Ambassador Chris Lu
U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform
New York, New York
June 6, 2022
Madame President, I offer these additional remarks in my national capacity.
As I indicated in the joint statement on behalf of 26 countries, reform is desperately needed at UNOPS. In collaboration with other board members, we have laid out a set of tough reforms that we believe can right the ship, and I appreciate the Executive Director’s commitment to reform.
This is important because these reforms are about more than UNOPS; they’re about the entire UN system. When the average person reads a media account about financial mismanagement at UNOPS, most won’t understand that this is just one UN agency. They think this is about the United Nations as a whole. So, what has happened here – and what we will learn in the coming weeks and months – tarnishes the integrity of the entire UN system and the thousands of hardworking individuals who are doing critical work around the globe.
So, we need to clean up UNOPS. Even as we do that, we need to rethink how oversight is conducted at the UN. Far too few UN agencies are willing to disclose that their programs aren’t working as intended. Far too few UN agencies are willing to disclose serious problems until they’re pointed out by auditors and investigators.
We’ve seen that with UNOPS. If you were simply to look at the agency’s 2021 annual report and its ethics report, you would’ve had no idea of the financial problems involving S3I or other programs. That needs to change. All UN agencies have to be reoriented to prioritize transparency, even when it might be less than positive.
Likewise, all of us as board members need to do more to scrutinize not just the annual reports but also any supporting documentation. We need to be willing to ask hard questions, instead of just reading prepared remarks. And when we don’t get satisfactory answers, we need to keep pushing.
We owe this to all of our constituents whose funds we are charged with safeguarding. And we owe this to all the deserving communities around the world who these funds are intended to help.