For more than three decades now, the Meeting of Senior Fellowships Officers has been serving as the main framework for inter-agency coordination on system-wide issues relating to the management of training and fellowships. Over the years, it has grown in scope and strength. It has become an all-inclusive Forum, which covers the entire spectrum of the UN system organizations as well as major National Placement and Supervising Agencies. While the first Meeting started with 16 agencies, the number of participating agencies in the last two Meetings almost doubled. The agendas of the meetings have also evolved from a few selected topics of an organizational and administrative nature to administrative, financial, operational and substantive issues, as well.
The coordination machinery for Training and Fellowships began in 1976 on the basis of the recommendations of the Joint Inspection Unit contained in its report on Fellowships in the United Nations system as adopted by the ACC in 1976 (JIU/REP/76/1). The Preparatory Committee approved the arrangements proposed by the Sub-Committee on Education and Training concerning inter-Secretariat coordination of activities relating to Fellowships. These arrangements provided for the designation of a Secretary in one organization to serve as focal point with the following specified functions: a) promote the exchange of information on matters concerning fellowships; b) help to identify the interests and needs for further fellowships coordination; c) carry out consultations as may be required to deal with specific and urgent problems; d) prepare the agenda for regular meetings of Senior Fellowships Officers; and e) ensure that reports of these regular meetings were made available to the Sub-Committee on Education and Training.
Since 1976, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and its predecessors have served regularly as Secretary and Focal Point for inter-agency fellowship coordination. UN/DESA has played a major role in streamlining and harmonizing the fellowship practices among the UN agencies. Senior Fellowships Officers have continuously commended the serious commitment and dedication of UN/DESA. Based on the results achieved by each meeting, they have acknowledged that never before had UN/DESA put in place a stronger inter-agency coordination mechanism than in the last four meetings in 2002, 2004 and 2006, and 2008.
Below are some of the major accomplishments of the Meetings of Senior Fellowships Officers of the UN system agencies:
The Joint Inspection Unit in its latest report on Fellowships has ranked Training and Fellowships as one of the best coordinated activities in the United Nations system;
The 14th Meeting at IAEA Headquarters in Vienna in 2002 reached a breakthrough: It harmonized all the policies, procedures and entitlements on Fellowships and agreed on a common definition of fellowships;
The 15th Meeting at WHO Headquarters in Geneva in 2004 harmonized all the policies, procedures and entitlements on Study Tours and Group Training and agreed on the common definitions of these activities.
The 16th Meeting at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris in 2006 reached consensus on all of the meeting items on the agenda. A specific recommendation about common standards for fellowship evaluation is in line with the report of the High Level Panel on System-Wide Coherence. The concept “One United Nations” permeated the discussions.
Agendas have included major items which have had a significant impact on the training activities of the UN agencies. “Transparency in the Fellowships Selection Process” (2002); “Quality of Fellowships Programmes” (2004); and “South-South Cooperation” (2006).
UN/DESA is conducting the global review of fellowship stipend rates in collaboration with the UN Conditions of Service Section and the UNDP Headquarters.
UN/DESA has established its own Fellowship Website which serves as a common site for other agencies to utilize the monthly stipend rates and other fellowship documents of common use.
UN/DESA has published the first editions of the on-line Global Training and Fellowship Newsletter, with contributions from all agencies.
UN/DESA has put at the disposal of the Senior Fellowships Officers of the UN agencies the UN/DESA-based e-Forum to be used as a tool for the discussion of various issues of common concern to them.
The Meeting of Senior Fellowships Officers serves as a framework not only to tackle problems of common concern, but also to share the best practices among the agencies. Agencies have expressed a genuine willingness to make available to one another their best accomplishments and practices.
UN agencies have established cooperation agreements with some major National Placement and Supervising Agencies on the placement and supervision of UN fellows in various host countries. The administrative charges levied on UN agencies by the National Placement and Supervising Agencies are uniform.
Tuition fees are the same for all UN fellows, despite the UN agency.
The 17th Meeting at IMO Headquarters in London in 2008 unanimously adopted the Contribution Analysis approach (with an elaborated milestones pathway enabling the evaluation) as the platform for future implementation and evaluation of Training and Fellowship Capacity Development activities within the UN system.
Innovative IT applications were developed by several organizations which facilitated greater monitoring and communication with fellows, as well as online learning.