Is the “unprecedented” reform of the World Meteorological Organization seriously blocked?

Petteri Taalas, head of the World Meteorological Organization, a specialized United Nations agency based in Geneva, speaking at the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, December 10, 2019. L OMM has embarked on an ambitious internal reform, but a recent report indicates that aspects of the plan are sorely missed two years later. OMM

In June 2019, the World Meteorological Organization embarked on an ambitious effort to streamline internal operations, cut spending by two percent, and realign the organization to “21st century realities, priorities and dynamics.”

The moment had come. A specialized United Nations agency based in Geneva, WMO, as it is known, dates back to 1873, when the International Meteorological Organization was founded to exchange meteorological data and research. A century and a half later, between the deadly wildfires currently sweeping across California and Oregon in the United States and the floods inundating parts of Germany and China, “weather data” is only the picture. start of what the world needs.

But little has been done in the plan to restructure the WMO secretariat, which in fact is not even a plan, according to a recent report by the United Nations Joint Inspection Unit, an independent oversight agency. Besides a master plan, the restructuring lacks key objectives and performance indicators, not to mention an assessment of the risks the process could incur, a timetable and cost estimates.

None of this would matter if WMO were not so crucial to understanding how the climate crisis is shaping our lives today and in the future. As stated on its website, the agency “is the authoritative voice of the United Nations system on the state and behavior of Earth’s atmosphere, its interaction with land and oceans, weather and climate. that it produces and the resulting distribution of water resources “.

The reorganization effort, described by the June 2019 resolution as “unprecedented” in scope, led to the reform of WMO’s constituent bodies – commissions, six regional associations and the executive council. It resulted in the creation of two new technical commissions instead of the previous eight, to favor “a holistic approach of the Earth system”, according to the resolution. There was a “general appreciation of the changes,” a survey of the agency’s 193 member states found.

The reorganization has also led to the restructuring of the secretariat, which ensures the day-to-day work of WMO. Unlike the reform of the constituent bodies, the overhaul of the secretariat seems to lack meaning, as the Inspector’s report suggests.

This is happening as, in many industrialized countries, private companies are strengthening their dominance as major providers of weather information, even though their forecasts are not always reliable. Research by a professor at Penn State University found that forecasts by US media firm AccuWeather beyond a week were less accurate than historical weather averages from the National Weather Service.

These articles might interest you.

Private weather services can also be less than scientific. Fox Corporation – the media empire known for its on-air climate change deniers – plans to launch its own weather channel later this year.

It was in part growing competition that led the World Meteorological Organization to undertake its ambitious restructuring. But so far, although management says the effort is going smoothly, “there is no verifiable evidence to measure this success, in the absence of any strategic plan for human resources and restructuring. [of the secretariat]Keiko Kamioka, who led the Joint Inspection Unit’s investigation, wrote in her report.

Global Connection Television - The only talk show of its kind in the world

The restructuring is being led by a former director of the Finnish Meteorological Institute, Petteri Taalas, who was appointed WMO Secretary General in 2015 and re-elected for a second four-year term in 2019, when the ruling Congress OMM approved the resolution mandating the reform and restructuring.

The changes have created new secretariat structures that are not financially consistent or consistent with standard United Nations practices, Kamioka wrote. In addition, there are no slots for a director of finance and administration, an information director or a security director (who would be in charge of the physical security of the offices, the issuance of identity cards, background checks and entry checks). Without these positions, an organization “runs the risk of mismanagement and loss of institutional credibility and integrity,” the report said.

The report made four formal recommendations. One was addressed to the executive council of Congress, which is responsible for reforming the constituent bodies. The remaining three and most of the 27 informal recommendations were directed at Secretary-General Taalas. They urged him to prepare a comprehensive accountability and internal control framework for staff members to be aware of their delegated powers and responsibilities; develop a human resources strategy by creating documents for its management; and to form a management team to undertake a review of the restructuring of the secretariat. The recommendations are to be implemented by the end of 2021.

Taalas accepted all three formal recommendations, saying it was “too early to assess the impacts and overall results” of the restructuring. But he rejected six of the informal recommendations, even though the Chairman of the Audit and Oversight Committee considered the inspection “relevant and comprehensive” and reinforced the observations of an external auditors report in 2020. .

The Staff Association, representing some 300 WMO employees, said it “almost entirely agreed” with the monitoring unit’s report. Indeed, staff were frustrated by the restructuring, according to a December 2019 survey, the latest conducted among employees, in which comments were made anonymously. Staff perceived senior management as mismanagement of the restructuring, which resulted in a lack of trust and credibility.

Three former WMO employees who experienced the restructuring told PassBlue their lack of confidence in senior management leadership. Employees were not informed of the planned changes, they said, although Taalas assured that he placed “great importance on consulting with staff through formal and informal channels.”

“Trust and partnership between management and staff” had to be restored, Kamioka wrote. This link, she added, will be “crucial for the future” as employees implement restructuring at ground level.

WMO did not respond to questions from PassBlue but provided a general comment: “WMO is serious and is committed to responding to all formal recommendations and an action plan for informal recommendations has been prepared. The restructuring and reform of the organization was carried out in a legal and official manner.

Yet without a blueprint or clear parameters to measure the success of the restructuring, it is not clear at this time that the agency will be up to the task it aspired to when it launched its unprecedented effort. in 2019: respond to “21st century realities, priorities and dynamics.


Maurizio Guerreo

Maurizio Guerrero was office manager in New York and at the United Nations for 10 years of the largest press service in Latin America, the Mexican company Notimex. He now covers immigration, social justice movements and multilateral negotiations for several media outlets in the United States, Europe and Mexico. A journalist graduated from the Escuela de Periodismo Carlos Septién in Mexico City, he holds a master’s degree in Latin American, Caribbean and Latin American studies from the City University of New York (CUNY).

Virginia S. Braud