Procurement by the “United Nations system,” i.e. the United Nations as such, and the many Funds, Agencies and Programs such as the WHO and UNICEF that are affiliated to it, amounted to USD14.3 billion; USD 3 billion of this expenditure related to Peacekeeping Operations (PKOs). The United Nations has seen its mandate expand considerably in recent years in response to political instability as well as natural and humanitarian disasters throughout the world. This explains the increase of +40% of purchases between 2006 and 2011.
The extent of the PKOs deployed under the UN Security Council’s mandate, led, over the same period, to a substantial increase in their budget and staff which nevertheless tend to stabilize (7.8 billion U.S. dollars and 94,000 personnel respectively for the current year).
UN procurement covers an equal share of goods and services; services are increasingly being outsourced
UN procurement follows transparent procedures; the UN purchases all types of goods and services (with the exception of luxury goods) to support the three main United Nations areas of action: peacekeeping, development and humanitarian and emergency assistance. Nearly 50% of UN procurement orders relate to services, notably for telecommunications services, consulting and transportation services. At the same time, food and pharmaceutical products, vehicles, products and services associated with information and communication technology, etc. are among the most commonly purchased goods.
Four entities account for more than three quarters of purchases
Four major entities account for the majority of purchases. The General Secretariat’s Procurement Division (UNPD) based in New York is the leading UN purchaser, accounting for more than 22% of the total. It is notably responsible for procuring most of the goods and services to supply the PKOs and of course manages the Secretariat’s current purchases: computer equipment, general supplies, transport, catering, etc. The World Food Program (WFP) based in Rome manages more than 18% of purchases. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which have their headquarters in New York, generate 19% and 15% respectively of UN purchases.
Main United Nations buyers / Source: United Nations
France, 7th leading supplier to the United Nations
Due to the dynamism of French companies in these markets France is the 7th leading supplier to the United Nations, behind the United States, India, Switzerland and Russia, with a market share of 3.1% (436.7 million U.S. dollars). Our sales consist primarily of vaccines, pharmaceuticals, vehicles, food and nutrition supplements, water treatment systems, but also financial services and insurance, consulting and transportation. The main suppliers are large enterprises that have worked with the United Nations for a long time. Fortunately, an increasing number of SMEs specializing in niche markets are also benefiting; some of them have been doing so for some time.
Selling to the United Nations: a long-term process
In an effort to improve efficiency, companies wishing to access these UN markets must have a long-term well-prepared market strategy. There is no fast route to working with the United Nations. Each UN structure has its own procurement methods, even though the general rules are for the most part the same. Beyond a certain threshold – which varies according to the agency, but which can be relatively high – procurement can be outsourced and managed by teams on the ground. Companies looking for new business should therefore analyze each agency’s sector of activity in detail in order to identify which ones would be most likely to be interested in the goods or services they are offering and would provide an entry into the system. They should then register online on the UNGM internet portal which serves around 20 agencies. Once a company’s registration has been accepted, it may then be identified as a potential supplier and may receive requests for proposal directly from the United Nations. Lastly, it must develop a commercial strategy in order to build awareness of its products at the same time as regularly reviewing the UNGM website and the website for each Agency, Fund or Program in order to identify open calls for bids that may be of interest.
Global Compact – a strong commitment to the promotion of ethics in the economic sphere
The “Global Compact” initiative was launched in 1999 by Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General, with the aim of encouraging the private sector to participate in promoting ethical development. Companies joining the initiative must subscribe to the 10 general principles based on the conventions on human rights, labor standards, the environment, and the fight against corruption. In addition, they must provide proof each year of their efforts to promote these principles within the framework of their activities.
Participation in the Global Compact: a commercial advantage through working with the United Nations
The United Nations Procurement Division supports this initiative, affirming the principle “buying for a better world” in their annual statistics reports. Companies interested in doing business with the UN should take note of the increasing attachment to these principles by the UN organizations.
In 2011, nearly 18% of purchases made by UN agencies came from enterprises participating in the Global Compact, an increase of 6 percentage points since 2006. The number of providers who joined the UN Global Compact doubled in five years to reach 7 000 members.
For further information, French companies should consult the Global Compact website.
A valuable partner available to assist you in doing business with the United Nations
Since it works closely together with the UN procurement officers and is familiar with the mechanisms and practices of the UN system, the Commercial Department of the Permanent Mission of France in New York is a valuable partner for companies interested in working with the United Nations. It is able to provide advice and support during the various stages of their market strategy and their relationship with the UN buyers.
Seminars to establish contact with the United Nations buyers
The Economic Service, in cooperation with UbiFrance and the
European Union Procurement Forum (EUPF), also organizes informational seminars in France and in the United States on doing business with the United Nations. These seminars provide opportunities to meet the buyers from the various UN Agencies, Funds and Programs. The seminars take place every year and are announced on the Permanent Mission’s website.
Economic and Commercial Adviser
Tel: + 1 (212) 702-4984
Fax: + 1 (212) 319-9633
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