Aid, Development & Aid, Featured


Providing Practical Support for UN Projects

Grete Faremo (left), Executive Director of the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), with Anthony Lake, Executive Director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Helen Clark - UNDP Administrator. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 30 2016 (IPS) - From electrifying hospitals in Somalia to providing waste management services in Sri Lanka, the UN Office for Project Services works in over 80 countries to provide practical support to help meet the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

IPS spoke with Grete Faremo UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) Executive Director about how the office –  a fully self-financing body within the UN System – is finding practical solutions to help deliver a diverse range of projects.

For example, in Gaza, a UNOPS information system is helping to track down “dual-use” building materials that have helped more than 100,000 people to purchase materials to repair their shelters and homes since 2014, said Faremo.

In Colombia, UNOPS is helping some of the poorest communities to rehabilitate their housing to provide “safe, resilient, hygienic, well ventilated and sufficient living spaces,” added Faremo.

UNOPS procures a very wide and diverse range of goods and services in 2015 including:
• Motor vehicles and their accessories and components: $77,473,687
• Medical equipment and accessories and supplies: $46,583,282
• Pharmaceuticals, including contraceptives and vaccines: $27,037,143
• Law enforcement and security and safety equipment and supplies: $17,972,753
• Technology broadcasting and telecommunications: $12,600,601
• Engineering and research and technology based services: $221,269,078
• Politics and civic affairs services: $65,809,301
• Transportation and storage and mail services: $50,268,260
• Building and facility construction and maintenance services: $45,136,959
• Management and business professionals and administrative services: $31,701,546

“UNOPS identifies eligible families and works with them to ensure the sustainable design and efficient building of the houses.”

“Following the success of the project, the Government of Colombia asked UNOPS to undertake a second related project in 2016, involving 2,500 families and homes spread across 15 municipalities.”

Overall, UNOPS provides support to 26 different UN agencies in 80 countries. UNOPS also works extensively with the World Bank.

“Over the past 10 years, UNOPS collaborated on more than 200 projects funded by the World Bank around the world, ranging from emergency response to tailored technical assistance,” said Faremo.

A new agreement with the World Bank will “reduce the time it takes to negotiate individual projects between UNOPS and Governments for projects funded by the World Bank,” she added.

Every year UNOPS procures billions of dollars worth of supplies and services to support the work of the UN. For example in 2015, UNOPS procured over $27 million dollars worth of pharmaceuticals, including contraceptives and vaccines for UN projects.

One way that UNOPS is working to improve procurement is by increasing supplier diversity and committing to use more in-country based suppliers.

These efforts are responding to UN General Assembly resolutions calling for the UN to increase opportunities for suppliers from developing economies:

“Increasing supplier diversity is a UNOPS-led initiative that ensures our continued commitment to use and development of in-country based suppliers – this is much more than conducting a few business seminars or workshops. This is a fulfilment of our commitment to sustainability and key to our maintaining our leader status at the UN in that domain,” said Faremo.

In 2015 alone, UNOPS worked with 26 different organisations within or related to the UN system, including:
United Nations Global Compact (UNGC)
World Vision
Global Fund
Green Project Management Institute
Association of Certified Fraud Examiners
Peace Nexus
Secretariat of the United Nations
IAIG-Global Fund
Korea International Cooperation Agency
The Petunia Foundation
Inter Press Service (IPS)
IAIG-Norwegian MoFA
IAIG-World Bank
European Commission (EC)
International Telegraph Union (ITU)
World Trade Organization (WTO)

These efforts fit within a far and transparent bidding process aimed at fostering “effective competition among suppliers,” said Faremo.

“We do this to achieve best value for money while keeping the best interests of UNOPS and our partners in mind.”

As a specialised body with a primary focus on procurement UNOPS delivers savings for UN agencies and other international organisations, she added:

“Procuring goods and services through a specialized organisation leads to lower costs by providing economies of scale.”

“It also offers access to technical expertise, shortens time-to-procure cycles by developing agreements with pre-approved suppliers, ensures on-time delivery and lowers risks in procurement and supply chains,” said Faremo.

Overall, Faremo says that UNOPS has grown its delivery by an average of 13 percent annually while also reducing its overhead costs.

“I am proud to say UNOPS has been able to deliver more with less,” said Faremo. “We take great pride in delivering beyond expectations of our partners.”

She provided the example of an Enterprise resource planning (ERP) system (a business process management software), which UNOPS successfully delivered on time and well within budget earlier this year, which she described as “not an easy feat by any public or even private sector standard.”

Faremo also explained how UNOPS can help facilitate larger scale projects. Some of the larger infrastructure projects needed to meet the SDGs will need new sources of financing beyond traditional Official Development Assistance – the official name for aid and concessional loans, explained Faremo.

“Sustainable and resilient infrastructure will require large-scale investments from both the public and private sectors,” she said.

While private investments are needed, particularly in order to achieve Goal 9 – Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation – Faremo noted that this is more about directing private investments towards more sustainable projects.

“We need to be smart about the use of Official Development Assistance (ODA) as a catalyst for further private investments in a sustainable future for all and make sure that any and all such engagements directly contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and focus on the social dimensions of any project.”

UNOPS also works closely with members of the Group of 77, which represents 133 members of the UN General Assembly.

Ambassador Peter Thomson, current President of the UN General Assembly, and former Chair of the G77 described the relationship between UNOPS and G77 as follows in 2014 when he was President of the Executive Board of UNDP,UNFPA and UNOPS:

“In my role with the G-77, I have seen how UNOPS has supported its partners in some of the most challenging environments imaginable, by delivering tangible benefits on the ground. UNOPS gets things done.”

The G77 Newswire is published with the support of the G77 Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF) in partnership with Inter Press Service (IPS).

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