On Thursday, 30 November 2023, the third session of the Executive Board of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) for the year 2023 resumed in Nairobi, Kenya.

Agenda item 13: Discussion on the implementation of the United Nations development system reform in UN-Habitat: review of the checklist for governing bodies of United Nations Sustainable Development Group entities

The Executive Director opened the session by reaffirming UN-Habitat’s commitment to the reforms of the United Nations Development System (UNDS), highlighting their centrality to the Programme’s mission of promoting a better quality of life for all in an urbanizing world.

UN-Habitat noted that despite limited financial and human resources, substantial progress in implementing UNDS reforms had been made, including through shifts in programmatic delivery at the regional and country levels. Details of this progress were highlighted in a video address by the UN Deputy Special Representative for Iraq, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Ghulman Mohammad Isaczai, who spoke to how these reforms have been realized in the delivery of UN-Habitat’s core work in the field.

Interventions by Member States

Member States broadly commended UN-Habitat on its efforts to implement to the UNDS reforms.

SWEDEN welcomed UN-Habitat’s efforts to advance the UNDS reforms and encouraged UN-Habitat to join other UN programmes and agencies in increasing their focus on programme efficiency and results; advocated for greater collaboration between the Programme’s headquarters and its regional and country offices in both project development and implementation; and advocated for greater coordination and collaboration among UN agencies at the country level, especially amidst humanitarian crises.

USA commended UN-Habitat for its commitment to align its programmatic planning with the UN Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR) and system-wide development priorities; expressed support for the Programme’s efforts to address the multi-dimensional challenges to achieving the SDGs by collaborating across the broader UN system; and highlighted the Programme’s leadership in implementation of the UNDS reforms.

SENEGAL commended UN-Habitat’s efforts in the implementation of the UNDS reforms; appreciated the Programme’s new office in Dakar; recognized the Programme’s important work in promoting sustainable urban development in the region; and asked UN-Habitat to include more financial impact figures in its working document on UNDS reforms to help Member States in their commitment to support UN-Habitat in the implementation of these reforms.

Having taken note of Draft Decision 2023/A para. (f). 10, the Chair closed the agenda item.

Agenda item 14: Report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services to the Executive Board

The Under-Secretary-General of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), Ms. Fatoumata Ndiaye, provided an overview of the mission and work of OIOS, highlighting cooperation with the Board of Auditors and the Joint Inspection Unit in enhancing synergies and efficiencies in their oversight responsibilities.

On internal audit, Ms. Ndiaye indicated that OIOS had not received any additional budgetary resources from UN-Habitat and therefore had not conducted any internal audits in 2023. She indicated that IOIS had conducted an audit on cyber security preparedness that includes seven recommendations.

In 2024, two audits are expected to be conducted: one on the management of UN-Habitat implementing partners, to be completed in 2024, and one on the operations of the UN-Habitat Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, to be completed in 2025.

OIOS completed two evaluations involving UN-Habitat. The first was on a thematic evaluation of the Secretariat’s Report on the achievement of the SDGs, and the second was an assessment on the state of evaluations from 2020 to 2021 in 76 entities.

Interventions by Member States

USA indicated its appreciation for the presentation on the Office of Internal Oversight Services and the UN-Habitat Executive Director's efforts in implementing the recommendations from OIOS; enquired about UN-Habitat’s plan to share the OIOS mid-term evaluation of UN-Habitat’s Strategic Plan 2020-2023; asked about the status of the case involving a UN-Habitat staff member submitting a forged attestation letter for a bank loan.

The UN-Habitat Executive Director indicated that the preliminary mid-term evaluation report will be shared before the next session of the Executive Board. The Executive Director indicated that the staff member who had forged a letter separated before disciplinary action and that the case was closed. She further indicated that in such cases the recommended procedure is not to hire again, noting that national authorities are usually involved when fraudulent activities take place.

The Chair recommended that delegations look at draft decision 2023/8 which covers the Office of Internal Oversight Services Report and closed the agenda item.

Agenda item 15: Report of the Ethics Office to the Executive Board

The UN-Habitat Executive Director reaffirmed UN-Habitat’s zero tolerance policy on misconduct and highlighted that there were two focal points on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) at UN-Habitat. She further indicated that she ensures, as part of her Compact, that policies implemented on conduct and sexual harassment are done pursuant to the rules of UN-Habitat.

UN-Habitat provided an overview of the functions of the Ethics Office and highlighted UN-Habitat practices related to ethics, including advice and guidance to staff on ethical issues, reporting and handling of prohibited conduct, protection of staff members against misconduct and retaliation, and training. UN-Habitat abides by the recommendations of the General Assembly relating to the strengthening of the Ethics Office.

Interventions by Member States

USA commended UN-Habitat for its full compliance on financial disclosure; expressed desire to strengthen the capacity of the Ethics Office; enquired about progress made in handling the PSEA case of June 2023; and asked what the Ethics Office would do with additional funding.

UN-Habitat indicated that the Executive Director had referred the PSEA case to OIOS and that an outcome will be available soon. UN-Habitat further indicated that additional funding for the Ethics Office would be used in training and promoting awareness amongst staff members of the Ethical Framework of the UN and to inform staff members of the channels are available to them for managing ethics cases.

The Chair recommended that delegates read Draft Decision 2015/A Section B on the annual report of the Ethics Office and closed the agenda item.

Agenda item 16: Progress in the implementation of the recommendations of the 2022 report of the Joint Inspection Unit on the findings of its review of the management and administration of UN-Habitat

The UN-Habitat Executive Director highlighted UN-Habitat’s continued prioritization of oversight functions, including evaluations and audits, as part of its work.

The Executive Director indicated that since January 2023, UN-Habitat has been developing a road map to ensure implementation of the JIU recommendations following concerns raised by the Business Transformation and Accountability Division (BTAD) of the UN’s Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance on low acceptance rates and implementation rates on recommendations by the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), the Board of Auditors (BOA), and the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).

Interventions by Member States

USA indicated appreciation for the work done by UN-Habitat in implementing JIU, BOA and OIOS recommendations; requested not to be included in the inductive scale; and inquired about the timeline for and development of the Corporate Risk Register — a multi-agency platform for monitoring recommendations.

In response, UN-Habitat indicated that it is following established guidelines in the implementation of the recommendation on the Corporate Risk Register.

FRANCE encouraged UN-Habitat to fully implement all recommendations by JIU, BOA and OIOS.

COLOMBIA appreciated efforts made by UN-Habitat in implementing recommendations.

GERMANY commended UN-Habitat in the implementation of its mandate; reiterated that the MOPAN assessment would both increase the trust that Member States put in UN-Habitat and inform the development of the UN-Habitat’s next strategic plan; and recommended that UN- Habitat collaborate with evaluation teams from other UN agencies to share lessons learnt and best practice.

The chair closed the agenda item without further comment or reservation.

Agenda item 17: Consideration and adoption of the outcomes of the session, including the provisional agenda for the first session of 2024

The Chair opened the agenda item by indicating his appreciation for the participation by Member States in discussions around the draft outcomes of the 2023 third session of the Executive Board, highlighting the critical leadership in this process by the delegations of Kenya and Portugal.

All draft outcomes from the session were adopted by the Executive Board.

The Chair closed the agenda item.

Agenda item 18: Officers of the Executive Board: (a) Rotation of Chair and Rapporteur of the Executive Board; (b) Elections of the Chairs and Co-Chairs of the ad hoc working groups of the Executive Board

The Chair initiated the agenda item by citing Rule 9 (VII. Bureau) of the HSP/HA.1/HLS.3 rules of procedure of the Executive Board of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, which foresees rotation of the Chair and Rapporteur of the Executive Board to a different regional group each year. The Chair indicated that a new Chair therefore needed to be appointed from the Africa regional group, and a new Rapporteur from the Asia and the Pacific regional group.

While the specific Member State from Africa that will chair the Executive Board needs to be confirmed, the Chair proposed the transition to the Africa group under the stewardship of Kenya.

The Chair subsequently conveyed the proposed nomination of Pakistan to assume the position of Rapporteur from the Asia and the Pacific group.

Both of the proposals were accepted without any opposition from the floor.

The Chair proposed the following Member States to chair two ad hoc working groups based on prior expressions of interest:

  • Portugal to chair the ad hoc working group on the development of a Stakeholder Engagement Policy
  • Colombia to chair and Nigeria to co-chair the ad hoc working group on Programmatic, Budgetary and Administrative Matters.

The propositions were accepted without any opposition from Member States, and the Chair closed the agenda item.

Agenda item 19: Other matters

Several Member States congratulated UN-Habitat for a successful hosting of the 2023 third session of the Executive Board and congratulated the outgoing Executive Director for her successful leadership during her tenure.

Concern was expressed at the exclusion of certain civil society organizations during the second session of the United Nations Habitat Assembly in June 2023, noting UN-Habitat’s strong record of engagement with such entities in the past. Member States renewed their call for such sessions to be as inclusive and as participatory as possible, and called for a report on the exclusions of certain organizations to be prepared and circulated.

The Executive Director announced that the city of Baku in Azerbaijan will host the 13th session of the World Urban Forum in 2026. Azerbaijan welcomed the announcement, looked forward to hosting a successful forum, and wished the Executive Director well, thanking her for her service to UN-Habitat.

The Chair closed the agenda item.

Agenda item 20: Closure of the session

The Executive Director conveyed her heartfelt thanks to Member States and stakeholders for attending and contributing to the 2023 third session of the Executive Board. She expressed appreciation for their support over the years, which had helped UN-Habitat achieve success. Recognizing the want by Member States to ensure effective oversight, she assured them that UN-Habitat would continue to prioritize and address recommendations by the oversight bodies of the United Nations, namely the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), the United Nations Board of Auditors (BOA), and the Joint Investigation Unit (JIU). She thanked the speakers for their congratulatory messages and received a standing ovation in tribute to her service.

The Chair, in his closing remarks, thanked Member States, stakeholders, and UN-Habitat staff for their support and diligence during the 2023 third session of the Executive Board, and underlined the Executive Director’s unwavering dedication to UN-Habitat’s mandate. The Chair commended the Executive Director for her work and wished her well in her future endeavours.

The Chair closed the agenda item and the 2023 third session of the Executive Board.