Change makers: Enabling accountability, continuous learning and improvement

Accountability Framework

A key pillar in the Secretary-General’s vision for a new management paradigm is a revised framework for delegation of authority. This framework emphasizes transparency, accountability and decision-making that is closer to the point of mandate and programme delivery. Delegation of authority will be guided by a simplified policy framework, with the Staff Regulations and Rules and the Financial Regulations and Rules as two of its most critical components. The scope of delegated authorities includes budget and finance, procurement, property management and human resources.

To monitor the exercise of delegated authority, an accountability framework has also been established. Built on the principles of results-based management, it will enable heads of entity to demonstrate that they are exercising their delegated authority in a transparent, responsible and accountable manner. The framework will also allow the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance (DMSPC) to monitor the system globally and to ensure consistent measurement across the Secretariat. Together with the Department of Operational Support (DOS), DMSPC will support managers in the exercise of their authority. To foster continuous improvement and to build capacity, the Business Transformation and Accountability (BTA) Division will take the lead in DMSPC to enable delegation of authority and the accountability framework.

Infographic: Cycles of Delegation of Authority

As illustrated in the diagram, the four continuous phases in the cycle of delegation of authority are: plan, do, check, and act.

  • Plan: BTA is available to help managers plan how to accept and distribute authorities across their entities and programmes, while ensuring managers are aware of their responsibilities and tools at their disposal;
  • Do: To support their exercise of delegated authority, managers can draw upon advice and guidance from the Office of Programme Planning, Finance and Budget on budget and finance matters, the Office of Support Operations on human resources matters and the Office of Supply Chain Management on supply chain management matters, including procurement;
  • Check: BTA will monitor the exercise of delegated authority and is available to provide guidance on evaluation of performance, assist with problem-solving and coordinate responses to the oversight bodies; and
  • Act: Where issues are identified, BTA will take the lead in working with heads of entity and managers to ensure necessary corrective measures are taken, and—if necessary—recommend to the Secretary-General the reassignment or suspension of delegations.

The monitoring by BTA will rely on data and analytics that will inform the guidance provided in a constant feedback loop to foster continuous learning and improvement and to offer a more holistic view of performance. The business data for each entity will be also made available to those entities, including through dashboards, to support internal management and decision-making. BTA will help enable the culture of transparency and accountability essential for the more effective and efficient United Nations envisioned by the Secretary-General.


The Secretary-General has signed the first Statement on Internal Control for all operations of the Secretariat for 2020, marking an important milestone towards achieving greater accountability for results.  The Statement on Internal Control is a public accountability document that provides reasonable assurance that the Secretariat operated under an effective system of internal control during 2020.

The UN MEDEVAC Mechanism serves as an example of a successful One UN partnership between numerous entities to design, resource, and implement a system-wide medical evacuation framework in the face of the unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. Complementing First Line of Defense (FLOD) activities, COVID-19 MEDEVAC is a last resort, which provides life-saving support for severely ill COVID-19 patients who require a level of care not available at their location. This ensures that UN personnel, partners, and their dependents can continue to stay and deliver.

The global human resources strategy of 2019-21 set a goal to become “simplified, decentralized, flexible, and field-oriented” in order to drive strategic human resources management and empower managers. 

Then COVID-19 exposed an overreliance on physical paperwork and signatures in our human resource management. Adopting electronic signatures and migrating paper-based forms into digital systems will help the United Nations strengthen its ability to manage human resources in an ever-changing world.