Review of management and administration in the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) (JIU/REP/2022/1)

The overall objective of the present review is to provide an independent assessment of the management and administration in UN-Habitat, focusing, inter alia, on (a) the recent governance reform; (b) financial management; (c) organizational restructuring and management; and (d) oversight and evaluation.

A new three-tier governance structure of UN-Habitat was endorsed by the General Assembly in December 2018. The Committee of Permanent Representatives was retained, and the UN-Habitat Assembly and the Executive Board were established in 2019. The new governance structure has led to more opportunities for Member States to engage in the organization, enhance their oversight and therefore increase the accountability of its secretariat. At the same time, there is a compelling need to clarify the distinct roles and responsibilities of each of the governing bodies, in particular those of the Committee of Permanent Representatives, especially given the current financial constraints of UN-Habitat and the increased costs associated with servicing the meetings of the governing bodies.

Over the years, contributions from Member States to the Foundation non-earmarked fund have fallen far short of the budgets approved by the then Governing Council and the current Executive Board. In response to the shortfalls, in 2017, the management approved an internal loan of $3 million from the programme support fund to the Foundation non-earmarked fund. Austerity measures have been in place since 2018. The management has also made strenuous appeals to Member States to contribute to the Foundation non-earmarked fund for the core activities and programme of work approved by the Executive Board. The situation is improving, but still less than a quarter of the 193 Member States contribute to the Foundation non-earmarked fund. As of December 2021, the internal loan had not been repaid.
The shortfalls in the Foundation non-earmarked fund have hindered the full implementation of the organizational restructuring, which started in 2018 in parallel with the governance reform. The secretariat has been operating with only about two thirds of the originally estimated number of posts for the implementation of the strategic plan 2020–2023. Staff are stretched to the limit and their morale has been critically affected. The low implementation rate of audit recommendations is another severe risk to the organization that should not be overlooked and could pose a risk to the United Nations. UN-Habitat, being part of the United Nations Secretariat, should urgently seek substantive support from the United Nations Secretariat. The Secretary-General should address the current situation of UN-Habitat as a matter of priority to enable it to fulfil its mandate and avoid any reputational risk of the United Nations.

The review makes 8 formal recommendations as well as 24 informal recommendations aimed at improving the overall effectiveness and viability of UN-Habitat. The review will be presented at the second session of the Executive Board in November 2022.

Access the full report here

Access the review highlights and the appendix: Results of the UN-Habitat staff survey here