The adoption of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) was recommended by the High-level Committee on Management to improve the quality, comparability and credibility of financial reporting across the United Nations system. In 2006, the General Assembly, by its resolution 60/283, approved the adoption of IPSAS by the United Nations. IPSAS are independently developed financial reporting standards that are considered best practice for public sector entities.

Twenty-five organizations of the United Nations system are involved in IPSAS implementation and are at different stages of IPSAS compliance. Eleven organizations with implementation target dates ranging from 2008 to 2011 have completed their implementation successfully. Ten organizations with an implementation deadline of 2012 have achieved critical milestones to meet IPSAS compliance at year-end. Three organizations with an adoption date of 2014 have made good progress and are on track with their IPSAS implementation plan. The International Seabed Authority recently joined the United Nations system and the Task Force on Accounting Standards of the High-level Committee on Management, with a target date of 2015 for IPSAS implementation.

Organizations realize multiple benefits in areas of operations and financial management during and after IPSAS implementation. At the same time, there are one-time and recurring costs associated with the changes required for achieving and maintaining IPSAS compliance. The Working Focus Group established by the Task Force on Accounting Standards in early 2012 to analyse IPSAS benefits continued its analysis and expanded its scope to include a review of IPSAS-related costs. During 2012, the Task Force continued to closely monitor, discuss and report on IPSAS implementation and post-implementation issues common to United Nations system organizations. It also continued to monitor the progress of harmonization of financial reporting based on the outcomes of its Working Focus Group and the comparison of elements of the IPSAS-compliant financial statements of 11 United Nations system organizations. A model note on the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund accounting treatment and disclosure was developed to promote harmonized presentation in the financial statements across United Nations system organizations.

At its September 2012 meeting, the High-level Committee on Management extended the term of the system-wide IPSAS project until the end of 2015 and requested that another review be conducted before the end of 2015. The strategic orientation and activities of the project continue to be facilitation and communication, the monitoring of the IPSAS Board activities, coordination of accounting diversity and providing guidance and support, with gradually increasing emphasis on post-implementation issues.