and others purporting to show actual monetized
refugee needs. The reports were based on field data. The
table asserting that needs in Europe were nearly the same as
needs in Africa lacked credibility. UNHCR agreed, noting
that achieving comparability remains a large challenge,
because of varying costs in different parts of the world and
also because of a lack of consistency. USDEL suggested that
UNHCR report actual achievement of agreed standards, focusing
on the percentage of camps (or refugees) that had achieved
the standard, but also on the numbers themselves, as
percentages show averages, which mask discrepancies among the

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2005 Budget: Status Report
------- -------

14. (U) UNHCR,s operational budget lines were frozen at 5
percent less than the EXCOM approved level in January, with
the ABODS (Administrative) budgets frozen at 10 percent below
EXCOM levels. No staff freezes were implemented. Quarterly
allocations were front-loaded this year for the first time.
In the second quarter, 30 percent of the year,s total was
allocated, with a lower allocation of 20 percent planned for
the fourth quarter. This front-loading should improve
implementation rates. Compared to 2004, Operational Reserve
part 1 has not been as heavily drawn down, despite funds for
the recent crisis in Togo having come from OR-1.

15. (U) The UN Regular Budget allocation to UNHCR in 2005
has increased to $38m, because of additional funds for
security ($5.5m for Headquarters), and a technical adjustment
to compensate for the stronger Swiss franc ($4.5m). This has
been offset by the increase in the shared cost of security
borne by UNHCR (going to DSS).

------- -------
Good Humanitarian Donorship ) Harmonized Reporting and
Management Demands
------- -------

16. (U) Denmark, chair of the subgroup to harmonize donor
demands for reporting from UN agencies, led a discussion to
explore how the existing annual Global Report might be
modified to include more information that would satisfy
donors, requirements. The Netherlands, Denmark, and
Australia noted that funds that UNHCR seeks from
non-humanitarian sources (political, domestic asylum,
development) often have unique reporting requirements.
Sweden feared that special reporting is on the increase, with
80% of the new requirements coming from the European
Commission (EC). UNHCR responded that while the EC requires
special reporting, it also has increased its contributions.

17. (U) Sweden declared the goal to be decreased earmarking
from donors without their losing visibility. USDEL suggested
that UNHCR use the website as well as Standing Committee and
EXCOM documents to give visibility to donors. USDEL also
said UNHCR should propose streamlining and harmonization to
governments when requirements are similar. The Netherlands
suggested using the pledging conference to emphasize
visibility. Special reports to private corporate donors on
relatively small contributions were acknowledged but deemed a
necessary investment.

18. (U) Several donors requested greater reporting against
UNHCR,s Global Strategic Objectives, with indicators for
outcomes and impacts; the UK asked for greater analysis of
lessons learned. UK also pointed to its bilateral
agreement,s requirement that refugee voices, including those
of refugee women, be a starting point for UNHCR programs.
Japan asked specifically for numbers of those assisted to be
included. Switzerland asked for greater information on UNHCR
activities to protect refugees. Canada asked for improved
UNHCR reporting to the Financial Tracking System (FTS)
managed by the Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian
Affairs (OCHA).

19. (U) Because of results-based budgeting and management,
many donors developped their own objectives and indicators
bilaterally with UNHCR. Donors agreed that UNHCR would need
to take the lead in any effort to harmonize these indicators,
with several (including USDEL) granting permission for their
bilateral agreements to be shared with other donors. The UK
and New Zealand called for harmonization of objectives and
indicators among UN agencies. USDEL questioned the
feasibility of that approach. &Scorecards8 (such as the
Office of Management and Budget,s Program Assessment Rating
Tool and the UK/DFID,s scorecard) were valued because of
their easily understood bottom line; standardization of them
was also suggested. Some donors insist on doing their own
evaluations of UNHCR projects. Three said they are trying to
make the necessary changes to be able to accept the Global
Report as the sole financial reporting mechanism.


20. (U) The United States is not/not the problem in
financial reporting, as the vast majority of our contribution
is covered by the Global Report and the audited financial
statements provided to EXCOM. The U.S. will likely play a
large role, however, in any effort to harmonize the setting
of objectives and indicators for UNHCR programs and our PART
process may come under scrutiny from other donors.

21. (U) Donors came prepared for a lively discussion, and
UNHCR,s interim management engaged on both policy issues and
technical questions. The combination of Sweden and the U.S.
insisting on a needs-based approach to budgeting for two
years resulted in the 2006 methodology. While this
methodology is far from achieving its desired result, it
hopefully is on the right track. It is led by a team aware
of the large challenges ahead and trying to learn from the
experiences of the 2003 and 2004 COP processes.


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