UN STAFF COLLEGE IN TORINO
TRAINING FOR THE FUTURE OF THE UN
Carlos Lopes bursts with ideas in his office at the UN’s Maison de l’Environnement, near Balexert, as he discusses some of the innovations at the UN System Staff College (UNSSC, www.unssc.org/web/index.asp) that he heads. At this centre in Torino, among other recent courses offered, UN security personnel train for hostage-taking operations with Italian paratroopers (“it’s not just Powerpoint”), a session on leadership is held with the Torino symphony , and a seminar with chefs and leaders of the “slow food” movement focuses on valuing products and input for a quality product. UNSSC does not repeat “training done by everyone”; its niche is for inter-agency training specific to UN-wide needs.
UN Special recently spoke with Dr. Lopes, Director a.i. (also Executive Director, UNITAR) of the Staff College, to which he commutes regularly from Geneva, about its programme.
What is the UN System Staff College?
The College is the only truly inter-agency source of learning and training of the UN system. It provides training services, knowledge-management tools and learning events for UN employees worldwide. Its uniqueness lays in the fact that its learning programmes are not tailor-made for an agencyspecific need, but rather they are driven by the demands coming from the UN system as a whole and therefore deliver results that address system-wide issues.
For instance, we provide support to the concept of a coordinated UN response to development problems by organizing various learning activities for Resident Coordinators and Country Teams.
What were its goals on being
The idea of establishing a Staff College to serve the entire United Nations system dates back to 1969. The College itself began operations in 1996 as a project but it became an independent institution with its own Statute only in 2002. However, its main goals have remained the same since its inception: to increase the coherence and effectiveness of the international civil service, to foster a cohesive management culture across the UN system and to strengthen collaboration with the UN system in areas of common organizational responsibility.
What are its main achievements?
Despite its lean and relatively small size (with only about thirty staff), the College is currently delivering inter-agency training and learning services which encompass the entire range of senior management of the UN: from Resident Coordinators to Special Representatives of the Secretary-General (SRSGs), to the Secretary-General’s top management team, which now meets in Turin on an annual basis for their retreat. The latest additions are a new system-wide leadership course aimed at senior managers and a new course for Deputy SRSGs to be rolled out in 2009.
In terms of participants, the College has trained over 8,000 staff worldwide in 2008 alone thanks to the excellent training of trainers system it has in place.
What does its programme mean
practically for UN staff members in
The College offers programmes that could benefit the staff in Geneva in many areas. For instance:
- To enhance knowledge of issues and challenges faced by the UN, e.g.: human rights, sustainable environment, gender mainstreaming, capacity development, conflict prevention analysis and more;
- To develop programming tools, lessons learned and good practices in various thematic areas;
- To acquire specific skills through a programme on Safety and Security for staff;
- To learn more about the UN system through an introductory online course designed for new recruits (“Welcome to the UN”).
What are the facilities and resources
at its disposal?
The College is located within a residential training centre, which offers a cost-effective and very practical solution to face-to-face workshops and events. However, we also work in partnership with the local authorities and foundations to offer “state-of-the-art” training opportunities outside the campus. As already mentioned, we are a lean organization with only about thirty staff but we rely on joint ventures with prestigious parts of the academic world (e.g.: Harvard, the Wharton School, Fordham University) and with renowned experts in each subject area.
What are some innovations
in your approach?
The College has placed the concept of knowledge management at the centre of its business model. This means that it is moving towards a direction where its main business will be to create opportunities and facilitate possibilities of sharing ideas and experiences. This approach called “learning by sharing” is designed to access immense level of knowledge and experience available in various areas throughout the system.
Another unique learning model to be launched by the College soon is offering technology-based learning that are creative, user-friendly and cost-effective.
In general, the College is departing from its traditional role of facilitating and organizing learning activities to become a provider of learning opportunities within the system.
Why was Torino chosen, and what are
Torino is not only home to the largest UN residential training campus in the UN system (the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization, ITC/ILO) where UNSSC is based, but is also a city of learning and knowledge. Over the last few years, in fact this city has transformed from an industrial reality into a dynamic and international centre. The city’s Strategic Plan puts forward a development model which focuses on a knowledge-based society, investing in human capital and in the internationalization of the education system. It is therefore an ideal location for a knowledge-management institution such as ours and the enormous support we receive from local authorities shows Torino’s vocation to be a “centre of knowledge”.
What should staff know, that they don’t generally, about the UN Staff College?
- The College is the system-wide centre of excellence for learning, training and management of knowledge.
- We provide learning and training opportunities for the staff rather than only facilitate and organize events;
- We are demand-driven and only focus in areas of inter-agency nature;
- We are the organization that is capable of accessing knowledge and experience throughout the system by means of our on-line communities and networks;
- We are an agile and dynamic institution that provides relevant learning and training programmes at a fraction of costs compared to what is available outside the system.