MSF’s existing staffing model has led to unequal access to recruitment and career development opportunities. This has caused a lack of diversity in team composition, created gender disparities in some staff groups, restricted access to coordination positions for locally hired staff, and resulted in over-representation of staff of European and Western origin in senior headquarters leadership roles.
Our decentralised organisational structure, with multiple legal employers and different HR policies and practices, represents a key challenge when it comes to recruiting and developing our staff. There is no single organisational workforce strategy and our principles are applied differently across our various operational centres and other MSF entities. With several of our operational centres reporting a shortage of experienced internationally mobile staff, a further challenge is how to retain experienced staff at the same time as recruiting and developing new staff.
Despite these challenges, there has been progress in the right direction. Our Dakar office is now the third largest recruiter in the MSF movement, after Paris and Brussels. We are certain that finding qualified staff from a broader range of regions will contribute to a better mix in our field teams and change the profile of our leaders and decision-makers in the medium and long term.
Data shows that our internationally mobile workforce has become more diverse over the past 10 years. In 2020, 50% of 3,326 full-time equivalents (FTEs) were from countries in the Global South – a two-fold increase on 2009.
However, internationally mobile staff from the Global North are more likely to be in senior management positions (including heads of mission), while those from the Global South are more likely to be in other roles. We need to look further at the reasons behind this.
The data also draws attention to other structural weaknesses – for example, only 33% of our project staff are female, and the percentage of our internationally mobile staff who are women recently fell for two consecutive years, from 46.2% in 2018 to 43% in 2020; again, we need to understand the reasons behind this.
To address these and other inequities, we have put in place the following initiatives:
- The ‘MSF International Contracting Office’ aims to address persisting inequities and administrative problems encountered by the 50% of internationally mobile staff who are resident in a country where MSF does not have a contracting office. Currently, these staff receive their contract from the operational centre which manages their assignment, which means they have no contract consistency if they are hired by another operational centre, hampering their mobility and access to jobs and causing differences in pay and benefits. From mid-2022, these staff will be provided with consistent contracts and better pay and benefits throughout their employment with MSF.
- Our learning and development platform, ‘Tembo’, aims to transform the way that our staff work, learn and develop themselves in order to maximise their skills, their talents and their positive impact on our humanitarian work.
- Our diversity, equity and inclusion repository and knowledge-sharing platform will facilitate a common understanding of DEI issues by developing a framework of accountability across MSF and facilitate a fluent exchange of information, insights, experiences and best practices between DEI practitioners in headquarters and in our projects.
We are also improving access to human resources information so that all staff can inform themselves about the policies and the rationale behind them, with the following initiatives:
- A new recruitment page on msf.org will mean that all vacancies will be accessible to anyone interested in working for MSF. To be launched in early 2022.
- A new site (rewards.msf.org) with information on ‘MSF as an employer’ and reward policies will be accessible to all MSF staff (including those who have no MSF email address). To be launched in mid-2022.
- A new HR Portal with all policies and guidelines will be accessible to staff with access to an MSF computer. To be launched in early 2022.