Exclusive: Morale 'very low' over UNFPA New York staff move to Nairobi | Devex

Gunnar Larson g at xny.io
Thu Feb 15 09:47:46 PST 2024



Moving day is coming for a quarter of the U.N. Population Fund’s New
York-based employees, who will begin transitioning to Nairobi next year.
And many of the staff members slated to make that move are not happy about

Staff members found out via email last September after the decision had
already been made. The logic is that the agency will be made more efficient
and effective by moving its core functions closer to the people it is

But some staff members, who spoke to Devex on condition of anonymity, are
concerned the decision wasn’t fully thought through. The majority of the
people moving to Nairobi are responsible for developing policy and
maintaining interagency and intergovernmental relationships — something
that’s tough to do remotely, they said. Only 10 members of the policy and
technical programs staffers are slated to remain behind in New York,
meaning that policy influence and advocacy work could fall
disproportionately on that small group.

UNFPA officials, for their part, are emphasizing the opportunity the move
offers to respond faster to the communities they are supporting. The agency
prioritizes reducing maternal mortality, and it will now have a
headquarters on the same continent as nine of the 10 countries with the
highest rates of maternal mortality.

The move is also in line with a growing trend of agencies and NGOs
relocating to the global south. Nairobi, in particular, has emerged as a
major hub for the U.N., with UNEP and UN-Habitat also headquartered there.

Staff members aren’t just voicing their displeasure, though. People who
don’t want to move are already looking for other jobs or taking voluntary
early separation — moves that threaten to disrupt UNFPA’s work between now
and next year’s relocation.
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