UN Strategic Planning
Strategic planning has been one of the major concerns of the United Nations. It is for this reason that the Joint Inspection Unit, under the suggestion of the United Nations office of Internal Oversight, began a system-wide review of strategic planning in the organization (UN) (Inomata, 2012). For administrative purposes, therefore, the UN and its funds, programs and specialized agencies employ different strategic planning instruments and mechanisms sanctioned by legislative bodies or created and executed internally. The purpose of strategic planning in the organization, in this case, is to ensure that it (the UN) achieves its medium to long-term objectives and goals (Inomata, 2012). Strategic planning in the UN ranges from plans employed in organizational governance and management to those implemented in thematic programs. Specifically, the processes (of strategic planning) hinge on legislative mandates and missions and multilaterally-agreed normative and operational plans and programs (Inomata, 2012). This is in addition to directives emanating from executive heads in specific fields, and have different characteristics relying on the mandates and funding by either core or non-core resources (Inomata, 2012).
In its basic sense, strategic planning is the definition of an organization’s mid to long-term goals and the resources necessary to achieve these goals. A strategic plan additionally includes the specific action steps necessary for the accomplishment of the set goals (Karel, Adam & Radomir, 2013). The golden rule of strategic planning requires that each strategic plan is reviewed and revamped every three to five years for the purpose of making adjustments where necessary (Inomata, 2012). For the UN, the idea of strategic planning began from WHO (World Health Organization), which adopted medium-term programs of work in the 1950s (Inomata, 2012). Other UN organizations followed suit in the 60s including FAO, ILO and UNESCO. The introduction of strategic planning for the mother organization however, began in the 1960s, as a by-product of the discussion on the introduction of budgeting for different programs under the UN (Inomata, 2012). The purpose of the discussion was to get a better understanding, by the member states, of the relationship between the blossoming budgetary resources and the use of these resources in implementing the programs and activities of the Organization (Inomata, 2012).
Members had expressed the feeling that better planning “would enhance effective use of resources, reflecting Member States’ priorities, based on the mandates emanating from intergovernmental bodies, and aiming at improved systemic coordination among United Nations organs and agencies” (Inomata, 2012, p. 5). These concerns led to the formation of an ad hoc Committee of Experts, with the sole purpose of examining the finances of the UN and its Specialized Agencies (Inomata, 2012). Under the Committee’s recommendations, the General Assembly established processes for the adoption of annual budgets and planning estimates for the succeeding year, and in effect, formulating the basis of long-term plans developed by al programs under the organization (Inomata, 2012). These guidelines have undergone changes over time in response to different challenges and changes experienced in the organization. Currently, through changes made by the Secretary General in 2002, most strategic planning in the organization emanates from the Secretary General’s executive committees, specifically the Executive Committee on Economic and Social Affairs, as a way encouraging linkages among the political, economic, developmental, humanitarian and security issues that confront the UN. This is in addition to overseeing the formulation of the medium-term plan and budgets for economic and social areas (Inomata, 2012).
The idea of using the executive committees in strategic planning is specifically part of the dynamics play within the organization. There has been a shift in the interplay of authority in the UN, emerging from initial UN composed of member states, to a current UN composed of the secretariats (Junk & Trettin, 2014). This has changed the dynamics of the organization in such a way that while the preferences of member states had previous taken precedent for the design of the organization’s output, the bureaucracy in the organization means that individuals within the organization influence policy outcomes (Junk & Trettin, 2014). This is visible with the changes in strategic planning influenced by the Secretary General, among other budgetary and policy changes made by different secretariats and executive committees, without necessarily consulting the General Assembly (Junk & Trettin, 2014).
Currently within the dynamics of the organization, there is an interplay of politics and administration, which stretches to finances. Junk and Trettin (2014) inform “The UN Secretariat in New York as well as the administration of UN peace operations in the field are situated between the conflicting poles of politics and
administration. Cooperation and coordination, recruitment, or learning from previous peace operations—all these administrative tasks are not only superimposed by the particular interest of the UN member states (geopolitics) but also by the internal politics of the various administrative units (micropolitics)” (p. 9).
UN Strategic Policy Framework as Peace-building Tools
Peacebuilding entered the UN vocabulary in 1992 through its Agenda for Peace (Smith, 2014). The purpose of peacebuilding for the UN is to attempt to encourage the development of conditions, attitudes and behavior fostering and sustaining social and economic development, which is peaceful, viable and flourishing (Smith, 2014). The UN undertakes its peacebuilding activities through projects that are chronologically limited and implemented by partner organizations, while others are policy tools such as diplomatic initiatives and military operations (Smith, 2014).
The organization’s peacebuilding architecture comprises of the Peacebuilding Commission, the Peacebuilding Fund and the Peacebuilding Support Office (Tschirgi & de Coning, 2015). The purpose of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture (PBA) is to ensure that the organization continues to support peacebuilding initiatives in countries emerging from conflict as well as provide sustained and concerted approach to the world “hitherto ad hoc, fragmented and piecemeal support for post-conflict peacebuilding” (Tschirgi & de Coning, 2015, p. 6).
Under the peacebuilding framework, there have been improvements in making the policies and organization respond better to the peacebuilding task. The improvements include a new dynamic between the Commission and the Security Council, as well as better relations with the General Assembly as well as ECOSOC (Tschirgi & de Coning, 2015).
As an organization, the UN has to deal with both external and internal forces that affect the operations of the organization. Handling the pressures require proper management of these forces. For its customers and the market, the reliance on technology is one of the changes that the organization has to deal with. According to Alarcon et al. (2012), most customers and the markets are looking into technology not only in search of products and services, but also of better deals, connection, communication and management. To be able to keep up with these customers and the market, the UN has to adjust its technological outlook. Moreover, there is a push towards customer satisfaction: a factor that puts much pressure on organizations. On top of the customer and market pressures, are social, political and protocol pressures, which demand change from the organization. Social pressure demand prompt response of the organization, while member states particularly major contributors put pressure on the organization to act on their interest, while changes in protocol demand lots of bureaucracy in dealing with issues.
Internally, the UN has to deal with productivity issues emanating from problems within the organization. According to Geuskens et al. (2011), aging, sickness and other work related issues such as dissatisfaction with the work environment and ethics can lead to reduced productivity. Recently, the UN has been on the spotlight over its pervasive culture of impunity and lack of responsibility taking especially its peacekeeping missions. Managing change in this case requires better handling of such issues and working according to the expectations of both the employees, customers and stakeholders.
UN Global Strategic Priorities: Global Engagement vs. Global Targets
In the formation of the UN, the organization aimed at preventing the scourge of war to other generations. Yet it has gone beyond this mandate to other areas of the human life including health, agriculture and education. In looking at its main purpose of promoting peace, the organization has engaged the global community fairly. According to Jones and Dobbins (2016), since the Second World War, the UN has attempted to engage countries globally and performed fairly well. The organization, according to According to Jones and Dobbins (2016), has been able to place successfully post-conflict societies on the road to lasting peace and democratic governance.
At the same time, however, there have been accusations of the UN having global targets rather than engagement. Specifically, the accusations have indicated that the organization has only target countries that do not require forceful entry, has no need for a huge number of troops or where there has been a peace settlement (Jones & Dobbins, 2016). By targeting these, it has shown its weakness in dealing with issues at a global scale, only targeting specific countries, rather than engaging the whole world that it serves.
Competition is one of the most important factors in a market. The theory of competition argues that it (competition) is the best tool in the promotion of customer well-being (Stucke, 2013). However, even in its protection of the customer, the absence and the presence of too much competition can be catastrophic to the market and to the customers. One of the ills of the absence of competition is the emergence of a monopoly, even as too much competition opens a leeway for illegal practices by most organizations. Currently, the UN is a monopoly as it is the only organization that serves the whole world. The circumstances have led to accusations over its treatment of other countries and issues of international magnitude.
Workforce diversity on the other hand is the engagement of workers from different background, gender, sexual orientation, religion and ethnicity in the same workplace (Arokiasamy, 2013). Although among the most challenging of factors in the workplace, diversity enables the organization to tap into a huge pool of talents. The UN has taken advantage of diversity, engaging different individuals in its management with rewarding results. However, diversity may also be a cause of conflict, and while conflict may be inevitable at places of work, diversity can worsen its occurrence (Arokiasamy, 2013).
Evaluation of Success
Management of workforce diversity is one of the major administrative challenges facing UNHCR. Thus, while it has done a lot in the engagement of a diverse workforce, it still lacks the capacity to manage effectively the diverse workforce. By its very nature, UNHCR has to engage a diverse workforce. Management training on diversity management is one of the most feasible solutions and a way of engaging the workforce effectively. Budgetary appropriation is yet another management challenge. While the lack of laws guiding the reception of the funds into the organization may be a factor, engaging competent personal for the budgeting and appropriation of the funds will help in running the organization much better than it is currently.
Strategic planning is a requirement for all organizations, regardless of their size. It gives direction through the objectives set, the timeframe and the resources and action to be undertaken for the achievement of goals and objectives set. Moreover, the regular review and revamping of the plan ensures that the organization can keep track of its progress. As a big organization, strategic planning is an important element of the United Nations. It is only through strategic planning that the organization can engage all its programs, funds and specialized agencies towards achieving their objectives, and engaging in peacebuilding. In its current form, UNHCR has issues with its administrative system. Using strategic planning and proper management of its diverse workforce can go a long way in improving its performance and running.
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Arokiasamy, A. R. A. (2013). Literature review on workforce diversity, employee performance and organizational goals: a concept paper. Researchers World, 4(4), 58-63
Geuskens, G., A. et al. (2011). Productivity loss at work; health-related and work-related factors. J Occup Rehabil, 20, 331-339
Inomata, T. (2012). Strategic Planning in the United Nations System. Geneva: UN
Jones, S., G. & Dobbins, J. (2016). The UN’s Record in National Building. Chicago Journal of International Law, 6(2), 703-723
Junk, J. & Trettin, F. (2014). Internal dynamics and dysfunctions of international organizations—an introduction to the special issue. JIOS, 5(1), 8-10
Karel, S., Adam, P. & Radomir, P. (2013). Strategic planning and business performance of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. Journal of Competiveness, 5(4), 57-72
Smith, D. (2014). Towards a Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding: Getting their Act Together. Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Stucke, M., E. (2013). Is competition always good? J Antitrust Enforcement, 1(1), 162-197
Tschirgi, N. & de Coning, C. (2015). Ensuring sustainable peace: Strengthening global security and justice through the UN Peacebuilding Architecture. Commission on Global Security Justice & Governance