Annual Update 2021 VNG International

Human Resources

Staff and experts

As per 31-12-2020, the total number of staff in our head office in The Hague was 54 and the total in FTE 52.6. In 2020, 7 staff left the organisation and 7 joined. Fortunately, we did not have to reduce the staff as a consequence of the pandemic.

The average age of the staff on 31-12-2020 was 37.8. Of the 54 staff, 64.3 % are women and 35.7 % are men. At management level, the division is just the other way round, with 67% men and 33% women. Our daughter company in Tunis and the project offices together have more than 130 people on the payroll. In addition we have a large group of external experts who provide their services on a contractual basis. Among them is a core group of 40 associated experts who work for us on a regular or long-term basis.


We respect the principles of the relevant International Labour Standards and there is regular dialogue with the representative workers council (OR). The OR has been closely involved in the elaboration of our multi-annual strategy, which also translates the results of our employee satisfaction survey. Other issues that have the joint attention of OR and Management include the issues described below, and other ones like diversity and inclusiveness in our HR-policy, and the financial performance of the organisation including important investments.


Investment in training and personal development

To encourage staff to keep their skills and knowledge up to date, and to invest in personal development, we budget 2.4% of our total gross salary costs for this purpose. Due to Covid restrictions on group trainings, we did not spend the whole amount in 2020. Nevertheless, next to individual coaching, a range of trainings have taken place, including a.o. on project management skills, effective communication, and time management. And of course all staff had to acquire the necessary skills for online meetings and trainings. This was facilitated by a few dedicated colleagues.


We have also invested in optimizing the collaboration between project managers and junior project managers. We give particular attention to the development process of junior project managers, who, if the measures that we have in place for it are followed, should normally be ‘ready’ to become project managers after some 3 years in the organisation.


Also our internal knowledge sharing continued online. Regular ‘brown bag’ meetings covered a range of topics including Monitoring and Evaluation skills and tools. And in January 2021 our traditional and much appreciated ‘international staff meeting’ brought together more participants than would otherwise have been possible. Something to consider, even when regular travelling resumes.


Sick Leave and Prevention

The pandemic had and still has major implications for how we can do our work. The office in The Hague has been closed again since September, with all staff working from home. Personal circumstances and individual working conditions differ. We have provided advice, furniture and equipment, as well as financial contributions to enable people to create a healthy work environment at home. But given the ‘team-work’ character of our type of work, the fact of not being able to physically meet and work with colleagues, also has a mental impact. We facilitated various forms of contact both at individual and group level. Regular surveys were held to measure how staff experience the situation and what measures are needed. In general, resilience is strong, but there is also a growing desire to go back to normal or to develop a balanced new normal.


Work related sick leave for 2020 was 3.2%. Prevention remains a high priority, for which the managers, the external ‘arbodienst’, and the employees themselves, all have their own and a joint responsibility. The ‘Risk Inventory and Evaluation’, conducted in 2019 in close cooperation with other VNG entities and approved by the ‘arbodienst’, is still valid.


Next to the preventive measures mentioned above, other ones vary from internal coaching, encouraging the participation in fitness programmes, to offering the possibility of working part-time for a better balance between work and the private situation. In case of sick leave, we use the services of the ‘arbodienst’ to jointly define appropriate measures in line with the applicable legal provisions.


Safety and Security

The focus has been on the monitoring of the Covid-19 developments worldwide and the consequences for local staff and international key experts based in the countries where we work. Depending on the situation, measures included extra sanitary provisions, temporarily working from home, evacuation and controlled return. For the staff in the Hague, we are slowly limiting the restrictions on missions. After a long period of no travelling at all, we are now incidentally allowing missions again, after a Management Team decision on the basis of a protocol. We have also carefully checked how various situations are covered by our insurances.


Particular attention was and still is given to our local and international staff in Myanmar after 1 February 2021. Next to facilitating the needs of individual staff, we have taken the initiative within UCLG to express our serious concern about the situation.


An internal working group keeps our safety and security procedures and awareness up-to-date, using feedback received from within and outside the team. Safety and security incidents are formally reported, and also used for evaluation of the existing procedures and awareness. In 2020 no incidents have been reported. The revision of our safety and security policy, foreseen in 2020, has been postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic. We did do a few pilots with the use, on a voluntary basis, of the Safeture app which allows us to know the exact whereabouts of staff/experts on mission. We hope to further extend the pilots in 2021 and eventually use the app on all our missions.


Code of Conduct

The VNG International Code of Conduct is embedded in the VNG-wide ‘VNG policy against misconduct’, which includes a ‘whistle blower’ regulation, and also relates to a VNG International specific complaints procedure. Within the VNG organisation, employees can address on a confidential basis two confidants (‘vertrouwenspersonen’).


Early 2020, we updated our procedure for the reporting of and dealing with cases of misconduct, including the further elaboration of proportionate sanctions to be applied. All staff, all associated experts, all project offices and direct beneficiaries have been informed about it and contract templates have been updated accordingly.


VNG International maintains a register for reported cases of misconduct. Cases are treated with respect for privacy. As many as necessary details about (the character of) the case, and about the actions taken or to be taken, are registered. In 2020, no cases have been reported of breaches against the Code of Conduct.



Compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) continues to have our permanent attention. Within VNG we now have a Data Protection Officer, and a Privacy Advisor who, together with the Privacy Officers, monitors the application of the GDPR. The necessary procedures are in place and repetitive messages will keep the staff aware of the legal requirements. A more comprehensive VNG privacy policy 2021-2024 has almost been completed. In 2020 no complaints have been received and there has been no need for incident reports to the Dutch Data Protection Authority (AP).