UNOPS

Global unity: can we achieve it in the way we understand sustainability?

​The world has signed up to global sustainability goals. But can it report against them in a coherent way?


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GRETE FAREMO, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS)
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This article was published on Development Today
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Recently, my organization adopted the world's gold-standard for sustainability reporting​ – the Global Reporting Initiative – or GRI. 

Although developed with the support of the United Nations, this is a model designed for the corporate world.

We are the first UN organization who has tried to measure itself against the same international standards as the private sector, in this way.

Why, you may ask. Let me explain.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a rare – and all the more welcome – show of global unity. It is also a huge global undertaking.

I believe that the United Nations, with its unique set of values, expertise and global perspective, has an important role to play in helping developing countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

In today's world, a larger group of actors, including international and local NGOs and the private sector, are now able to do a lot of the work previously reserved for the UN development agencies.

To be of use in the work that lies ahead, the UN cannot rely on its good name alone. We need to prove that we can be of value. We need to measure our operations and performance by internationally recognized standards that reinforce the exceptional quality of our work on the ground.

To accomplish the SDGs, we require efficiency and time-tested processes to effectively mobilize much-needed resources and attract new partnerships.

At UNOPS, we have long believed in submitting ourselves to the tests of international standards.  We don't believe the UN is above such rigour. On the contrary, we should show that our work is on par with the best companies and institutions in the world.

​I firmly believe that by consistently measuring, monitoring and reporting on annual performance, we make better decisions in the long term, delivering increased benefits for those in need.

That consistency needs to be matched across public and private sectors. The UN must reaffirm itself as a results-oriented partner.

To broaden public and private-sector participation in working towards a sustainable future, we must commit to a common model to understand our contributions.

By adopting internally recognized best practices, the UN system can help ensure that its internal processes actively increase the effectiveness of its work on the ground, making development budgets go further, while making its operations attractive to like-minded players on the development stage.

Given the enormity of these challenges and the increasing scale and complexity of natural disasters, it is important that the UN measures its results on the ground in a cohesive way.

We owe to our Member States – and to the people we serve – to prove that we bring to the table the very best in standards, high quality and efficiency, along with a commitment to getting the job done right.​