UNIDO undergoes radical transformation

VIENNA, March -- The U.N. Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) is undergoing a radical restructuring under the watchful eyes of the Vienna chapter of the Group of 77.

Surprisingly to most observers here, the new leadership of the UNIDO has not only succeeded in introducing far reaching administrative reforms but also launched programmatic reforms of the specialized agency.

The whole process, which is scheduled to be finalized shortly, will result in a leaner organisation, working in a decentralized way.

"We are hoping the new UNIDO will be up and running soon," one G-77 member said.
Confronted with the imperative mandate of the General Conference held in December last year-- and which imposed a reduction of the current budget by another 20 percent-- the new Director General, Carlos Margarinos of Argentina, was obliged to act quickly and resolutely.

''If we miss this oppportunity, UNIDO will be lost'', was the slogan under which the drastic transformation process has been carried out by the former Argentinian State Secretary for Industry.

UNIDO's crisis became acute in 1996 with the U.S. withdrawal from the agency. At that time, UNIDO's budget was reduced by more than 30 percent.

Despite a successful reform process and considerable improvements in services authenticated by independent evaluations, major donor countries like Japan, Germany and Switzerland insisted on further budgetary cuts.

UNIDO's budget for 1998-1999 was reduced to 129.5 million, 20 percent lesser than the earlier biennium.

Some 95 staff members quit their jobs by the end of March. This was done, according official sources, "on a voluntary basis".

At a meeting of staff members and representatives of U.N. missions here, Margarinos announced the appointment of three new managing directors.

The lack of controversy which characterized the assembly and the decided applause for Margarinos at the end showed up the acceptance acquired by the new management style governing UNIDO.

Margarinos also held a two day 'Strategic Programming Retreat' for senior staff and other selected personnel here.

The declared purpose of the newly designed exercise was to identify ''new products'' for UNIDO, to hammer out a set of packages of ''demand -oriented services having high visibility, clearly measurable results and significant development impact''.
The new management called on staff to define services for supply according to five characteristics:

- Cross-organizational integration of programme packages; - Programme adaptation to regional needs - Value added and comparative advantage - Partnership and cooperation with the private sector - Potential for cooperation with other multilateral agencies.

As a target, UNIDO was seeking to develop new products which will differ significantly in scope, with a clear focus on integration, from at least half of the present 1,738 projects.

The meeting's starting point was the intended decentralisation of activities and functions. Directors of the five regional bureaux (Asia and Pacific, Africa and Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Arab, Europe and Newly Independent States (NIS), and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Those views were discussed in the light of the current work of four working groups devoted to elaborate high-profile integrated programmes in the fields of:
1) Environmentally-Sustainable Industrial Development, 2) Industrial Investment and Technology Promotion, 3) Quality, Standardization and Metrology, and 4) Small and Medium-Scale Enterprise Development.

Furthermore UNIDO's new leadership is seeking new product ideas responding to poverty reduction and employment creation.

Another focus of future UNIDO activities was clearly set for Africa and LDCs.
''The challenge is now to work out the interrelationship between the products for clients at different stages of development'', stated an informal release for local missions.
During forthcoming exercises, staff is expected to discuss on 'how' UNIDO will present its services to the world.

''UNIDO will only survive on its brains'' stated an internal release of the management. ''An unique chance for staff to design their own future through a new set of products that will update the very concept of industrialization''.

By May UNIDO was preparing itself to start working under a new organizational structure and a new programme.

As part of its transformation, UNIDO has created three departments from the previous six and appointed the corresponding managing directors, all of them having been working in former appointments as executive managers in the private sector.

Head of the Sector Support and Environmental Sustainability Division: Angelo D'Ambrosio, Italy

Head of the Investment Promotion and Institutional Capacity- Building Division: Yo Maruno, Japan

Head of Field Operations and Admnistration Division: Nilmadhab Mohanty, India

A long list of senior staff was provisionally integrated as ''Special Assistants to the Director General'' until the new programme was decided.

Recently UNIDO and UNCTAD launched a strategic investment alliance to boost investment in developing countries. A memorandum of understanding to ensure cost effectiveness and optimal use of official development assistance was signed in Geneva by UNCTAD Secretary-General Rubens Ricupero and UNIDO Director-General Carlos Magariños.

The alliance haarnesses the two orgnaizations' comparative advantages to maximize delivery of services and avoid duplication, as part of United Nations' efforts to pool the resouces of its agencies.

While UNIDO will focus on advice and assistance on industrial sector issues and investment promotion, including the regulatory and institutional framework for investment. These arrangements will also include the formation of new partnershhips between the two organizations and the private sector of industry.

Areas for cooperation include preparation of investment policy reviews and guides; development of regulatory frameworks for investment; organization of investment and technology forums and business gatherings; and promotion of technological innovation.
The signing ceremony, which was held at UNCTAD in Geneva, was attended by the Chairmen/Coordinators of the Chapters of the Group of 77.