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WHO experiences from the establishment of its Global Service Centre


The GA adopted in December 2012 a resolution (67/226) on the Quadrennial Policy Review (QCPR) of UN operational activities for development. One section of this resolution focuses on the need to simplify and harmonize business practices within the UN system.

More precisely, the paragraph 152 requests “the United Nations development system funds and programmes, and encourages the specialized agencies and other entities of the United Nations, to further pursue higher-quality, more effective and cost-efficient support services in all programme countries by reducing the duplication of functions, and administrative and transaction costs, through the consolidation of support services at the country level, either by delegating common functions to a lead agency, establishing a common United Nations service centre or, where feasible, outsourcing support services without compromising quality of services…”.

In view of the above, the CEB Secretariat approached the World Health Organization (WHO) to informally share its experiences in establishing and managing its Global Service Centre (GSC), which is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

WHO Global Service Centre

WHO established its Global Service Centre in late 2007 with the aim of offering administrative services to programmes and staff from WHO and its hosted entities (APOC, UNAIDS, UNICC, UNITAID and the Global Fund at the time). The business objective was to provide harmonized, consistent, high-quality and timely administrative services whilst reducing the costs and increasing the efficiency of the delivery of administrative services. Cost efficiencies were aimed to be created through consolidation of functions in a cost-effective location and by achieving economies of scale in service delivery. Quality was to be addressed through specialization and professionalization of administrative processing, which would in turn also enable WHO offices increasingly focus on the achievement of technical results.

The operations of the GSC are enabled by WHO’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, which was launched in a staged manner as of 2008. The new ERP helped WHO consolidate its multiple disconnected IT systems into one, thereby providing the global, integrated platform that was required for the GSC to achieve its business objectives.

The GSC provides services in the areas of global human resources, global finance and global procurement & logistics to approximately 8000 WHO staff and programmes world-wide (with the exception of the region of the Americas / PAHO). In line with best practice in service centres, the GSC has developed and organized its services in a service delivery framework. The framework consists of 8 high level service domains, organized by administrative area.

The governance of the GSC has been organized through a globally representative governance body of WHO’s administration, which is providing strategic guidance and monitoring the performance of the Centre. A service catalogue has been developed to inform clients about services offered and service levels to be expected from the Centre. The Director of the Centre reports to the Assistant Director General of Management, who is based in Geneva, Switzerland, and who has the responsibility for overseeing WHO’s administration worldwide. With the above arrangements, the Centre is operationally independent from the regular management structures of WHO, ensuring that its services are not compromised by local pressures.

GSC today: some experiences

Overwhelmingly, the experiences WHO has from the establishment of its Global Service Centre are positive. The Centre has matured and has clearly shown that it can bring additional value to the Organization. When looking at the productivity levels, for example, the cost per transaction at the GSC has decreased by 48% between 2009-2012 (in 2009 USD value terms), meaning that it costs 48% less for the Centre to process a transaction in 2012 than it did in 2009.

The overall volume of transactions has stabilized at an average of 260,000 per quarter over 2012-13. The capacity of the Centre to handle this amount of transactions has been created by a combination of increased proficiency in processing as well as efficiency improvements in internal GSC processes.