As an Organization, we pride ourselves on the size of our footprint and for being close-to-the-ground. Yet, I would argue that what defines us is not so much our footprint, but rather how we implement proximity as a way of being, an everyday attitude, and the key marker of how we work.
Our introductory public information material presents us as “highly decentralized”, which allows IOM, the UN Migration Agency, to be ‘’closer to where the needs are”. Our Director General, William Lacy Swing, often describes IOM as the “Proximity Agency”.
Numbers support this description. Some 97 per cent of our 10,000+ strong global workforce is based in the field. Our annual budget of USD 1.7 billion is spent mostly on projects in the countries we operate in. We have over 390 Offices in more than 110 countries, serving the ever more complex needs of our Member States and migrants in an increasingly challenging international environment.
However, we are hardly unique in this regard. UNICEF is present in 190 countries, UNDP maintains Offices in 177 countries, and WHO has a foothold in over 150 countries. Our budget, while certainly impressive, is only about a quarter of WFP’s, and a third of our sister agency, UNHCR. In the same vein, if our staffing is significant, we could almost all squeeze into the 28-floor UN New York City headquarters.