The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)
Statement to the Second Regular Session of the Executive Board 2017
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Thank you Mr. President, Distinguished Members of the Executive Board and Observer Delegations,
The focus of my speech today is to provide an overview of UNOPS strategy for 2018-2021.
Our new strategy results from an extensive process.
This included a mid-term review of the previous strategy, as well as informal consultations and discussions at Executive Board sessions earlier in the year.
We have also consulted our partners both in and outside the UN, and have embraced the new directions set by the Secretary-General.
Simply, our new strategy is focused on implementation. We have aligned our strategy to our mandate and core competencies.
UNOPS is a resource for peace and security, humanitarian and development solutions across the UN.
Our mission is to help people build better lives and countries achieve peace and sustainable development.
And as the Secretary General noted only last month, the 2030 Agenda provides a vision: The challenge now lies in implementation.
Developed in consultation with Member States, this new plan reconfirms the services we offer in infrastructure, procurement, project management, human resources and financial management.
We pledge to be responsive to the priorities of Member States, as they strive towards their goals and targets.
As a service provider, we offer our expertise in support of every Sustainable Development Goal.
We know every goal requires underlying infrastructure.
The management services that underpin UN operations – human resources and financial management – are equally cross cutting.
We know procurement is simply a reality of nearly every UN activity.
And we know that the bulk of UN operations in countries, take place in the form of projects.
Our new strategic plan strives towards three goals.
Firstly, to enable more efficient management support services.
Secondly, to help partners deliver more effective solutions – through our technical expertise.
And thirdly, to support broader efforts to realize Agenda 2030, also through accessing resources
beyond what we do today.
Our first goal is focused on efficiency.
Especially in fragile situations, the ability to react with speed and efficiency to evolving situations is essential. Emergencies dictate a rapid response.
Our model is based on being light and nimble.
We use global service centres to significantly reduce costs and thereby increase the efficiencies of our work processes.
Let me provide an example of how quickly we can react: As part of our ongoing work with the UN Secretariat and the Department of Political Affairs, we deploy mediators to crisis situations, in some cases, within 16 hours.
In the last six months, experts from the standby team have been deployed to negotiations and mediation processes in places such as the Central African Republic, Mali, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Somalia and South Sudan.
In urgent situations, UNOPS moved from notification to deployment ready in under five hours and in a further ten cases within 24 hours
Our second strategic goal is improved effectiveness.
This speaks directly to a focus on peace and security, and the recognition that sustainable and inclusive development is in itself a major factor in the prevention of conflict.
An example can be seen today, in Sierra Leone.
Last month’s flooding and mudslides devastated the lives of thousands.
As part of the co-ordinated UN response, we are providing technical expertise.
Here, our role in reacting to the event, is prevention – we coordinate drone mapping across locations prone to further mudslides.
This will enable the government to be better placed, to issue warnings and help advise on precautionary measures to avoid similar consequences when nature strikes again.
We also help address immediate needs, in this case by supporting the distribution of emergency relief items, on behalf of the UK government.
Other examples of effectiveness can be seen in our direct support to partners operating under General Assembly and Security Council resolutions.
A recent example relates to our work in support of the international Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
In Syria we recently completed the destruction of the twelve declared chemical weapons facilities, as part of our operational support to OPCW in the country.
Another example is in Yemen, where through our support to the UN Verification and Inspection mission (UNVIM), more than 4.5 million tonnes of food, fuel and relief items have been cleared to enter the territory.
Despite these efforts, more than 60 percent of the population are facing the threat of food insecurity – the humanitarian crisis remains critical. As ever, we stand ready to support.
Our third goal, which speaks to resources, can be best described through needs.
It is common knowledge that ODA will never fully fund our Global Goals.
At the Addis Ababa Financing for Development conference, the predicted annual shortfall for infrastructure funding alone, globally, stood between $3 and $3.5 trillion.
Last month’s report from the Secretary-General stated that over the past decade, economic losses resulting from natural disasters have reached nearly $1.4 trillion.
Again, this hinders economic growth and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
There is no question that we need to bring the private sector on-board, to play an ever greater role in the development of our world.
Yet bringing the private sector to the table, is about much more than funding.
It's also about access to new ideas and innovation.
We at UNOPS believe in innovation and we are poised to be in the front.
For three years we have listened to stakeholders, set up partnerships with organizations like MIT, Harvard and the European Central Bank, and collected data.
We have asked: Who are the real stakeholders pushing for innovation?
How do we increase the participation of women in the digitalized economy?
The outcome has been a model to guide governments and organizations investing in start-ups building their business on local needs.
We are now helping to set up innovation centers in many countries.
UNOPS is also coordinating the UN group on block-chain technology.
Many members of the UN family recognize the potential of this technology to revolutionize the way we distribute aid.
Through the adoption of a single technology we could reduce the duplication of aid, increase levels of transparency and provide significant cost savings by reducing overheads and/or transaction costs.
Another example I can speak to is in Nepal, where rebuilding following the devastating earthquake of 2015, is ongoing.
In this case, to make sure rebuilding happens based on the latest data available, we have deployed a custom ICT solution to conduct detailed field assessments of over a million houses.
This initial exercise alone resulted in more than 8 million images. And processing this volume of data is no simple task.
So here, as part of our research into artificial intelligence (AI), we are examining whether machine learning could organize and analyse information like this, with even greater levels of efficiency and insight.
Our experience of processes and knowledge of ICT is also of value to our partners.
For example, we recently signed a new agreement with the UN Secretariat’s Department of Field Support, building on existing infrastructure and resources, to service the UN system with new ICT solutions.
Implementing our strategy
So these are some examples of our work, which are aligned to our new strategic goals.
Translating our plan into reality is the 'how' of our strategy.
Aside our new strategy, our budget estimates and a report from the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) are also before you today.
As demonstrated in our budget estimates, our finances are solid.
Yet, as I mentioned in my last speech to the Board, change is in our nature at UNOPS.
We reshape our structure continually, realigning, expanding and contracting our services based on the demands of the international community.
In recent months we have further refined our model to better serve UN system-wide peace and security programmes through a global services model.
This includes the support we provide to UNMAS and initiatives led through the UN Secretariat.
And as the Advisory Committee notes, we stand ready to share our knowledge of global service delivery models, with the UN Secretariat, should this be of value.
Overall, we recognize we are a growing organization.
And we know implementing our new strategy will not be without risk.
To deliver on our strategy means we must further refine. We must ensure we have capacity to deliver.
Currently, we are continuing a process to improve the structures that will allow us to plan better, with a better understanding of the risks our organization faces.
And I was pleased to note that the Advisory Committee endorsed our aspirations for management results and the targeting of resources to support our goals.
This means our approach to services will be honed.
We will focus our technical expertise to offer more context-specific solutions, aligned to country needs.
We will tailor our services to provide more integrated, customized and efficient solutions.
We will build on our work encouraging private sector investment and innovation, in support of development objectives.
In sum: We want our services to be more sustainable and our solutions more innovative.
We welcome the UN system-wide drive towards gender equality before 2030.
The SG’s gender parity taskforce describes operations in the field, particularly in conflict-affected settings, as areas where the under-representation of women remains a stark challenge.
Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Haiti, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – all are UNOPS primary countries of delivery.
Operations across our global portfolio also show women are under-represented.
We recognize this and are committed to taking actions to address this challenge.
As you may have noticed in our budget estimates, we are aiming for gender parity by 2020.
In total, these areas of internal focus are intended to influence end results.
We seek to increase the quality and impact of our projects, for the benefit of our partners.
These include governments – who now represent a quarter of all our deliveries.
Developing countries – who increasingly request and pay directly to benefit from our technical expertise.
And our many UN partners, who value our implementation skills and the solutions we can provide.
We will coordinate approaches to working with donors and the private sector, for example, in support of implementing the New Urban Agenda.
To this affect, last Thursday we signed an agreement on a new model of co-operation with UN-Habitat.
This will, of course, be aligned to the assessment of the Secretary-General and the proposals aimed at fostering more collaborative work through country teams.
We see our role in infrastructure as critical to this agenda.
In this regard, our infrastructure assessment work with the University of Oxford is expanding.
We are currently conducting or in discussions to conduct infrastructure analyses in a range of Small Island Developing States, and other countries such as Serbia and Nepal.
Concerning our system-wide contributions to enhancing resilience, we have just signed an agreement with UNDP and UN Women to implement a national resilience programme with the Government of Bangladesh.
We offer our support to ongoing efforts to reform the UN Secretariat, and welcome proposals to strengthen the coherence of actions at country level, through reform of the Resident Coordinators system.
Our support to help solve challenges surrounding the world’s oceans, is another area of critical importance.
This can be seen through the new agreements that we have signed over recent months with St. Lucia, Palau and Nauru, to help these Small Island Developing States find solutions to the challenges of climate change.
Annual Statistical Report on UN Procurement
We have a session covering many items today.
The final report I would like to present is the 2016 Annual Statistical Report on UN Procurement – compiled by UNOPS on behalf of the UN system.
This year the report examines the combined spending on goods and services of 39 members of the UN family – a record number of reporting organizations – from more than 200 different countries and territories across the world.
In total, more than $17 billion was spent across the UN in 2016 – the exact figure represents a slight rise on total spend last year.
Within this figure, $10.3 billion was spent in developing and transition economies, and for a third year in a row health spending was identified as the top category, making up 22 percent of overall spending.
In the data are trends related to the emergency responses in southern Africa and Nigeria, and procurement supporting the refugee crisis, with purchases on food, fuel, shelter equipment and construction services.
This year we refined our approach, and in addition to a focus on sustainable procurement, we have provided insights on collaborative procurement.
We believe this area is of critical importance, when we look to enhance the efficiencies of UN procurement as a whole.
As we look towards financing Agenda 2030, the vital information in this report can help us understand how we should focus our resources to help the most vulnerable people.
As a UN family it is our responsibility to make sure we align our spending with the status, needs and priorities of each country.
It is especially important, when viewed in the context of the Secretary-General's priorities, and the drive towards management reform.
As the UN organization with a mandate for procurement, we feel we have a responsibility to support the rest of the UN family in striving towards ever more sustainable approaches.
Enhancing our work to engage countries in improving their procurement practices is a key focus area detailed in our new strategy.
We share the benefits of our approach with all of our partners and look forward to sharing best practices in sustainable procurement across the UN family.
The potential for refined and enhanced procurement approaches to deliver significant benefits to the UN system as a whole should not be underestimated.
With a purchasing power of more than $17 billion annually, the UN system has the potential to significantly advance sustainable development through its procurement practices.
Smarter public procurement could directly deliver development outcomes through better goods and services for poor people, and save billions of dollars in the process.
To conclude: In UNOPS new strategy, I firmly believe we have strong foundations to build on into the next four years and clear priorities.
We will continue to benchmark our work against international best practices across all our areas of expertise.
We will also continue to report regular updates on progress to the Executive Board, in alignment with the Global Reporting Initiative sustainability standards.
And as an organization, we will continue to remain humble.
Over and above all, we recognize we are a field-driven organization.
We respond to situations on the ground. We provide solutions where few others can.
Our ambition is to become a better known and recognized resource.
And in doing so, help expand implementation capacity, in support of the Secretary-General and Agenda 2030.
But we cannot do any of this without the support and recognition from the UN family and beyond.
Today, we lay out plans for the next four years.
Our strategy is a pledge to live up to our role in the UN and play our part towards a more peaceful, just and equitable society.
I believe UNOPS can play an essential role.
I encourage Members of the Board to endorse this approach.