UNV Executive Coordinator Olivier Adam presented the UNV Strategic Framework 2018-2021 yesterday in New York. (UNV, 2017)
UNV Executive Coordinator Olivier Adam presented the UNV Strategic Framework 2018-2021 yesterday in New York. (UNV, 2017)

Remarks by Olivier Adam, UNV Executive Coordinator, on the occasion of the UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board (First regular session 2018)

The UNV Strategic Framework 2018-2021 was presented yesterday by UNV Executive Coordinator Olivier Adam. In this second UNV Strategic Framework, UNV will focus its work within two outcomes: one supporting Member States, and one supporting UN partners.

Remarks by Olivier Adam, UNV Executive Coordinator, on the occasion of the UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board

- Agenda Item 5:  United Nations Volunteers, UNV Strategic Framework, 2018-2021.

New York, 24 January 2018.

Thank you, Mr. Associate Administrator, for your introductory remarks. I am grateful to you and the Administrator for your leadership, and your strong support to volunteers, volunteerism and UNV.

Mr. President,

Excellencies and Distinguished Members of the Executive Board,

Associate Administrator,


It is my honour to present the UNV Strategic Framework 2018-2021. In doing so, I will:

  • First, outline the engagement process followed in developing this new Strategic Framework;
  • Second, briefly outline the Strategic Framework itself; and
  • Third, provide three key highlights from this new Strategic Framework, outlining how UNV will better deliver for Member States, in the coming four years.

Mr. President,

The UNV Strategic Framework 2018-2021 responds to the global peace and development context. It is the first Strategic Framework since the adoption of Agenda 2030, and it specifically takes into account the quadrennial comprehensive policy review. Furthermore, as outlined by the Associate Administrator of UNDP, UNV has worked with our key UN partners, to ensure that the common chapter of the Strategic Plans of UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF and UN Women recognises the progress in engaging citizens through volunteerism, and that they will further strengthen national ownership and capacities in delivery of the sustainable development agenda.

UNV had a highly consultative process with Member States through the Executive Board in the development of our new Strategic Framework. I would like to personally thank the former Board President, Ambassador Petersen of Denmark, and the former Vice-Presidents for their leadership and strategic guidance - especially through our three informal consultations and one workshop held last year.

We also had broad stakeholder engagement with our key UN partners, volunteer involving organisations and UNV’s strongest organisational asset – our staff. Much of this consultation was through the independent evaluation of the previous Strategic Framework 2014-2017. Board members may recall from our June informal, that the main findings of the evaluation included that:

  • UNV should focus on its niche within the UN system: on promoting/integrating volunteerism for peace and development; and on mobilising skilled, highly motivated UN Volunteers as a cost-effective talent solution for the UN.
  • UNV’s presence is too HQ-heavy, and the reliance on UN Volunteers in our country and regional structure has limited stability.
  • UNV’s revenue sources are increasingly volatile and from a too limited number of partners.

We have ensured that this invaluable feedback is adequately reflected in the Strategic Framework before you today.

Mr. President,

In this second UNV Strategic Framework, we have focused our work within two outcomes: one supporting Member States, and one supporting UN partners.

Outcome 1 details how UNV will support Member States to deliver on the 2030 Agenda through volunteerism by:

  • UNV supporting Member States in developing programmes, policies and legislation that promote volunteerism and volunteer action.
  • UNV enhancing understanding of volunteerism and its value through knowledge exchanges on volunteerism. This includes, UNV supporting intergovernmental dialogue on volunteerism – such as the voluntary national review process, and the triennial report of the Secretary-General to the General Assembly on volunteering. It also includes UNV producing publications including the upcoming 2018 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report on Resilience.

Outcome 2 details how UNV will support the UN system to deliver on the 2030 Agenda through the engagement of UN Volunteers and the integration of volunteerism, by:

  • UNV expanding the opportunities for people to contribute as volunteers in the UN system; and
  • UNV promoting and integrating volunteerism with UN partners.

Underpinning both outcomes, in UNV we will continue improving our institutional effectiveness, through greater management efficiency and simplified operations.

Mr. President,

With this Strategic Framework’s implementation already starting, I would like to speak to the ‘so what?’ question. As Board members have asked me – what impact will this Strategic Framework really have on UNV’s results at the country level. I am pleased to provide three key highlights from this new Strategic Framework, outlining how UNV will better deliver for Member States.

First, UNV is more focused than ever on supporting national capacity development through volunteerism. In response to the independent evaluation, we are refining our support to Member States focusing clearly on our niche of volunteer advisory services. This means working at the country level to support national policies, legislation and volunteer schemes that can sustainably build national capacities, skills and institutions. National capacity development is at the heart of nearly every one of our UN Volunteer assignments. Whether it be midwifes deployed in South Sudan with UNFPA, or lawyers deployed to assist specialized judicial units in Niger with UNODC. In addition, an increasing number of UN Volunteers are being deployed in their own countries as national UN Volunteers. At the turn of the century, 22% of our deployments were national UN Volunteers. In 2017, this has risen to over 40% and we expect this positive trend to continue.

The second highlight of this Strategic Framework, is that UNV will deliver volunteer solutions for SDG implementation with UN partners – with an emphasis on South-South cooperation. This new Strategic Framework clearly focused much of UNV’s efforts towards our UN partners, rather than programmatic areas. I already see on the horizon, many positive initiatives with our UN partners to deliver new volunteer solutions:

  • A new youth advocates programme with UNICEF;
  • A pilot volunteering initiative with UNDP for people with disabilities;
  • Refugee volunteers with UNHCR;
  • More UN Volunteers funded by the Peacebuilding Fund;
  • A new humanitarian service line with UN Women;
  • A new memorandum of understanding with the UN Secretariat as well as new agreements with the UN specialised agencies. This will help us diversify our UN system partnerships and broadening SDG. We will move from deploying with 38 UN partners in 654 country offices to 40 partners in 686 country offices by 2021.

As the Associate Administrator noted, over 80% of our UN Volunteers are from the global South. This is not only a nice statistic – it illustrates UNV as a vehicle for South South cooperation: we facilitate expertise and knowledge transfer across local contexts, as well as online. For example, the top three nationalities of online volunteers are India, Brazil and Egypt.

UNV’s volunteer solutions, under this Strategic Framework, will also help the UN system’s push for gender equality and the inclusion of people with disabilities. On gender, in 2000, just 35% of our UN Volunteers were female – today this stands at over 45% and we will strive to reach gender parity in this next Strategic Framework. UNV is working with UN and other partners to deliver results for persons with disabilities. Engaging persons with disabilities as UN Volunteers enables them to contribute their skills and increases recognition of their capacities. This also features with our Online Volunteers – we’re proud to say that 156 persons with disabilities volunteered online through the UNV Online Volunteering service in 2016.

The third highlight of this Strategic Framework is that UNV is ‘UN reform ready’ and fit for purpose. As Member States will recall from our previous consultations, we took on the challenge in 2017 of transforming our organisation to be fit for purpose and financially sustainable. Effective 1 January 2018, we have a new organisational structure operational, in which we have strengthened our field and regional presences, and downsized our HQ - all to put capacities closer to our partners and to the country level. Based on current projections today, the headline results of our transformation are that we will have:

  • Globally, a 33% personnel reduction, including 31% at HQ, translating into a budget reduction of 17% or $5.6m in recurring personnel costs.
  • Consolidating our country level presence from 84 to 55 countries - with priority given to LDCs, countries in crisis and UN mission contexts while devolving country oversight to our Regional Offices and moving 29 staff positions from HQ to the region.
  • Finally, at country level, we are transforming the management of our field presences from international UN Volunteers to National Officers – to draw on local capacities and provide more stability to our field presences.

Here, I would like to note special thanks to our headquarters host country – the Federal Republic of Germany – for supporting and advising us in our transformation and the alignment of our structure both in HQ and globally.

As part of our review on financial sustainability – we carefully reviewed our programme resources received from partner countries. Much of the direct funding from development partners is for ‘fully funded’ UN Volunteers – with notable thanks for 2017 support to China, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. Another funding window is UNV’s Special Voluntary Fund - which will be increasingly important to delivering the new Strategic Framework. Although small, the increased flexibilization of this Fund to align to the new Strategic Framework, will allow UNV to better deliver. Our thanks for 2017 support to the Special Voluntary Fund goes to Bangladesh, China, the Czech Republic, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Kazakhstan, Laos PDR, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand and Turkey.

Mr. President,

In conclusion, I would like to thank the Member States, as Board Members and Observers for your support and direction – and all our UN partners for their strategic guidance.

In particular, I would like to recognize the leadership of the UN Development Programme for showing strengthened support to UNV this year, for placing us firmly within UNDP as part of their integrated SDG delivery and for providing UNV with a clear and predicable stream of core funding – as well as the full programme and administrative support to deliver on our mandate as a UN common service.

I would also like to recognise and thank the personnel of UNV, who have faced challenging times through our transformation, and who will be instrumental to the delivery of this new Strategic Framework.

Finally, I would like to thank our UN Volunteers – online and onsite – who are our true inspiration in action.

Mr. President, I would greatly welcome today final guidance and feedback from the Board – especially future focused – as we start to operationalise and deliver on our words.

Thank you.