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As you recall, I had a job interview a while back that I was really worried about. Well, safe to say I nailed it and I started work in January.

Anyways, this last couple of days, we’ve had back to back staff meetings both general as well as departmental staff meetings. The catchword from all these meetings was without a doubt “cost containment.”
Things are not looking good for the International Organization I work for. And like every responsible leader in charge, the Director General is not blaming himself (well, partly because he’s new) but he blames the current global financial crisis. The two unknowns of this financial crisis namely the depth and the duration of this worldwide recession have so far prevented anyone from fully predicting the impact this crisis will have. I can only assume that other UN specialized agencies will also start feeling the effects of the crisis particularly those that rely heavily on contributions and donations from the private sector as well as member states and private entities (WHO 80%, WTO 70%). Still my Organization tops that list, deriving 90% of its annual income from the contributions but also as a result of providing certain specific services to the private sector.
This whole staff briefing today got me thinking how the UN as whole will be able to accomplish any of its goals and objectives geared at poverty eradication, humanitarian assistance etc.. without any financial backing or adequate resources. Saving the world nowadays costs money with the current financial crisis, it will soon be every country for herself. So far even financial lending institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF have been unable provide any tangible financial assistance especially to the developing countries. Instead these Bretton Woods institutions have opted to make the rich industrialist counties pay more, by way of contributions and annual fees. However since the developed countries are the ones most adversely affected by this global economic downturn, they are strongly opposing such changes not only by the Bretton Woods institutions but other UN agencies as well, including the one I work for. If that fails, they could always do what the rest of the world is doing which is courting the Asian countries (with the exception of Japan) which seem to be flourishing despite the crisis, most notably China and India.
However, as one colleague put it: “Faith in multilaterism is at an all-time low”. In other words, member states especially within Europe and the US don’t trust each other when it comes to putting up a united front to manage this financial crisis, therefore it appears to be everyone for herself, God for us all.

So where does that leave my little organisation? Well, what is certain is that organisations as well as companies in Europe are already starting to feel the impact of the worldwide recession which means that expenditures very carefully so as not to fall into deficit because deficit = job losses. Which brings us right back to the central theme of the meetings: cost containment. I simply raised my hand and suggested something that I thought would help the organization save some of the $5 million it’s currently spending on mobile telephony: Skype.:-

“Well I think it would really help us save a lot on communication costs especially with our coordination offices and regional bureaux throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas. My girlfriend and I use it all the time and it keeps us connected throughout.”

I got the strangest looks from all the staff in the boardroom and although my suggestion was noted in the minutes, only time will tell whether I’ll be adding “W__O” under my Skype contact list anytime soon.

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