United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)
1. What decisions or new strategies has the governing body of your organization taken to guide the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs? Please provide a brief summary below, including the overarching vision of your governing body for the Decade of Action on the SDGs.
The UNOPS self-financed and demand-driven business model is unique in the UN system. Its contributions in support of countries’ achievement of the SDGs will be shaped by partners’ demand and organizational capabilities to respond. UNOPS strategic plan 2018-2021 (DP/OPS/2017/5) outlines the vision of the organization of a world where people can live full lives, supported by appropriate, sustainable and resilient infrastructure and by efficient and transparent use of public resources in procurement and project management.
With its implementation mandate, the organization can make direct and indirect contributions to the achievement of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Three contribution goals express the overall value proposition for UNOPS services:
A. Enable partners to do more with less through efficient management support services, delivered locally or as global shared services.
B. Help people achieve individual, local, national and global objectives, through effective specialized technical expertise grounded in international norms and standards
C. Support countries in expanding the pool and effect of resources available to achieve the 2030 Agenda.
UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board in its decision 2017/26 endorsed UNOPS strategic plan 2018-2021, and:
1. Expressed its appreciation for the UNOPS intent to engage more strategically with Governments and other partners;
2. Urged entities of the United Nations system to recognize the comparative advantages and technical expertise of UNOPS and engage in collaborative strategic partnerships for efficiency and effectiveness, including at the country level; and
3. Encouraged UNOPS in its continued pursuit of organizational excellence and attention to ensuring investment to build organizational capabilities and protect its unique business model for the future.
Further, in its decision 2018/12, the Executive Board took note of the solid implementation platform established on which to initiate the UNOPS Strategic Plan, 2018-2021, to support Member States in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; and in its decision 2019/12, the Executive Board recognized the contributions of UNOPS to the operational results of Governments, the United Nations and other partners, welcomes the progress made on the implementation of the strategic plan, and took note of the progress achieved in initiating social impact investment activities in UNOPS mandated areas.
2. At the secretariat level, what steps has your organization taken (or will it take) in the follow-up to the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs? Please specify actions, including but not limited to the following areas:
2.1 SDG-specific strategies, plans or work programmes;
UNOPS strategic plan 2018-2021 is fully aligned to the 2030 Agenda. It expresses the organization's ambition to become a known and recognized resource with a mandate to expand implementation capacity across peace and security, humanitarian and development efforts. As a demand-driven and self-financed organization, UNOPS partners with governments, the United Nations, and other partners, including foundations, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.
In full recognition of the universality, mutual reinforcement and interdependence of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, UNOPS can make direct and indirect contributions towards achievement of all the goals. UNOPS does not presume a global policy mandate in relation to the goals, but aims to enhance the implementation capacity of partners wherever its expertise and comparative advantage can add value.
Achievement of the goals will require investments in quality infrastructure across numerous sectors, including energy, water, transport, waste, and information and communications technology, as well as public enabling assets for social infrastructure in health, education and housing. The policy review reaffirmed the need to ‘unlock’ blended or pooled financing and risk mitigation for infrastructure. UNOPS has a mandate in infrastructure, and experience in most infrastructure sectors, and can support the prioritization and development of resilient, sustainable national infrastructure through evidence-based approaches.
Infrastructure will play a critical role for the achievement of Agenda 2030. A 2018 study, conducted by the University of Oxford and UNOPS, suggests that quality infrastructure affects 92% of targets across all SDGs (see below attached document). UNOPS aims to harness this potential by empowering government partners to plan, deliver and manage their infrastructure systems with a clear focus on sustainability and resilience. Such efforts to ensure infrastructure is well-planned, implemented and operated in the long term, exemplifies how economic, social and environmental sustainability can be mainstreamed into the United Nations’ support to national governments as key actors of the 2030 Agenda.
As one key example, UNOPS is committed to addressing gender equality and the empowerment of women (SDG 5). Gender-blindness in infrastructure can lead to reinforcing inequality and non-inclusivity for decades. To ensure decision-making, planning and design of infrastructure is
inclusive, UNOPS has stepped up its engagement in conversations, and developed tailored approaches to help partners plan, implement and manage gender-sensitive infrastructure.
Procurement represents significant government expenditure. With its mandate and technical expertise in national public procurement, UNOPS is a resource for building public procurement capacity and transparent, accountable institutions. Establishing public procurement frameworks that enable innovative, sustainable choices and realize even small efficiencies can constitute a major impetus towards achieving the goals. UNOPS can support efforts to realize a procurement dividend by expanding resources through efficiency and innovation.
The introduction of sustainable procurement approaches can have an effect throughout the United Nations system. The quadrennial comprehensive policy review requested entities to explore collaborative procurement at global, regional and country levels. Current institutional arrangements, however, appear too fragmented to realize the potential benefits of sustainability standards and combined purchasing power.
2.2 Aligning the structure of the organization with the SDGs and the transformative features of the 2030 Agenda, including any challenges and lessons learned in doing so;
UNOPS has a demand-driven, self-financed business model. The organization will continue to adjust its presence and geographical scope in line with partners’ need for support and rapid response, particularly in fragile situations.
In view of the need to ensure fit-for-purpose for delivering the 2030 Agenda, UNOPS continues to seek efficiency, simplification and empowerment ultimately serving enhanced management of risk and the ability to serve others. UNOPS in 2019 completed the revision of its internal governance and organizational structure, separating policy and control functions from operations management across the organization. This is in line with the ambitions for governance, risk and compliance established in the strategic plan 2018-2021, as well as with the Secretary-General's vision for the organizational structure of the UN Secretariat. In the same vein, the organization adjusted its leadership structure, both reinforcing its operational core functions, and enhancing the cohesion of its senior leadership team. As part of these efforts it established an implementation practices and standards pillar, which, inter alia, will drive the embedding of sustainable implementation approaches.
Building on a multi-year journey of growing maturity, 2020 saw the formal establishment of the UNOPS Sustainable Infrastructure Impact Investment (S3i) initiative with an initial four year perspective. Under the leadership of a dedicated Chief Executive, the S3i will continue its work on channelling private sector investment towards developing countries and helping meet critical national needs within affordable housing, renewable energy and health infrastructure.
In its decision 2019/12, the Executive Board took note “of the decision of the Secretary-General to establish a Client Board to replace the Policy Advisory Committee” (PAC). The purpose of the Client Board is to support the ambition of UNOPS to engage more strategically with partners by establishing a regular interface for exchange of advice and for deepening focused collaborative strategic partnerships between UNOPS and its partners in the United Nations system and beyond.
2.3 Readjusting or updating results-based budgeting and management, including performance indicators;
The UNOPS strategic plan 2018-2021 was adopted during the Second Regular Session 2017 of the UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board. The UNOPS Biennial Budget Estimates 2018-2019, which were adopted by the Executive Board in the same session, subsequently laid out the performance indicators for the UNOPS results framework, consisting of three mutually reinforcing contribution goals and four management goals, in full support of the 2030 Agenda.
UNOPS three contribution goals summarize its overall value-proposition and ambitions within mandated areas: (a) enabling partners to do more with less through efficient management support services, delivered locally or as global shared services; (b) helping people achieve individual, local, national and global objectives, through effective technical expertise founded in international norms and standards; and (c) supporting countries expand the pool and effect of resources available to achieve the 2030 Agenda.
Supporting the contribution goals, the four management goals express the UNOPS ambition for organizational excellence, quality and principled performance throughout its operations. They frame how it will drive internal reform and innovation through focus on: (a) partner value; (b) people excellence; (c); process excellence and (d) financial stewardship. Associated indicators, baselines, targets and allocated resources ensure that UNOPS is fit for purpose and that management resources support the 2030 Agenda while contributing to the United Nations management reform.
In Annex 1 of its 2020-2021 Budget Estimates (DP/OPS/2019/5), UNOPS further outlines the initial steps for a structured monitoring and reporting framework for assessing and demonstrating the effect of the UNOPS sustainable implementation approaches, as established in its 2018-2021 strategic plan. These approaches cover the three dimensions of environmental, social and economic sustainability. They are embedded in UNOPS implementation activities, particularly where UNOPS acts as a principal, in line with the context and nature of the activities performed, and guided by UNOPS standards management framework which provides tools and guidance on recognized practices.
2.4 Action to enhance support to the principle of "leaving no one behind" and to integrated policy approaches;
In its strategic plan 2018-2021 (DP/OPS/2017/5), UNOPS emphasizes its readiness to support the Secretary-General’s vision of the United Nations as a platform for prevention, addressing particularly the challenges for countries in fragile situations to manage risks and shocks effectively. Concretely, this includes capacity-building for resilience (paragraph 24), integration of DRR-principles in UNOPS infrastructure work (paragraph 26), transfer of proven solutions to fragile contexts (paragraph 28), improved knowledge management (paragraph 77), and continued agility in responding rapidly to need for prevention (paragraph 80).
Furthermore, the focus on the furthest behind is integrated into UNOPS sustainable implementation approaches (ibid., paragraphs 16). In this context, UNOPS places particular emphasis on inclusivity of infrastructure solutions. The annex to the strategic plan provides further analytical details.
Within the United Nations system, UNOPS remains available to manage implementation on behalf of partners as they focus on global normative policy mandates.
2.5 Action to address the interlinkages across SDG goals and targets;
With its implementation mandate UNOPS can make direct and indirect contributions towards achievement of all the goals; and can tailor its implementation activities in line with partner needs, both in terms of what a project aims to deliver, as well as how it aims to deliver. Both aspects provide room for identifying and addressing interlinkages across SDG goals and targets.
Driving resilience and sustainability through a systems approach to quality infrastructure
Quality infrastructure plays a significant role across most SDG goals and targets. In 2019, UNOPS supported a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit on “The critical role of Infrastructure for the Sustainable Development Goals”. The report outlines how the right infrastructure, well-planned, implemented and maintained, can not only support countries in achieving the targets of the SDGs and contribute to national development, but also is key in ensuring sustainability across the environmental, economic and social dimensions.
Already a 2018 study by the Oxford University’s Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium (ITRC), supported by UNOPS, showed that 92 per cent of targets across all SDGs are impacted by quality infrastructure. With its core mandate in infrastructure, UNOPS can support governments in leveraging this cross-target potential of quality infrastructure.
For this purpose, the organization has initially devised two key tools as part of an evidence-based approach to infrastructure (EBI).
The National Infrastructure Systems Model - International (NISMOD-Int) supports governments to make infrastructure planning decisions (projects and policy) based on future demand and current supply. An initial pilot was completed in Palestine, and full assessments carried out in Curaçao and Saint Lucia. in 2019 UNOPS and Oxford expanded the models capability to link attainment of SDG targets to long term infrastructure performance, enhancing the ability of governments to choose investment pathways in attainment of the Goals.
The Capacity Assessment Tool for Infrastructure (CAT-I) focuses on assessing the capacity of governments to effectively plan, deliver and manage infrastructure systems. The tool was developed through pilots completed in collaboration with the governments of Nepal, Serbia, Mato Grosso of Brazil, and further work to support governments has been carried out in Gambia with three municipalities, and Turkana County in Kenya, as well as a further 99 municipalities in Serbia.
Leveraging supply chains and procurement for capacity building, sustainability and more resources
Sustainable public procurement is key to delivering on the 2030 Agenda. As highlighted by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2020 essay on “The future of public spending”, supported by UNOPS, public spending typically represents 15-20 per cent of a country’s GDP. What governments decide to spend on, and how, has considerable consequences for the well-being of their citizens. Efficient, effective and transparent public procurement is an important contribution to all SDGs.
UNOPS supports governments by helping them to address capacity gaps both in the short term - through efficient and transparent transactional support - and the long term, by building capacity of personnel and helping to improve systems and processes. UNOPS also managed UN Web Buy Plus, an online procurement system.
The organization has further streamlined sustainability across its procurement activities and processes, considering all three dimensions of economic, social and environmental sustainability. As a result, in 2019 UNOPS succeeded in sourcing more than half of its USD 1.1 billion of procured goods and services locally in places where it maintains a physical presence. Special consideration is given to women- and youth-owned businesses, and UNOPS is generally aiming to increase the diversity in its supplier base. For this purpose, and to provide capacity building and solicit innovative ideas, the organization in 2016 launched its Possibilities Programme.
Mainstreaming gender equality and the empowerment of women across all implementation activities
In line with the sustainable implementation approaches outlined in its 2018-2021 strategic plan (para 16), UNOPS aims to mainstream considerations to gender equality and the empowerment of women into all its implementation activities. For this purpose, the organization in 2018 developed a Gender Mainstreaming Strategy, and further supplemented it with a set of dedicated internal guidance material, while also ensuring relevant prescriptive and guidance content was integrated with key policies and standard frameworks, for e.g. project management.
3. What normative, analytical, technical assistance or capacity building activities is your organization providing to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs? Please provide a brief account of the activities you have organized or intend to undertake, including but not limited to the following areas:
3.1 Enhancing national implementation including by supporting the mainstreaming of the SDGs in development plans and policies or through national sustainable development plans/strategies;
See 3.3. below
3.2 Mainstreaming the SDGs in sectoral strategies, including specific SDG/target strategies;
See 3.3. below
3.3 Supporting the strengthening of national institutions for more integrated solutions;
UNOPS is mandated to expand implementation capacity across peace and security, humanitarian, and development efforts, including through capacity development activities. Amongst others, this includes capacity building and other support to national institutions of partner governments. Two key areas of activities are highlighted and illustrated below:
Quality infrastructure is key to ensuring the long-term sustainable and inclusive development of countries. In 2018, UNOPS supported the Ministry of Traffic, Transportation and Urban planning of the government of Curaçao in analysing the country’s future infrastructure needs for energy, water, solid waste and wastewater services, providing recommendations for how these needs can be met, and also supporting the prioritization of risk reduction activities. A detailed report is available.
Comprehensive analysis can help decision-makers to take on a systems-view of their country’s infrastructure needs, based on which an informed and integrated response can be planned, implemented and maintained. In 2019, a corresponding exercise was launched in Saint Lucia, with a report forthcoming in 2020. These assessments are undertaken in line with the National Infrastructure Systems Model (NISMOD), which, inter alia, supports development of plans and linking of infrastructure investment decisions to SDG targets.
National public procurement typically represents between 15-30 per cent of GDP, and as such holds a significant potential for addressing at least some of the projected spending gap in view of the needs as framed by the 2030 Agenda (see this 2020 report by the Economist Intelligence Unit with support from UNOPS on “The future of public spending”.
With its mandate in procurement, UNOPS supports national institutions like, in 2019, Guatemala’s Social Security Institute (IGSS) in addressing corruption and ensuring transparency and efficiency in public procurement processes (see news article series for more information). Not only did the government save up to USD 270 million - resources that can be spent elsewhere to address people’s needs - but it also significantly improved the supply of vital medicines and the customer experience. The building of sustainable procurement institutions is particularly linked to SDG target 12.7, but also affects a number of other targets.
3.4 Data and statistical capacity building;
In line with its implementation mandate, UNOPS may support governments in enhancing their national data and statistical capacity. For example, in 2019, UNOPS with funding from the European Union supported the government of the Philippines in establishing a consistent crime and case database for use by various criminal justice institutions.The system facilitates a consistent classification of criminal offences, thus also aligning the Philippines’ criminal statutes to the United Nations International Classification of Crime for Statistical Purposes.
3.5 Harnessing science, technology and innovation for the SDGs;
UNOPS is committed to developing innovative solutions to development issues in order to help governments deliver on the global goals; and further aims to enhance the innovative capacities of the countries it works in at a structural level.
The organization is actively engaged in innovation through its Global Innovation Centres (GICs) in Antigua and Barbuda, as well as Lund, Sweden, and, since early 2020, Kobe, Japan. The GICs bring together innovators and entrepreneurs from developing nations in a nurturing environment. In this context, UNOPS collaborates with the private sector, for example enabling the host government of Antigua and Barbuda to create jobs, welcome expertise and promote research and development in close collaboration with companies such as SONY, Spotify and Minesto. These partners regularly provide valuable inputs based on their core expertise: Spotify made their learning and podcast platforms available; Minesto helped to create a renewable energy aid program to assist small island developing States (SIDS) to move towards renewable energy; and SONY engineers committed to spend a day per month mentoring entrepreneurs and innovators, a commitment that was further expanded through a joint agreement in early 2020. Further private sector partners include IKEA, SailerDrone, and MIT.
Furthermore, UNOPS through its Innovation Aid Program facilitates targeted, innovation-focused partnerships between donor countries and developing nations. Such partnerships may include setting up and supporting domestic innovation centres, and enabling innovation events in recipient countries; bringing on board reputable educational institutions such as MIT and Harvard University for workshops and other learning experience on e.g. entrepreneurship and innovation; and furnishing start-up companies founded and incubated in UNOPS GICs with equity investments.
Through the combined ecosystem of Global Innovation Centres and the Innovation Aid Programme, UNOPS aims to leverage education, investment and guided growth to facilitate innovation that is sustainable over time.
In addition, in 2019 launched the Global Innovation Challenge at Slush, targeting innovation to advance resilient infrastructure in the face of climate change.
3.6 Multi-stakeholder partnerships;
UNOPS is mandated to work with governments, the United Nations system, and the private sector, among others.
In line with its first contribution goal, UNOPS aims to enable partners to do more with less by providing efficient management support services. These services, which are certified against internationally recognized standards, have intrinsic value for its partners regardless of which goals are being pursued. With its demand-driven business model, enabling it to tailor its service offerings to partners’ needs, UNOPS is well-positioned to provide integrated offerings for example as secretariat services to multi-partner thematic initiatives, e.g. in the areas of water and sanitation or health. Likewise, UNOPS continues to provide financial management services for the Myanmar Access to Health Fund (a follow-up from the 3MDG Fund).
In its Global Innovation Centres (GIC) - as of 2019 with two locations, in Antigua and Barbuda, and Sweden - UNOPS brings together a variety of partners for the purpose of identifying innovative solutions for the 2030 Agenda, while also enhancing the innovative capacities of the developing countries it works in on a structural level. The GICs bring together young people from programme countries, the private sector, and the host government in a nurturing environment (see also response to question 3.5).
3.7 Bolstering local action and supporting sub-national plans/strategies and implementation for the SDGs;UNOPS is mandated to work, amongst others, with governments, including at the sub-national level. As with national governments, support may be provided in line with UNOPS mandate and expertise. For example, UNOPS has supported the governments of Turkana in Kenya and Matto Grosso in Brazil in assessing their enabling environment and capacity to effectively plan, deliver and manage infrastructure systems. Such support may help local governments to prioritize resources and activities in view of their development plans and strategies. During 2019, UNOPS helped modernize Mexico City’s transportation network, making it more accessible for the city’s commuters, by helping the government of Mexico City to achieve greater transparency, efficiency and value for money in its public procurement. This led to savings of over $120 million, which the government re-invested in buying more electric trolleybuses and buses – allowing 1.4 million additional people to benefit from more efficient and environmentally-friendly public transport.
3.8 Leveraging interlinkages across SDG goals and targets;
UNOPS aims to enable partners through efficient management support services; help people through effective specialized technical expertise; and support countries in expanding the pool and effect of resources. The organization’s implementation activities are demand-driven and projects-based; and UNOPS aims to embed its sustainable implementation approaches across all of them, based on context and on the nature of the activities performed. These approaches include measures for local and national capacity development, and comprise three mutually reinforcing dimensions of sustainability: economic, social and environmental.
They in effect represent a key vehicle for UNOPS to ensure its implementation activities leverage the linkages across the targets and goals of the SDGs. For example, UNOPS aims to include considerations pertaining to gender equality and the empowerment of women in all its implementation projects, including but not limited to infrastructure projects. Particularly infrastructure benefits from a gender-sensitive and inclusive approach to planning, design, implementation and maintenance. Infrastructure assets typically last for decades, meaning that gender-blindness will negatively impact vulnerable groups of women for a long time.
UNOPS also aims to employ women in labour-based components of its projects, as for example in the Gambia, and reports on the labour days created per year through its activities, disaggregated by gender and age (the 2019 Annual Report is forthcoming and will be available from UNOPS website).
3.9 Supporting policies and strategies to leave no one behind;
UNOPS delivers a significant share of its annual portofolio in fragile, conflict-affected or otherwise vulnerable countries. While many of the organization’s projects support the mitigation of negative effects of vulnerability, both to natural and man-made disasters, it also aims to specifically support governments in the long-term planning, implementation and maintenance of infrastructure that is evidence-based, resilient, and inclusive. Such infrastructure may be aligned to existing national or subnational development strategies, where applicable.
UNOPS aims to contribute to high-level conversations on the topic of resilient infrastructure, in line with its unique mandate and core expertise. This may take the form of thematic publications, such as a 2019 report that highlights the critical role of quality infrastructure for landlocked developing countries, whose particular constraints increase their vulnerability to climate change and economic dependencies. It has also, in 2019, provided UNOPS with the opportunity to advise the G20 working group on quality infrastructure, in close collaboration with the government of Japan and the European Union. This has, amongst others, resulted in the G20 principles for quality infrastructure investments, which includes the integration of social considerations in such investments.
A key aspect of quality infrastructure is inclusiveness, given that infrastructure investments tend to shape development for decades into the future. Gender-blind infrastructure, or infrastructure that does not take into consideration the needs of other vulnerable groups, such as people with a disability, further entrenches exclusion and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities. As such, UNOPS in its infrastructure work aims to actively address and plan for inclusivity, in close collaboration with our partners and other project stakeholders. For example UNOPS in collaboration with UN Women has developed a series of guides on integrating gender into infrastructure development in the Asia-Pacific region. Activities like these aim to inform and guide policy-making and national strategies with regards to cross-sectoral infrastructure investments.
3.10 Supporting the mobilization of adequate and well-directed financing;
The achievement of global goals and local objectives will require significant investment. As framed by its third contribution goal, UNOPS aims to support countries in expanding the pool and effect of resources available to achieve the 2030 Agenda. In line with Executive Board decisions 2016/12, 2017/16 and 2017/26, UNOPS continues to develop its social impact investing initiative and explore opportunities for collaborative partnerships to mobilize alternative funding sources for the 2030 Agenda, particularly in the areas of affordable housing, renewable energy, and water and sanitation.
2019 saw a breakthrough in this regard, transforming the pilot of the Sustainable Impact Investment Initiative into the formally established UNOPS Sustainable Infrastructure Impact Investment (S3i) initiative with headquarters in Helsinki under leadership at the level of Assistant Secretary-General. The S3i model for channelling private sector investment towards meeting critical national needs within affordable housing and renewable energy and was featured prominently in the United Nations Secretary-General’s Financing for Development Strategy.
As of 2020, S3i is committed to support the construction of over 860,000 affordable housing units over the coming decade, across Kenya, Ghana, India and the Caribbean. A 50 megawatt wind farm in Mexico, likewise supported through the S3i, has been providing renewable and affordable energy to around 50,000 people in underserved communities of Nuevo León.
Another way to extend the effect of resources is by realizing efficiencies, for example in relation to national public procurement, which typically represents between 15-30 per cent of GDP. As such it holds a significant potential for addressing at least some of the projected spending gap in view of the needs as framed by the 2030 Agenda (see this 2020 report by the Economist Intelligence Unit with support from UNOPS on “The future of public spending”).
With its mandate in procurement, UNOPS supports national institutions like Guatemala’s Social Security Institute (IGSS) in addressing corruption and ensuring transparency and efficiency in public procurement processes (see news article series for more information). Not only did the government save up to USD 270 million - resources that can be spent elsewhere to address people’s needs - but it also significantly improved the supply of vital medicines and the customer experience.
Finally, UNOPS also supports innovative, context-specific financing solutions, for example in the context of its fund management services for the Livelihods and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT) in Myanmar. In a country with a very small and fragile banking sector, ensuring access to affordable financing for farming equipment is vital to the highly important agricultural sector.
3.11 Reducing disaster risk and building resilience;
UNOPS has integrated the principles of the United Nations Plan of Action on Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience into its infrastructure practices. It supports countries in this regard primarily with its technical expertise in quality infrastructure, aiming to leverage evidence-based approaches to ensure resilience in the face of an uncertain future marked by climate change and the potential for conflict and man-made disasters.
For this purpose, UNOPS has developed two key tools. The National Infrastructure Systems Model (NISMOD) supports governments making infrastructure planning decisions (projects and policy) based on future demand and current supply. The Capacity Assessment Tool for Infrastructure (CAT-I) helps to assess the enabling environment and the capacity of governments to effectively plan, deliver and manage infrastructure systems.
Likewise, UNOPS has streamlined sustainability considerations - social, economic, and environmental - into all its infrastructure implementation activities. Ensuring that the infrastructure built, is resilient and can deliver the desired outcomes for many years to come - irrespective of climate-change related natural disaster and others - is a key aspect in this regard. During 2019, UNOPS with the support of its funding partners implemented a range of project activities in this regard, including for example: constructing 300km of road and a bridge supported by a maintenance and protection system in Central African Republic, funded by the World Bank and expected to serve about 37,000 people; a multi-partner effort in Zimbabwe designed to restore resilient communities and critical infrastructure following the devastating effect of cyclone Idai; and a number of border crossing points between Serbia and Kosovo (as per UNSCR 1244) with roofs designed and built to withstand fierce winds.
In 2019, UNOPS also signed an agreement with the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) to manage the GCA’s funds to mobilize action on climate change adaptation, and bring its own expertise in quality infrastructure to bear in close collaboration with UN Environment and the University of Oxford.
3.12 Supporting international cooperation and enhancing the global partnership;
See responses provided in the above sections.
4. The high-level political forum (HLPF) is the central platform for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. Has your organization participated in or supported the work of the HLPF? If yes, please specify your involvement in the following areas:
4.1 Supporting the intergovernmental body of your organization in contributing to the thematic review of the HLPF;
See 4.3. below
4.2 Contributing to policy/background briefs for the HLPF;
See 4.3. below
4.3 Helping organize SDG-specific events in the preparatory process;
In line with resolution A/RES/67/290, the HLPF shall follow up and review progress in the implementation of all the outcomes of the major UN conferences and summits in the economic, social and environmental fields. UNOPS actively participated in a number of related events. In 2019 the HLPF theme was Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality. The HLPF also reviewed goals 4, 8, 10, 13, 16, and 17.
At its sixty-third session, the Commission on the Status of Women considered “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls” as its priority theme. The agreed conclusions draw strong linkages to Goal 5, Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls and its targets. They also extensively align the situation of women and girls with the Goals under review by the HLPF in 2019. UNOPS contributed to CSW 63 by organizing a High-Level Side Event on Gender and Infrastructure together with Member States and leading development agencies. UNOPS Executive Director also moderated one of the Ministerial Roundtables and spoke at a UN-WOMEN High-Level event on Gender Equality and Empowerment. In addition, UNOPS delivered a statement at the General Discussion of the formal segment.
Furthermore, UNOPS and UN-WOMEN co-developed a report on “Infrastructure for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women”. This report discusses the role of infrastructure development in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, and demonstrates UNOPS focus on planning, delivering, and managing gender-responsive infrastructure to enable sustainable and inclusive development. It will be launched in 2020.
4.4 Organizing side events or speaking at the HLPF;
UNOPS participated in the HLPF between 2016-2019; and represented several initiatives including Cities Alliance, Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN), and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC).
4.5 Supporting the VNR process.
UNOPS does not support the VNR process in a structured manner; though it may upon request of relevant stakeholders provide support in line with its mandate and core areas of expertise.
5. How has your organization cooperated with other UN system organizations to achieve coherence and synergies in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs? In this regard, has your organization launched or intend to launch any joint programmes or projects in collaboration with other UN entities? Are there any results or lessons you would like to highlight that might help improve the design and impact of such efforts? Has your organization participated in any of the following coordination systemwide mechanisms or any other relevant platform - CEB, UNSDG, EC-ESA Plus, regional coordination meetings, UN-Energy, UN-Water, UN-Ocean, IAEG, IATT? Please specify which and indicate any suggestions you may have about improving collaborations within and across these mechanisms/platforms.
In 2019, almost 30 per cent of the UNOPS activities were in direct partnership with entities of the United Nations, i.e. approximately USD 600 million through more than 420 projects delivered across about 120 countries.
UNOPS enables partners’ strategic initiatives to pursue the achievement of Agenda 2030 through its efficient management support services. Amongst others, UNOPS delivered USD 240 million worth of a variety of services on behalf on the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), continued to manage the online procurement platform UN Web Buy Plus, which supported the delivery of USD 82 million words of goods in 2019, up from USD 60 million in 2018 - including a 45 per cent raise in order from UN entities; and managed 7,763 contracts during 2019, for partners such as UNHCR, UN-Habitat, UNEP, UNICEF, WHO, IOM, and the Global Green Growth Institute.
UNOPS collaborated with UN women on several publications and training tools, including ‘I Know Gender in Infrastructure’, as well as a series of guidance for integrating gender considerations in infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region. UNOPS also has developed a tool, ‘sustainABLE’, launched at CSW 62, which allows project planners to search for activities related to women's empowerment and include them in their projects.
In line with General Assembly Resolution 65/176, Executive Board Decisions 2013/23, 2016/12 and 2017/26, as well as observations from the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) in 1998, and again in 2018, a clear lesson learnt from many years of inter-agency cooperation is that a sharper division of labour based on comparative advantages, and aiming to leverage complementarities in mandate, is a useful key principle to help improve the design and impact of joint programmes and projects.
UNOPS participates in the work of a number of coordination mechanisms. Representatives of the organization attend, as appropriate, at principal and expert level, meetings of the main inter-agency coordination mechanism, the Executive Committee of Economic and Social Affairs Plus (ECESA Plus).
In addition to this, UNOPS Executive Director is a full and equal member of the Secretary-General’s Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), as well as the United Nations Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG). In 2019, the Secretary-General nominated the UNOPS Executive Director as a Chair of the High Level Committee on Management (HLCM). UNOPS also attends and participates in UN meetings at expert level and working groups of relevance to its mandate and role.
UNOPS is a member of several interagency working groups, including the Inter-Agency Consultative Group meeting on the Implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action for the LDCs, the Inter-Agency Consultative Group Meeting on the Follow-up and Implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action for LLDCs, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development, and the Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development, the Inter-Agency Consultative Group (IACG) on SIDS. In 2019, UNOPS also became a member of UN Oceans.
UNOPS is currently exploring expanding the collaboration with other entities in support of small island developing States (SIDS) in order to streamline and build on the ongoing ad-hoc cooperation with a number of UN entities (e.g. UNICEF, UN Women, UNCTAD) in developing projects to support SIDS.
6. How has your organization engaged with stakeholder groups, both in supporting implementation at the country, regional and global levels, and within your own organization? If yes, please provide main highlights, including any lessons learned. If your organization has established any multi-stakeholder partnerships to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, please describe them and how their performances are being monitored and reviewed.
As a demand-driven and self-financed United Nations organization, UNOPS partners with governments, the United Nations system and other partners, including intergovernmental institutions, international and regional financing institutions, foundations, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.
UNOPS aims to empower governments to plan, deliver and manage their infrastructure systems with a clear focus on sustainability and resilience. Such efforts to ensure infrastructure is well-planned, implemented and operated in the long term, exemplifies how economic, social and environmental sustainability can be mainstreamed into the United Nations’ support to national governments as key actors of the 2030 Agenda.
The Capacity Assessment Tool for Infrastructure (CAT-I) supports the above planning efforts, and has been successfully piloted in Nepal, Serbia, Mato Grosso in Brazil; full assessments were carried out in Gambia, and Turkana in Kenya; and further assessments have been conducted in Nepal and Serbia. The organization will continue to build on these successful collaborations and offer further support to other government entities in need of its competencies in quality infrastructure.
In conjunction with these efforts, UNOPS through its Sustainable Infrastructure Impact Investments (S3i) initiative continues to work on developing opportunities to support mobilization of new funding for development activities. Infrastructure areas in focus include social housing, for example in four Caribbean countries, Ghana, India, Kenya and Pakistan; and clean energy, for example in Mexico. UNOPS will continue to support governments to gradually bridge existing funding gaps, including by further leveraging partnerships with the private sector.
The organization continued its engagement in collaborations with governments, and academia and research institutions, to encourage start-up, small- and medium-sized enterprises, and youth in innovation for a more sustainable society. Recent examples include the launch of a Global Innovation Centre in Lund, Sweden, in 2019 jointly with Sweden’s innovation agency Vinnova; and the continuation of a science and innovation centre in Antigua and Barbuda, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to develop new ways of addressing climate change. With support from the City of Kobe and the Hyogo Prefecture in Japan, UNOPS will launch a new Global Innovation Centre in Kobe, providing valuable opportunities for public-private sector collaboration to address global challenges. The centre is expected to open around the summer of 2020.
UNOPS supports multi-partner initiatives and the United Nations through efficient management support services. This includes a set of thematically focused and globally active initiatives aiming to address such issues as water and sanitation, communicable and non-communicable diseases, nutrition, and energy.
Within the organization, UNOPS undertakes regular reviews of its strategic plan, which features a comprehensive review of the external environment and consultation with relevant internal and external stakeholders. This also includes feedback solicited through surveys of partners and personnel.
In 2016, UNOPS launched its Possibilities Programme (UP). It comprises two key initiatives, which aim to foster the programme’s objective of increasing UNOPS supplier diversity under special attention to local micro, small, and medium enterprises, women-owned and youth-owned businesses, and businesses by people with disabilities and other special interest groups: The Possibilities Portal, which invites innovative companies to “pitch” their solutions and increase their visibility; and the UP Forums, which organize events in select countries to strengthen national capacity through a series of interactive workshops and networking sessions to meet potential buyers. In 2019, UNOPS organized UP Forums in Argentina and Ghana. Through it, UNOPS engages with the private sector and the supplier community to identify innovative solutions that meet its procurement needs.
7. Has your organization organized any conferences, forums or events designed to facilitate exchange of experience, peer and mutual learning in connection with the SDGs? If yes, please provide a brief summary, below and include lessons learned and gaps identified based on the outcomes of these events. Please also include any events you want to organize in the coming years.
UNOPS seeks to actively promote attention to key issues by collaborating with partners on joint events. For 2019, key events targeted
- gender equality particularly also in relation to infrastructure: as a first in a series of dialogues, UNOPS hosted the 2019 Gender Dialogues, in close collaboration with the embassies of Australia, Ireland and Norway to Denmark, facilitating an exchange of challenges and good practices in support of SDG 5;
- quality infrastructure:
- in November 2019, UNOPS and UN Environment joint hosted a workshop on inclusive infrastructure under the chapeau of the Sustainable Infrastructure Partnership (SIP), with the workshop outcomes directly informing the development of SIP guidance and a report on inclusive infrastructure;
- already in 2017 and 2018, UNOPS jointly hosted an event with the European Commission and the Government of Japan on "Promoting Quality Infrastructure Investment", focussed on highlighting the critical role of quality infrastructure for sustainable development, as well as the considerable funding gap.
- Currently, UNOPS is in discussion with the government of Saudi Arabia that is chairing G-20 about organization of a similar event on the margins of the UN General Assembly in September 2020. The goal of the event would be to keep the issue of Quality Infrastructure high on the governmental agenda.
- public procurement: UNOPS also hosted two supplier capacity building events in Ghana and Argentina as part of its Possibilities Programme (see also response to question 6);
- innovation: UNOPS launched a global innovation challenge, inviting innovators, entrepreneurs, programmers and developers to harness the creative ideas and solutions for climate-resilient infrastructure.
At the 2019 meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), UNOPS together with the governments of Estonia, Ireland and Sri Lanka, and representatives of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), organized a high-level side event posing the question of “How can infrastructure better contribute to the achievement of SDG 5”, The event explored how to ensure that infrastructure development contributes effectively to the advancement of women and the attainment of SDG 5.
In the context of its Executive Board, in September 2019 UNOPS organized an interactive dialogue on quality infrastructure, with participation of an expert from the University of Oxford, H.E. the Deputy Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations, and a representative of the local government engineering department in Bangladesh. A similar event is planned for 2020 when UNOPS expects to highlight the link between infrastructure and gender.
Finally, UNOPS provides efficient management support services to high-level meetings and forums. Recently this included the High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation in Geneva.
8. Is there any other information you would like to share, including annual reports of your organization and any impact assessment or evaluation reports? If yes, please use the space below and attach the document(s). Please also use this space to provide any other information, comments or remarks you deem necessary.
UNOPS started using the GRI framework to report its annual results to the UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board in 2016. The latest report "Impact - Sustainability Report 2018" is available, with the annual report covering UNOPS activities and contributions in 2019 is forthcoming and will be made available on the UNOPS website.
In 2019, UNOPS continued to collaborate with partners for knowledge, building on publications from previous years (see further below). The resulting products are well-aligned to UNOPS mandate and core areas of expertise, and serve to inform and guide stakeholders:
- The importance of infrastructure for landlocked developing countries, highlighting the critical role of infrastructure in helping LLDCs combat some of their specific development challenges and protect their development gains;
- SustainABLE, an online resource for development practitioners, providing real-world and practical actions to ensure the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through sustainable and inclusive projects;
- The critical role of infrastructure for the SDGs, published by the Economist Intelligence Unit and supported by UNOPS;
- Enabling better infrastructure: 12 guiding principles for prioritizing and planning better infrastructure, a report published by the Institution of Civil Engineers, and supported by UNOPS;
- UNOPS contributed to a White Paper on Rebalancing Risk Allocation in Infrastructure: A collective effort to improve collaboration between the public and private sectors
- The 2018 Annual Statistical Report on United Nations Procurement, compiled by UNOPS on behalf of the UN system;
- Hidden Champions, launched at the World Economic Forum in early 2019, which tells the story of UNOPS past, present and future at the occasion of the organization’s 25th anniversary in 2020;
Already in 2018, UNOPS supported or published:
- Infrastructure - Underpinning Sustainable Development, a report produced in collaboration with Oxford’s Infrastructure Transition Research Consortium (ITRC), describes quality infrastructure as a central component of the Sustainable Development Goals; it demonstrates the influence of both networked and non-networked infrastructure on 92 per cent of 169 targets across all SDGs, and highlights the need for conscious planning and disciplined investment decisions with regards to infrastructure.
In early 2020, the Economist Intelligence Unit also published the UNOPS-supported essay on “The future of public spending: Why the way we spend is critical to the Sustainable Development Goals”.
9. In your view, what should strategic directions look like for the UN system in support of the 2030 Agenda and SDGs in the Decade of Action? What key elements should they include and what major challenges should they address?
The Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (A/RES/71/243) and the Secretary General's report on Repositioning the United Nations development system to deliver on the 2030 Agenda: our promise for dignity, prosperity and peace on a healthy planet (A/72/684) as well as the General Assembly resolution on Repositioning the United Nations development system in the context of the quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system (A/RES/72/279) set out the strategic priorities for the UN development system in support of implementing the 2030 Agenda. The principles and elements of reform described therein form a solid basis for setting the UN development system on a path to ensure it can support Member States to deliver on the 2030 Agenda.
UNOPS strongly supports the reform of the United Nations development system, and believes that cooperation and mutual recognition for a division of labour based on respective core mandates and comparative advantages are indispensable elements of the reform. UNOPS also urges a recognition of the realities of funding needs for development, and of the fact that private sources are key to unlocking the required funding.
The ability of the UN development system to partner with public and private actors by leveraging Official Development Aid (ODA) as a catalyst for sustainable development financing is paramount.
To ensure countries receive the support they require, and can benefit from the expertise and support also of non-resident agencies, the UN’s in-country presence must be flexible and agile. As stipulated in paragraph 8 of the resolution “Repositioning of the United Nations development system” (A/RES/72/279), the new resident coordinator system should draw on the expertise and assets of all United Nations development system entities, including non-resident agencies.
The way the UN has been operating traditionally can change and should adjust to evolving development realities. UNOPS has found that permanent physical country presence of all functions can be counterproductive to efficiency. Embracing technology and innovation has allowed UNOPS to be flexible and have scalability when needed and to be fit to respond to the 2030 Agenda. UNOPS is ready to take on its share of responsibility, leveraging its presence and expertise in mandated areas, acting as a catalyst for channeling government and private-sector funding, and deploying its specialized technical expertise to support the 2030 Agenda so that results are achieved in a transparent, accountable manner, for the benefit of people, including through capacity development and promotion of national ownership.