UNON Director General Remarks at the Opening of UNEP 12th Special Session of the Governing Council

(Nairobi, February 22,2012 ). Your Excellency Mwai Kibaki, President of the Republic of Kenya,Your Excellency Ms Graciela Muslera, Acting President of UNEP’s Governing Council,Excellencies Ministers and Members of the Governing Council,Mr. Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP,Dr. Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT,Distinguished guests, Ladies & Gentlemen,

Allow me to welcome you all to the United Nations Office at Nairobi, the only UN-Headquarters in Africa and indeed in the global South. My presence today is the result of the efforts by your respective Governments to have the General Assembly of the United Nations adopt a decision, in December 2009, to establish a dedicated post of Director-General for UNON at the level of Under-Secretary-General. I am humbled to be the first incumbent to this position and I am determined to do my best in order to fulfill my mandate and upgrade the Nairobi duty station to be at par with the two other sister offices in Geneva and Vienna.

Our appreciation goes to Your Excellency President Mwai Kibaki and through you to the Government and the people of Kenya for hosting UNON the two global Headquarters of UNEP and UN-HABITAT as well as great number of UN entities so generously. Your support is tangible in our daily lives and perhaps best illustrated by the magnificent site of 150 acres on which this campus is built, the upgrade of the infrastructure leading to and from this complex, the strengthening of the security at all UN facilities in and outside Nairobi, the critical role by the Kenyan representatives in the General Assembly to secure, adequate resources, as well as the privileges and facilities enjoyed by the UN staff and their families in this duty station.

As you may recall, UNON was established in January 1996 through the merger of the two separate divisions of administration of UNEP and UN-Habitat, UNEP’s Conference Services Section as well as the UN Common Services Unit. This merger was justified, including to the General Assembly and the Governing Councils of UNEP and UN-HABITAT, on the basis of significant, and subsequently demonstrated, economies of scale and agglomeration.  The current structure of UNON includes the Office of the Director-General, Divisions of Administration, Conference Services, Security and Safety as well as the United Nations Information Centre.

As UNON is not as well know as it should be, permit me to briefly present its functions. According to the Secretary General’s Bulletin, the “United Nations Office at Nairobi serves as the representative office of the Secretary General in Nairobi and performs representation and liaison functions with Permanent Missions, the Host Country and other governments, and inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations in Nairobi, as well as other organizations of the United Nations system in Kenya; facilitates cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations; provides administrative and other support services to UNEP and UN-HABITAT; provides joint and common services to other organizations of the United Nations System in Kenya; manages and implements the programme of administration, conference services and public information and provides security and safety services for United Nations staff and facilitates in the United Nations office at Nairobi.

Some of the roles and functions of UNON as well as the diplomatic and political responsibilities of the Director-General need to be fully developed. Sixteen years later, the role of UNON as custodian and manager of the financial, human and physical resources of UNEP and UN-HABITAT as well as the provider of a wide range of common services to 41 UN entities in or operating from Nairobi, is more than ever justified in the face of the global financial crisis; and your Governments’ legitimate expectation that our Organization should strive for greater efficiency and cost effectiveness and eliminate duplication and inefficiencies. In his address to the Staff last month, at the start of his second term, the Secretary-General indeed urged us to pull together to steam line work and I quote “make better use of common services and maximize synergies”; He also promised a new generation of the “UN Delivering As One”.

I am determined  to see UNON championing the implementation of the Secretary-General’s reform agenda, including his vision of a UN that delivers more with existing resources and that challenges barriers, and strive for "improved effectiveness and coherence”. Soon after assuming office 9 months ago and in order to establish a base-line for UNON service provision and effectiveness as well as its level of transparency and accountability, I constituted a team which undertook an indepth review of recent audits and evaluations of UNON, given the fact that UNON has been subject of a number of evaluations and audits in the last three years alone. Priority has been given to the areas that need immediate reform and strengthening such as ICT and procurement services, outreach activities of United Nations Information Centre as well as host country relations which is now in the office of the Director-General. Based on these evaluations, I have articulated my vision and priorities for UNON that I have shared with all those concerned. Steps are also taken in order to review the administrative roles and responsibilities between UNON divisions as well as between UNON and its major clients with the only aim to see this review leading to an improvement of our administrative services, the elimination of duplication and overlap and more clarity on roles and responsibilities.

While implementing its mandate fully and progressively, UNON will do its best to provide a common umbrella for United Nations activities here in Kenya.
-       to engage actively with the host government and the diplomatic community on a diverse set of operational, diplomatic and protocol issues;
 -      to encourage sub-regional organizations to strengthen their cooperation with the United Nations family in Kenya and
 -      to strengthen our reach out and information to the public of the activities of our Organization in Kenya and in East Africa through United Nations Information Centre.

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