Statement by Ambassador Joseph M. Torsella, U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform, to the Executive Board of UNICEF on the 2010 Annual Report of the Ethics Office

Ambassador Joseph M Torsella
U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
June 22, 2011


Madam President,

I would like to thank the Principal Adviser for Ethics for presenting the 2010 annual report.  The United States strongly supports the ethics office and welcomes its successful and accelerating efforts to contribute to a culture of integrity and accountability at UNICEF and in the wider UN system.  Once again, we would like to express our appreciation for the leadership and personal commitment that Tony Lake has brought to UNICEF, including in this important area.  In this respect, we welcome the commitment Mr. Lake made in his statement to the Executive Board to making UNICEF more transparent in coming years. Let me focus my present remarks on several key elements of UNICEF’s ethics and integrity efforts.

First, the United States strongly supports financial disclosure as a vital tool for avoiding conflicts of interest among staff and welcomes the continued high rate of compliance with this program at UNICEF.  We urge the Ethics Office to keep this matter under continuous review to assure that all individuals who hold positions of public trust are required to file financial disclosure statements.

We were pleased to see the advances made in the financial disclosure program, for example the new online system for registering and submitting forms.  We further note the recruitment of an ethics specialist, which has enabled the Ethics Office to conduct the first ever review of financial disclosure statements.  We are also pleased to hear about smiles on everyone’s face.  Review of financial disclosures is the only way to identify potential conflicts of interest.  The report makes only general observations in this regard, and the United States would like to see future reports offer more detailed reporting on the actual number of cases that required recusal, transfer to another office, divestiture of financial holdings, or other remedial action.  More thorough reporting on these issues would build greater confidence in the program’s capacity to identify and address conflicts of interest among staff. 

Finally, we encourage UNICEF to publicly disclose the financial and outside interests of its senior staff to the greatest extent possible under current UN regulations and to the maximum extent practicable in accordance with established best practices.  We commend the disclosure by Executive Director Lake and his top deputies and recognize the burden upon the Organization and individuals that would be imposed by wider disclosure.  But we firmly believe that a culture of transparency will, in the long run, benefit UNICEF and, more importantly, the children it serves.  We therefore applaud the Executive Director’s call in his opening remarks for bold steps in that direction.

The United States also welcomes UNICEF’s strong commitment to credible whistleblower protections. While welcoming the increased publicity about the program as well as the decline in the number of requests for protection, we note the report’s language about a possible “lack of confidence in the protection policy” and encourage and support the specific efforts that are being undertaken to remedy the situation.  We also welcome the information provided in the report regarding the number of requests for protection received during the past year and look forward to receiving additional details as to how such requests are handled when they are not covered by the UNICEF whistleblower policy.  The United States welcomes the UN Ethics Committee’s review of whistleblower policy to which the report refers and strongly recommends that such a review should emphasize maximum transparency and impartiality in the treatment of complaints of retaliation.

The United States also welcomes the advances made by UNICEF in its program of ethics training and outreach.  Training also is critical to building and reinforcing a culture of ethical conduct, integrity, and accountability.  We enthusiastically support the efforts by the ethics office to emphasize the linkage between staff conduct and UNICEF’s reputation, and urge the office to ensure that senior officials and individuals with fiduciary responsibilities, as well as other staff members, receive periodic training on UNICEF’s policies related to fraud, misconduct, discrimination, harassment, conflict of interest, and whistleblower protection.

Let me conclude by reiterating the appreciation of the United States to the ethics office for working to promote the highest standards of ethical conduct and integrity.  These efforts are critical to building a credible system that encourages staff to come forward with ethics questions, and to report instances of fraud, waste, and abuse.

Thank you, Madam President.


PRN: 2011/126