The JIU is the only independent external oversight body of the United Nations system mandated to conduct reviews, evaluations, and inspections at a system-wide level.
Its mandate is to look at cross-cutting issues and to act as an agent for change across the UN system. The JIU works to enhance efficiency in management and administration and to promote greater coordination among agencies. It is dedicated to assisting the 28 organisations that have signed the JIU Statute in meeting their governance responsibilities. In its reports and notes, the JIU identifies best practices, facilitates knowledge-sharing, and makes recommendations to executive heads and governing bodies, individually or as a group.
Over the years, the JIU has contributed to several areas of work with the objective of enhancing management and administrative efficiency and of promoting greater coordination among the UN organisations. Some of the JIU’s key focus points have included executive management and other administrative matters, human resources, strategic planning and oversight, results-based management, and risk management, among others. The JIU recommendations have also supported senior management teams among UN organisations in developing or reviewing strategies and policies. Since 1995, its thematic agenda has also included information and communications technology (ITC) governance. In recent years, the JIU has approached digital technology from a more strategic perspective.
Digital policy issues
The report entitled Managing Cloud Computing Services in the UN System (JIU/REP/2019/5) argues for a more balanced approach in unlocking the potential benefits of the cloud and in considering specific risks, in addition to the potential synergies from a UN system-wide perspective. The JIU proposed a number of safeguards and actions to expand UN common knowledge on cloud computing, increase the level of inter-agency cooperation, and strengthen the negotiating capacity of UN organisations.
A lucid and balanced analysis of blockchain was the result of a landmark report on Blockchain Applications in the UN System: Towards a State of Readiness. The report starts from the assumption that the UN cannot stand aside and passively watch developments in the industry, but it is far from evangelising the use of blockchain. It offers a critical assessment of the theoretical benefits of blockchain and proposes a cautious, yet proactive approach to potential applications. The recommendations made by the JIU signify a bold move from a traditional compliance perspective to a more prospective focus, from a prescriptive standpoint to a more flexible and anticipative set of actions. The main asset of the report is an original decision-making matrix–developed in full consideration of the United Nations context – for the rigorous determination of use cases for which the blockchain could be a better option compared to other alternatives.
A comprehensive review of individual and inter-agency mechanisms dealing with cybersecurity is offered in the report entitled Cybersecurity in the United Nations System Organisations. The report assesses how UN organisations are addressing cybersecurity threats, and the challenges and risks they face, including risk mitigation measures. Particular attention is paid to the vulnerabilities specific to the UN. The review focuses on the opportunities for strengthening collaboration and coordination among organisations and for a closer alignment of physical security and cybersecurity, as well as for improving linkages between system-wide strategic direction and operational capacity. Some recommendations aim at strengthening the key role of the UN International Computing Centre (UN ICC) as a cybersecurity service provider.
The issue of e-learning platforms was extensively addressed for the first time at the UN system-wide level in a report entitled Policies and Platforms in Support of Learning: Towards more Coherence, Coordination and Convergence (JIU/REP/2020/2). The report analyses the potential of new digital technologies as a driving factor that facilitates and stimulates system-wide synergies and convergence. According to the report, current technology-enabled trends and capabilities, such as the increase in remote interactions, mobility, portability, and use of a personal cloud storage system, require the adjustment of policies, curricula, and institutional arrangements. For the UN system, growing digital infrastructure amplifies the ability of UN organisations and their staff to access and use nearly unlimited knowledge resources. The same technologies offer unprecedented networking options, which should be unconditionally used for more coherence, co-ordination, and convergence among UN agencies.
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