Mr Toily Kurbanov, Executive Coordinator of the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme, addressed the UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board session on 7 June 2023. Below are his remarks as delivered.
Thank you, Mr Chair and thank you Mme Associate Administrator for introducing the agenda item on behalf of UNDP. With your permission, I will continue with the presentation of the Annual Report of the Administrator on UNV.
Before doing so, I would like to introduce the report’s main protagonists: the United Nations Volunteers themselves. None could be with us today: every single one of them is right now at the front of peace, development and humanitarian action, but we can let them introduce themselves in a short video. Only 8 of the 12,000 who served the United Nations in 2022. May I please ask to screen the video.
Mr Chair, distinguished delegates,
The eight UN Volunteers had one thing in common: each worked in emergency contexts. We wanted to amplify their voice; for the Board to hear from the people who are at the forefront of the integrated UN-response to what we now call ‘poly-crises’. However, all UN Volunteers (including many thousands who are not working in emergency contexts) are united by an even larger purpose. They are committed to the SDGs and to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in its multi-faceted, and interconnected priorities: from poverty reduction to gender equality, and from climate action to building global partnerships.
While you have just ‘met’ the protagonists, the annual report in front of you presents verified facts and hard evidence about the results achieved by UNV in 2022. We appreciate the initial feedback received from the delegations at our informal consultation on 4 May. We also look forward to any additional questions and the Board’s strategic guidance to UNV today. For purposes of this session, I would like to focus on three critical questions that we at UNV asked ourselves, every day, throughout last year.
Our first question was: With 2022 being the first year of the implementation of our new Strategic Framework and the second year of implementation of the QCPR, are we on the right track? Or, concretely, is UNV going to succeed in making the UN system more people-centered through the promotion of volunteerism?
Looking back at the results achieved in 2022, today our answer is a firm yes. 12,408 volunteers is more than the annual target and more than the UN has ever had. In fact, in 2022 - just in one year - UNV mobilized almost the same number of volunteers for the UN as in 2016 and 2017 (the first two years of the 2030 Agenda) combined. While annual growth in the number of UN Volunteers serving the UN at the grassroots level was 14 per cent, some key UN entities saw growth that was even more impressive: 32 per cent with UNICEF, 26 per cent with WHO, 18 per cent with UNHCR, 16 per cent with UN Women. Together we make sure all UN Volunteers are safe and their well-being is taken as a top priority.
Our second question was: Are we sure that UN Volunteers in 2022 are fully representative of the global diversity of the world that we serve.
Today, our answer is yes, but we shall remain dedicated to this priority. UNV achieved gender parity among UN Volunteers in 2020, and this continued in 2022. On another dimension, if the number of Member States unrepresented among UN Volunteers was 31 in the first year of the previous Strategic Framework (2018), last year, thanks to UNV’s targeted outreach the number of unrepresented nationalities was only 14. Finally, while at the start of the last Strategic Framework there were only 13 UN Volunteers with disabilities (in 7 UN entities), in 2022 the number of these volunteers was 205, proudly serving the UN in 23 entities.
Finally, throughout 2022 we were asking ourselves: Are we remaining fit-for-purpose; are we efficient; will we be able to achieve efficiency gains by the end of the year?
Today, our answer is yes, but too early to celebrate. In 2022 as a systemwide service we maintained partnerships with 55 UN entities who benefited from the high-quality services of UNV. Suffice it to mention that the deployment speed for international volunteers decreased from 100 to 78 days. For national volunteers it reduced by more than half: from 51 to 23 days. This was achieved through the hard work of UNV staff and thanks to our integrated digital platforms and streamlined processes. Yet, instead of celebrating we are focusing on sustaining the momentum. To this end, in 2023 UNV will pursue the integration of our unified volunteering platform with the new enterprise resource planning system of UNDP (Quantum). On this basis, we will need to update and streamline our business processes to identify additional efficiency gains.
Mr Chair, distinguished delegates,
I started the presentation by introducing the key protagonists of the report: UN Volunteers. Allow me to conclude by acknowledging another key group without whom the results presented today would not have been possible to achieve: UNV staff. There are only about 300 of them. But they mobilize thousands of UN Volunteers; maintain partnerships with hundreds of country offices of agencies, funds, and programmes; get things done anywhere in the world; and keep me on my toes. The main credit for the results presented in the report goes to them.
Thank you, Mr Chair. I look forward to the Executive Board’s feedback and guidance and will do my best to answer any questions the delegations might wish to clarify.
UN TV recording of the UNV segment at the UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board second session (to follow)