The Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) is the only independent external oversight body of the United Nations system mandated to conduct reviews, evaluations, and inspections at the 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 co-ordination among agencies. The JIU is dedicated to assisting the organisations that have signed the JIU Statute – now totalling 28 participating organisations – 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 to enhance management and administrative efficiency and to promote greater co-ordination among the United Nations 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 communication technology governance. Since 2019, the JIU has approached digital technology from a more strategic perspective.
DIGITAL POLICY ISSUES
The report entitled ‘Managing cloud computing services in the United Nations 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 in an effort to expand UN common knowledge on cloud computing, increase the level of inter-agency co-operation, and strengthen the negotiating capacity of UN organisations.
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 to 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.
In accordance with its programme of work for 2020, the JIU conducted a review on ‘Blockchain applications in the United Nations system’. The recommendations envisaged in the report are intended to signify a bold move from a traditional compliance perspective to a more prospective focus and from a prescriptive standpoint to a more flexible and anticipative approach. The main purpose of the report is to assemble information and recommendations leading to a state of readiness of UN system organisations for making efficient use of the technology. The use of blockchain is viewed in the context of achieving the sustainable development goals, and the report will propose a decision-making matrix – developed in full consideration of the UN context – for the rigorous determination of the use cases for which the blockchain is the best option compared to other alternatives. The report will be issued in early 2021.
The programme of work also includes a review of ‘Cybersecurity policies and practices’, which will assess how UN organisations are addressing cybersecurity threats, and the challenges and risks they face in this space, including risk mitigation measures. The review will identify opportunities for strengthening collaboration and co-ordination among organisations, leveraging existing capacities and opportunities, and identifying best practices.