The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)
Monthly update briefing to the Executive Board
Statement by Jorge Moreira da Silva, UNOPS Executive Director, at the September briefing to the Executive Board – 5 October 2023
[check against delivery]
Mr President, honourable members of the Executive Board,
It is a pleasure - as always - to have this regular opportunity to exchange with you.
Before I start - I would like to take this opportunity to extend a very warm welcome to my esteemed colleague Sonja Leighton-Kone, who has joined us as Deputy Executive Director this week. As the Deputy Executive Director for Management and Policy, she will oversee the following groups:
Infrastructure and Project Management Group,
Shared Service Centre,
People and Culture Group,
Risk and Compliance Group, and,
Process Innovation and Digitalisation Programme.
We are very happy to have her on the UNOPS Team and this is a perfect moment for Sonja to introduce herself.
Since the last time we spoke - we have seen world leaders come together in New York to warn that the SDGs are in peril. We are off track on the SDGs, and in cases seeing a reverse of previous development progress.
Amid the sense of urgency - there was also resolution - and a shared commitment to turbocharge progress on the 2030 Agenda.
UNOPS participated keenly in a host of events during the UNGA 78 High-Level Week. We were able to contribute to various side-events and parallel dialogues that included governments, international organizations, NGOs and the private sector. Throughout these - we highlighted how UNOPS is uniquely placed to help our partners respond to their challenges, through our operation and implementation focus.
We stand firm in our support for the 2030 Agenda. And we continue our journey of transformation- so that we can better support our partners in the collective effort to deliver for people and the planet.
Our positive direction continues to be noted by our partners. With their support, I am delighted to share that in the last month we have signed new projects in Togo, Nepal, North Macedonia, Paraguay, Lebanon, and Yemen. And we have extended existing projects (with a top-up or additional funding) in Somalia and Yemen. The range and breadth of this work speaks to our operation focus: from procuring hospital equipment in Togo, to helping clean up the contaminated site of an old factory in North Macedonia. From supporting sustainable development in Paraguay, to helping manage solid waste and reduce its impact on public health and the environment in Lebanon. In Yemen, we will support the political process towards a lasting and inclusive peace, while simultaneously working to restore access to critical infrastructure.
In today’s meeting, together with my colleagues, we look forward to updating you on the progress to implement our comprehensive response plan.
I am pleased to say that we are on track to complete the majority of actions in the Comprehensive Response Plan by the end of this year while recognising that some of the actions can only be fully implemented in 2024-25 and beyond. Of course a third party review of how UNOPS is implementing the response plan will be shared with the Members before the end of the year. This review is led by IAIG.
We appreciate the Board’s approval to carry forward the balance of $23.6 million of the $35.4 million for use within the current Strategic Plan cycle.
In today’s session and in upcoming sessions we will deep dive into some of the ongoing actions which will give you plenty of time to ask us questions. We have a team of UNOPS colleagues on this call who will be happy to respond to your questions and provide any clarifications you may need.
Today we will present you with: i) the roadmap on the revision of the UNOPS Financial Regulations and Rules, ii) an overview of the digitalisation programme, and iii) the findings from the independent third party review of the excess reserve fund process.
Before presenting these items, please allow me to highlight a few key progress points:
Next week we will meet with the senior management tier of our organization which is a global network of around 140 managers. This marks a key milestone in the deployment of our restated strategic plan - as it will allow us to dive into the details of how we want to work together as a team to implement that Strategic Plan and ensure that we are strategically aligned across the organization. This meeting of 140 managers follows from a senior leaders retreat we had in September which was excellent both in content and for team building. All these meetings of the minds are about building a strong leadership and management culture in the organization.
We are progressing on the review of our whistleblower processes. We had a first workshop with the steering committee earlier this week and we will have a session on whistleblowing with 140 managers next week.
So far we have organized awareness trainings for over 500 colleagues on the mechanisms for complaints and allegations involving senior managers.
On the culture front - the Director of IAIG will submit an unredacted version of the culture review to the Executive Board by November. Crucially, as part of our journey of culture transformation, we are conducting a pulse survey in October, to continue to understand employee engagement and key themes around leadership, ethics, motivation and culture. The results of this exercise are expected in Q1 2024.
We continue to encourage employee representation - with new employee resource groups (ERGs) providing a forum and voice to colleagues. A new such group has been established for youth, to complement the existing four ERGs for women, LGBTQI+, disability and anti-racism.
We also encourage regular dialogue with personnel representatives and management, with monthly meetings between management and the Staff Council and the Personnel Association.
Our efforts also continue to distribute excess reserves. The independent third party review of the excess reserve refund process has concluded and I hope that you have had a chance to review the summary of this report, which was initiated by UNOPS to provide the necessary confidence to all parties on the process undertaken. Deloitte has not found any deficiencies in their technical review. They have provided some mid to low impact management recommendations which UNOPS has accepted and started implementing.
Let me now stop for a brief moment and invite Members for any initial reactions or questions before we dive into the specific areas of today’s session.
Thank you and I look forward to our next exchange.