STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF THE GROUP OF 77 AND CHINA BY MS. SONDRA CHEONG, FIRST SECRETARY OF THE PERMANENT MISSION OF THE CO-OPERATIVE REPUBLIC OF GUYANA TO THE UNITED NATIONS, ON AGENDA ITEM 141: PROPOSED PROGRAMME BUDGET FOR 2021: CONSTRUCTION AND PROPERTY MANAGEMENT IN RELATION TO THE PROGRESS ON THE REPLACEMENT OF OFFICE BLOCKS A-J AT THE UNITED NATIONS OFFICE AT NAIROBI (UNON) AT THE MAIN PART OF THE FIFTH COMMITTEE DURING THE SEVENTY-FIFTH SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY (New York, 19 November 2020)
1. I have the honor to speak on behalf of the Group of 77 and China on Agenda Item 141: Proposed Programme Budget for 2021: Construction and property management in relation to the progress on the replacement of office blocks A-J at the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON).
2. The Group would like to thank Mr. Chandru Ramanathan, Controller, Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts, and Mr. Abdalla Bachar Bong, Chair of the Advisory Committee for Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), for introducing their respective reports.
3. At the outset, the Group of 77 and China would like to express its gratitude to the Government of Kenya as the host country of UNON for its continued support to the work of the United Nations Office at Nairobi, the only UN headquarters in the global south. In addition, the Group acknowledges the Government of Kenya for the substantial infrastructural investments made over the years around the wider Gigiri area where UNON is located. In addition, the host country agreement continues to provide for privileges and immunities, including duty exemptions covering contracts, construction materials, and equipment, which will lead to significant cost savings for the project.
4. The Group recognizes the progress in the replacement of office blocks A-J at the United Nations Office at Nairobi presented in the current report which is the third progress report since the inception of the project. The implementation status reveals that there has been a slippage in progress on the early works design and tender phases which are attributed largely to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, similar delays have affected the other project components. This has resulted in an overall delay estimated at six months for the entire project. The Group is concerned that the project may not be implemented within the set timelines, subsequently delaying the expected benefits accruing from a modern office that addresses the most pertinent and pressing concerns for which the project was conceptualized namely; the significant health, safety, and code compliance issues associated with the existing office blocks A-J. The Group requests the Secretary-General to closely monitor and mitigate project risks, with the aim of ensuring successful project delivery as mandated.
5. The Group of 77 and China note that following an office survey carried out in April 2020, the report contains an assessment of the current and future space requirements for the secretariat agencies and non-secretariat United Nations entities either currently accommodated at the United Nations Office at Nairobi complex or those that have expressed interest to move into the complex. While we welcome the survey findings, the group looks forward to receiving more details during the formal consultations in this regard.
6. The Group believes that for the project to be completed in time and within approved budget, the role of effective governance, oversight, internal control and accountability cannot be over-emphasized. This includes ensuring that effective and efficient management, accountability, and transparency measures are in place. In this regard, the Group notes that the project governance structure has been updated to include a delegated executive with responsibility for the day-to-day management of the project in close consultation with the project executive, including managing the dedicated project management team. The Group trusts that the project governance structure will enhance decision-making and ultimately translate into improved project implementation.
7. The Group further underscores the importance of addressing the challenges faced by persons with disabilities regarding physical, communication, and technical barriers and trusts that the Secretary-General will ensure conformity with relevant building standards and best practices during the design, construction, and renovation of the facilities in the United Nations Office at Nairobi. In addition, included in the progress report are environmental and sustainability initiatives and technologies with a focus on reducing energy consumption, reduction of emissions, increased wastewater management, and improvement of air quality. All these issues will form part of our discussions during informal consultations.
8. On the introduction of the flexible workplace strategies, the group has taken note of the proposal by the Secretary-General to introduce the work "pods" concept. The Group reiterates that a flexible workplace should never simply be a matter of space management, but a holistic arrangement of physical space, information communication technology and human resources, with the overall goal of supporting mandate implementation. The successful implementation of the flexible workplace requires not only reconfiguration of workspace but enhanced information technology support and other critical considerations. The Group of G77 and China will be seeking further details on this concept during the informal consultations.
9. The Group believes that close collaboration and coordination with the relevant stakeholders is crucial to the success of the project. The Group welcomes the efforts made in sharing lessons learned and best practices with other United Nations duty stations especially regarding the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic including collaboration with the United Nations Information and Communications Technology Facility in Valencia, regarding the adoption of energy-efficient free cooling technologies for the new primary data centre.
10. The Group also acknowledges with appreciation the coordination and oversight provided by the Global Asset Management Policy Service in the Department of Management Strategy, Policy, and Compliance in the project implementation.
11. The Group recalls that in previous resolutions related to construction, the General Assembly has impressed upon the Secretary-General on the need to use local knowledge and capacity in construction projects. The Secretary General has reported that priority has been given to resources available or manufactured locally and where local materials are not an option, products will be imported. The Group continues to emphasize that all efforts should be made to use of locally manufactured or available materials as well as local knowledge, skills and technology.
12. In conclusion, the Group of 77 and China would like to assure you of its readiness to engage constructively in the upcoming informal consultations to conclude this agenda item in a timely fashion.
13. I thank you Mr. Chair