The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)

UN Global ​Compact Leaders​ Summit 2016​

Speech by Grete Faremo, Under Secretary General and Executive Director of UNOPS, at the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit 2016, New York,  22 June 2016

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I am representing the operational arm of the UN system. I head UNOPS, The UN Office for Project Services.

We are the work horse of the UN.

We deliver project management, procurement and infrastructure services to governments, donors and UN organizations and increasingly, to private investors. We don't deliver policies; we implement projects, more than 1,000 projects.

The Global Compact is timely taking up the Sustainable Development Goals. When UN Member Countries last year adopted these goals, they were signing an order to themselves. The goals give us a GPS roadmap to human progress by 2030.

The goals place an order for schools and education, for health and health systems, for access to sustainable energy and for infrastructure, food supply, water, sanitation along with goals for good governance and justice.

It will require trillions of USD of investment over the coming 15 years. These goals provide tremendous opportunities for the private sector.

At the UN we have for decades been used to looking at official development aid as the prime source of funding human progress.

But, with total development aid rising only marginally from its present level of around 150 billion USD, it is crystal clear that aid will not suffice.

Domestic public funding raised by sound fiscal policies, and a broad and just tax base will play a much larger role than aid.

Private sector investments will play an equally -- if not even more -- important role.

Without the private sector, and without policies that are conducive to private investment, we can all wave good-bye to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals.

But what if we all worked together, governments, the UN and other traditional development partners AND the private sector?

What if we used development aid smartly to help unleash private investments for work that helps reduce poverty, and bring prosperity, of a scope and scale so far unseen on the surface of the planet?

This is particularly important in places where, without such combination of sources, the risk of investing would be considered prohibitive.

UNOPS believes that the UN system – with its unique set of core values, its expertise and its global perspective and convening power – has an important role to play. But this demands that we keep evolving, and that UN understand how private capital works.

UNOPS is strong in project implementation. We have broad local knowledge from working in more than 80 countries with close to 10,000 personnel on our contracts. 

We receive no core funding from donors. UNOPS -- and this is probably unique in the UN family -- is only paid for the goods and services we agree to deliver. We had a turnover of 1.4 billion USD last year and run pretty much like a private business, not-for-profit though, and, of course, fully committed to the UN values and the SDGs.

Many people talk about engaging the private sector. However, at UNOPS, we are actually already moving. We are currently exploring the possibilities to develop and launch two investment vehicles to help catalyze decisions to invest private capital in developing countries.

The first vehicle will contribute seed funding to projects during their development stage;

The second vehicle focuses on co-financing more mature, sustainable infrastructure projects and initiatives that measurably contribute to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Our ambition is to help de-risking projects to the point where they become bankable.

We are initially looking at sectors like waste management, renewable energy, rural communications and social housing.

We would love to engage in further conversation also with the Global Compact and with you all, signatories and supporters.

Thank you

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