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Statement by Grete Faremo, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNOPS, to UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board Second Regular Session – 1 September 2021

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STATEMENT TO THE SECOND REGULAR SESSION OF THE EXECUTIVE BOARD 2021

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Introduction

Madam President, honourable representatives,

It is a pleasure to join you here today to present the UNOPS strategic plan for 2022-2025.

Now more than ever, our world needs new approaches, renewed ambition and robust action, in order to respond to the immense scale of needs, and the demands of our time. This is what our new strategic plan is about.

We remain active and present in Afghanistan, Haiti and Myanmar supporting our partners to address the critical humanitarian needs on the ground. And our new Strategic Plan sets out our ambitions on how we help build a better future, supporting the national priorities to deliver at scale on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Our work at UNOPS is based on partnerships – this is how we add value. Our current strategic plan has been a success as it has paved the way for a significant increase in demand for our services.

We intend to build on this success and continue our journey to improve, to refine and to enhance the quality of our services.

You have already received the full version of my speech. Today I will focus on key points.

COVID-19

Allow me to first provide a UNOPS update on the pandemic.

Like many of you, we have mourned. We have now lost eight colleagues.

Once more my heartfelt sympathy goes out to everyone who has been affected by the impact of the pandemic, especially to those who have lost loved ones during this devastating time.

I am so proud of the dedication of all of our colleagues, who continue to work in extreme and unpredictable situations to assist nations and the communities that we serve.

Our work continues:

  • To deliver vital health infrastructure and strengthen health systems

  • To procure medical supplies and equipment

  • And to support vaccination roll-out programmes

Especially in the most challenging locations, we must redouble our efforts to tackle the pandemic and the inequalities it has worsened.

Left unchecked, COVID-19 and its disastrous consequences will be with us for a long time.

UNOPS Strategic Plan, 2022-2025

Distinguished members,

Allow me now to share further details on our strategic plan, 2022-2025.

This plan is firmly rooted in our mandate, the current global context and the 2030 Agenda.

Grounded in lessons learned from COVID-19 and the climate emergency, it focuses on how we can better support national priorities and further strengthen national capacities to achieve the SDGs, including through bridging the financing gap and reducing inequalities.

Three core areas guide the focus of our new strategy.

They are:

(1) Quality infrastructure

(2) Improved public procurement

(3) And our Sustainable Investments in Infrastructure and Innovation (S3i) initiative

Allow me to expand on these.

Quality infrastructure

Infrastructure offers vast possibilities:

  • To help countries back on track to meet the SDGs

  • To mitigate and adapt to climate change

  • And to accelerate recovery from the pandemic

Now, more than ever, in the face of a climate emergency, we need infrastructure that is sustainable, resilient and inclusive.

By improving our offering to our partners – including the UN family – we can better contribute to system-wide initiatives. Together with the University of Oxford and the UN Environment Programme, we have conducted ground-breaking research on the influence of infrastructure on the defining issue of our times: the climate emergency.

  • This research – to be published soon – finds that infrastructure is central to addressing climate change, and fundamental to mitigation and adaptation efforts.

  • Without radical change to how infrastructure is planned, delivered and managed, we will not achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the SDGs.

As the UN organization explicitly mandated in infrastructure, we stand committed to supporting climate action and tackling the climate emergency. Later this year, during the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), UNOPS will renew the call for resilient infrastructure that works for our climate.

Public procurement

Scale matters to successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Our work, therefore, continues to help our partners tap into the unique opportunities that public procurement offers to:

  • Accelerate the shift to low-carbon economies

  • Recover from the socio-economic impact of the pandemic

  • Tackle corruption

  • And reduce inequality

From Guatemala and Honduras, to Argentina and Mexico, we work to support national and local institutions to tackle corruption, build better public services and accelerate progress towards the SDGs at scale while saving hundreds of millions of dollars, which in turn can be reinvested into national priorities.

S3i

Now I come to our third focus area.

As the Secretary-General has pointed out, implementation of the 2030 Agenda is dependent on innovative partnerships with the private sector. Significant increases in private investments are needed to bring most of the initiatives to scale.

Our ambitious S3i initiative is specifically designed to tackle this challenge. Through facilitating public and private finance to large-scale infrastructure projects, and making our own seed investments where necessary, S3i helps address critical national needs in affordable housing, renewable energy and health.

In this work, our focus will be on the need for scale, so that significant populations will benefit.

I am truly honoured to be joined by respective ministers from Ghana, India, Pakistan and Nigeria, who will be sharing details with the Board on their national priorities, and how UNOPS can support.

In addition, since we last spoke on S3i, we have reached two significant renewable energy milestones in India, bringing new partners to this exciting and ambitious initiative.

Firstly, through a landmark investment deal to build a solar farm, with partners including the Danish Investment Fund for Developing Countries, we will help to bring clean energy to around half a million people in Western India. And in the coming days, we intend to sign a second agreement with local partners and the Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation Ltd (FINNFUND) to provide energy for more than 350,000 people in Northern India.

Our priorities

Honourable members,

Our commitment to human rights, gender equality, diversity and inclusion of the most vulnerable guides our operations.

In this, we will build on the success of one of our key corporate priorities over the past 3 years: the issue of gender parity.

When UNOPS started on our gender parity journey in 2018, 38 per cent of our workforce were women. Now, I am happy to confirm we have reached gender parity at UNOPS: Today, regardless of contract types, the gender balance of UNOPS is 50 per cent women and 50 per cent men. Women currently hold 46 per cent of our senior roles.

This is a significant achievement in a short span of time.

We set our ambitions high, and thanks to much hard work and dedication, we delivered.

Yet we won’t be complacent. Our next step is to broaden our approach to wider diversity and inclusion, considering forms of diversity such as disability, ethnicity and race, economic status, LGBTQI+ identities, youth and many others, as we move forward into our new strategic plan period.

Business model

Distinguished members,

Our self-financing nature is unique in the UN. We receive no core funding from governments or others. We deliver services in exchange for a fee.

To survive we must deliver quality solutions, efficient and effective services to our partners that truly benefit the people that we serve.

Our new strategic plan will continue to focus on digitization, to ensure our systems and processes are optimized and fit for the future.

The new plan will continue to drive efficiencies, working hard to bring down costs and provide value for money for our partners, without impacting the quality of our work.

In recent days we have received many welcome comments from Member States noting the transparency of our discussions on UNOPS self-financing nature and operational reserve. I would like to thank Member States for a productive and fruitful dialogue on this topic.

We want to continue to pursue a prudent approach in managing our finances, to reassure partners we can deliver on our commitments.

This strongly aligns with the conclusions of a recent review of UNOPS by the Multilateral Organization Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN), kindly sponsored by the governments of France and the United States.

In 2021, we have already delivered more than our entire annual total of just a few years ago, and have signed new agreements exceeding $2 billion, demonstrating the trust of our partners in our ability to deliver, even in extraordinary circumstances.

Conclusion

In closing, I want to say the following:

Our ambition is to take UNOPS to the next level. We want to honour the increased demand with higher quality services, better risk management, more effective and cost-efficient approaches.

This is what our new strategic plan is about. I encourage you – honourable members of the Board – to endorse this approach.