UN Headquarters

13 April 2017

Remarks at 10th Anniversary of the United Nations Ethics Panel

António Guterres

It is a great pleasure to be here and congratulations on your 10th Anniversary. I do believe that you have a very very important role to play - ensuring that the highest ethical standards and the integrity are fully respected in the Organization.
We live in a moment when there is a crisis of confidence in relation to international Organizations and also in relation to Governments in general, and to a large extent, this crisis of confidence comes, [among] many other reasons, from reasons that are linked to your work.
In the case of many institutions in the world, the perception of corruption, for instance; in the case of the UN, we have seen how terribly detrimental to the image of the UN were the cases of sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and abuse, both at the internal level and at the level of the actions of the UN; and a feeling that when people were able to speak up, the concern was not about the problems themselves but the concern was about the discipline in relation to the person that was speaking up – this perception that there was more concern with preserving our reputation by hiding things than really addressing the problems that needed to be addressed.
I tried to give two signals at the beginning of [my] mandate.
One was the quick change in the whistle-blower policy – I understood that there was not a situation of satisfaction in the staff in relation to the policy and I gave instructions to come quickly to a solution on which there would be an agreement between staff and management. Some people say that it is [still] even possible to do better and I am ready to see with you whatever you might feel makes sense – of course, in my area of authority, which is basically the Secretariat.
The second was this very important report we presented to the General Assembly on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse with a number of things that, I believe, are really innovative, especially the centrality on the victims, and an attempt – we know how difficult it is for many reasons, especially because of the responsibility of Member States that are not always willing to fully assume those responsibilities - on the questions of impunity, to address impunity. 
I am deeply convinced that it is in proving that we are really able at all levels in our Organizations to abide by the highest ethical standards that we can recover part of the trust and confidence that the UN itself has lost in many areas of the public opinion. If you look at the present debate about multilateralism in the United States, we understand all these discussions are very important.
So what you do is key: you need to be able to do it with probably a higher level of independence – and I am very much at your disposal to discuss and consider those questions related to the independence of your function in the context of the different Organizations to which you belong.
At the same time, it is clear that in the UN, there is a serious problem of accountability, in general. One of the dimensions of this accountability has to do with your work – there are other dimensions of course.
But it is particularly important when we assume a relevant role in supporting Member States in relation to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals – one of the Goals is related to governance and is related to all other aspects of strengthening institutions, which to a certain extent has also to do with the ethical standards of the different institutions and organizations.
You are very much at the centre of my concerns and the work you do – the direct work with Elia [Elia Yi Armstrong, Chair of the Ethics Panel] who is supposed to give me instructions on these issues – but also the [work] with the whole group is very important.
Also, I think it is essential that there is a uniform approach to these things in the whole of the UN system; especially for instance if you look at Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, it is not a question of peacekeepers, it is a question of the whole of the UN system and of many of our civilian activities in different Organizations – the Secretariat and different Agencies – in which these problems exist.
This is to say that I am very happy to be here and you can count on me to do everything possible to facilitate your work.