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Mass relocation of UN agency staff from New York to Nairobi causes jitters

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), has made a decision to relocate a significant portion of its New York staff to Nairobi.

The Nairobi City skyline

This strategic move, aiming to place the agency closer to the communities it serves, has sparked concern among many the affected employees.

About a quarter of the staff in the New York office will be affected.

According to some staffers who spoke to Devex media, the announcement was delivered via email to staff on September 2023.

The are protesting that the decision for the relocation had been finalized without prior consultation.

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The objective behind this major relocation is to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the agency by moving its core operations nearer to the populations in need.

The relocation also involves staff members who are integral to policy development and the maintenance of vital interagency and intergovernmental relationships.

Critics argue that managing these critical functions from afar could present significant challenges.

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With only a small contingent of policy and technical program staff remaining in New York, there are concerns about the potential impact of the agency's influence and advocacy efforts.

Despite the reservations, UNFPA leadership is focusing on the positive aspects of the move.

By establishing its headquarters closer to the heart of the African continent, where the rates of maternal mortality are among the highest globally, UNFPA aims to bolster its mission of reducing maternal deaths.

This proximity is expected to enable a more rapid and effective response to the needs of these communities.

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kenya has also welcomed the move, saying this signals confidence in Nairobi as a diplomatic hub.

“Another piece of good news that demonstrates a strengthening of Nairobi as the multilateral capital of the Global South,” Foreign Affairs PS Korir Sing'oei said.

UNFPA’s decision aligns with a broader trend of United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) shifting their bases to the global south, recognizing Nairobi as a significant U.N. hub.

The city already hosts major U.N. entities like the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and UN-Habitat, reinforcing its status as a focal point for international development efforts.

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