Permanent Representative of Iceland
UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board
30 January 2024
I deliver this statement on behalf of Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Türkiye, the United Kingdom, the United States, and my own country, Iceland.
Allow me to start by thanking the Executive Director, UNOPS management and UNOPS staff for the results achieved since we last met in this setting. We applaud the progress UNOPS is making to become an improved, value-based, and fit-for-purpose UN entity.
Now more than ever, it is important to keep going. We have often said in this room that the journey to recover, refocus, reform, and restructure is a long one. The midterm review of the Comprehensive Response Plan, the organizational culture review, the Pulse Surveys, the JIU Assessment and the Board of Auditors report, all collectively indicate that UNOPS is heading in the right direction, but the work is not yet complete. We value therefore your active commitment to continue this important endeavour, to be disciplined in seeing the comprehensive response plan – and what comes after it – to its completion, and to do what it takes to ensure everyone at UNOPS, regardless of their position or location, is part of the process.
We do also recognize the need to look ahead. We have heard the Executive Director say before that “we cannot wait for perfection”. Our timeframe to achieve the SDGs is ever decreasing and there is clear demand for the support services that UNOPS can offer. However, transparency and trust must be the foundation for moving forward. In this light, we re-emphasize once again the Board’s decision that the UNOPS portfolio has to remain within its mandate. That does not at all mean the agency has to be at a standstill, but it does mean being clear and transparent about the purpose, expertise and limits of the organization. It means being critical of the portfolio and its development and being mindful of the wider UN Development System that UNOPS is part of. Most importantly, it means deferring to other agencies when demands brought to UNOPS would better fit elsewhere.
There are also two specific points we wish to highlight.
Firstly, organizational culture. We have had various exchanges to date about the relevance of the KPMG review on the organizational culture, and the response of UNOPS. We commend management for embracing the review and its recommendations and formulating a broad roadmap, as a starting point. Recalling decision 2023/23, we look forward to hearing when we can expect a fully elaborated strategy, including specific actions to be taken and how these will be monitored. We expect staff will be consulted and engaged in its development and implementation, and we look forward to continuing conversations about its operationalization and roll-out. In particular, we are interested in hearing your reflections on the Q4 Pulse Survey results. How, for example, is UNOPS actively engaging local managers and local personnel in the transition to a new, safe, inclusive and empowering culture? In addition, a functioning whistleblowing process is essential. We welcome insights into the delays of this measure and management’s plan to address this issue.
Secondly, we wish to touch upon an aspect important to reforming organizational culture, and building trust amongst staff, clients, and the Board - namely accountability. No roadmap or plan can ever successfully translate into practice if it is not backed by corresponding actions. In that regard, we stress and reiterate the crucial importance of ensuring that all individuals found guilty of any form of misconduct experience consequences of a fitting nature. This includes those at the highest level, through the appropriate channels. The Board stands ready to support UNOPS in its pursuit of accountability. Our response to misconduct must be firm, and impunity, or even the perception thereof, must be prevented at all times. We value the highest degree of transparency regarding the status of ongoing accountability procedures, including the cooperation with the Office of Legal Affairs. The update provided by the Director of IAIG last November on results from the forensic audit was very insightful, and we also welcome management’s views on this. How do you plan to respond to the audit findings and recommendations?
Mister President, Mister Executive Director, the Executive Board is committed to its role in supporting UNOPS on this journey. We look forward to continued action, progress, and change in the year ahead.