Photo: FAO

FAO Embraces Robotic Process Automation for Vendor Sanctions Screening

Shared Services Centre Leads with Multiple Automation Use Cases for Shared Services, Financial Accounting, Budgeting, Information Systems and Human Resources

The FAO Shared Services Centre (SSC) is embracing robotic process automation (RPA), freeing up colleagues to focus on value-added work: a prime example of people, process and technology working together.

The SSC has realised the value of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), a technology that provides a software robot (or ‘bot’) to mimic human behavior for manual, repetitive tasks, with the advantage that it can work much faster and more efficiently performing labor-intensive tasks and ultimately eliminate costly human errors.

The SSC finance team has been working on a sanctions screening project with UNICC, whereby the Joint Sanctions Screening Solution optimises screening of FAO’s vendors against sanctions lists of the UN Security Council, the US Treasury, the EU and the World Bank.

Robotic process automation works best with rule-based, regular tasks that require manual inputs. The SSC processes several thousand transactions on a monthly basis (staff entitlements, invoices, payments, payroll, travel expenses, asset disposals etc.) and by way of automating certain elements of these administrative processes, the Centre can generate efficiencies and contribute to better customer experience. Deploying RPA frees up high-value resources to concentrate on more value-added work.

John Kidd, Chief, SSC, FAO
Photo: FAO

The Joint Sanctions Screening Solution speeds up the vetting process and improves efficiency of vendor records management, eliminates human errors in analysing and reviewing data and reduces operational risk.

The bot has already completed a full screening of FAO’s master database of over 260 000 active vendor records. The bot compares FAO’s data against the sanctions lists, marking any potential matches. It screens parties with whom the organization has a commercial relationship, funded partnership, other financial relationship as well as any other cash recipients and beneficiaries.

Zoltan Antal, SSC, FAO

During the implementation phase of this solution, the Joint Sanctions Screening Solution has demonstrated the advantages of inter-Agency collaboration as UNHCR and WFP had shared their insights on RPA technology.

The introduction of the Joint Sanctions Screening Solution is welcome and will contribute to an increased level of transparency. This solution will ensure compliance to the international sanction policies by ensuring FAO vendor master data records don’t contain any sanctioned vendors.

Motohiro Ogita, Chief of Procurement, CSLP, FAO

Given these success stories at the SSC, what will the world of work look like in the future? John Kidd was pleased to express his ideas, “We’re planning to roll out robotics to other administrative areas. The potential is high and the team has started to build a pipeline of suitable processes. I am happy that several colleagues have expressed their interest and are now learning the technology.”

It was very helpful to cooperate with sister agency colleagues before embarking on this journey. We realised that we would need a big clean-up in the beginning requiring time and efforts, that we should adopt a strategy that suits our organization (full database screening vs. daily screening of new records) and that we should set our internal rules about how closely and frequently we monitor. Now well advanced in the world of robotics, we were pleased to share our experience with UNICEF undertaking a similar path.

Dora Ronai (CSFR), SSC Team Lead, FAO

An Innovative, Shared Solution from the UN Digital Solutions Centre
The UN Digital Solutions Centre (UN DSC), operated in partnership by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), supported by the UN International Computing Centre (UNICC), developed the Joint Sanctions Screening solution using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to streamline repetitive, manual and inefficient vendor screening processes.

High standards of integrity and compliance mean zero tolerance for fraud and corruption. The UN minimizes fraud by imposing sanctions on potential vendors, partners and their employees.

Each UN organization maintains its own and ever-changing vendor lists that need to be checked against numerous international sanctions lists. The vetting process is often manual, time-consuming and comes at late stages of procurement, leading to errors and duplication of efforts.

UNICC RPA Hyper-automation Centre of Excellence

RPA and hyperautomation technologies – what UNICC calls ‘RPA+’ – allow us to call on a digital workforce to help us gain immediate operational efficiencies and get closer to business stakeholders and beneficiaries on the ground. Ultimately, RPA+ helps Clients and Partner Organizations build better to deliver on their mandates.

Nagesh Vepa, Head, Hyperautomation Solutions, UNICC

UNICC has been further fine-tuning many of these new technologies for its Clients and Partner Organizations. Its Robotic Process Automation (RPA+) Centre of Excellence has over twenty Clients, 60+ automation solutions automating billions of manual transactions, delivering multiple consulting engagements, solution implementation and end-to-end managed services.

This eventually translates to giving back thousands of valuable hours to business users and expanding business functions and value within their domains (Finance, Compliance, Travel, HR, Procurement, ICT, etc.).

Photo: UNICC/Cadinu

UNICC Commits to Carbon Neutrality, Beginning in 2020

Greening UNICC and the UN Family with Green Technology

UNICC has launched this year its collaboration with UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Greening the Blue, an initiative to engage and support the UN system in the transition towards greater environmental sustainability in the management of Agency facilities and operations.

UNICC Sustainability

In line with the Strategy for Sustainability Management in the United Nations System, 2020-2030, designed to raise the UN system’s ambitions on sustainability and to ensure greater system-wide coherence, UNICC commits to measure and improve its carbon footprint and become carbon neutral as of 2020, via carbon offsets using the voluntary UN Carbon Offset Platform.

The UN System is a leader in integrating environmental and social sustainability considerations across its work in a systematic and coherent way, practicing the principles that it promotes and leaving a positive legacy.

Strategy for Sustainability Management in the UN System, 2020-2030

One of the main focuses of UNICC’s sustainability efforts are its four data centres, all of which are actively monitored and reporting on emissions. Factors such as green procurement practices, the use of energy-efficient products, sourcing sustainable energy, efficient cooling solutions and even balanced server placements in the racks all contribute towards green data centres.

Currently all of UNICC’s centres are classified as Efficient or Very Efficient, with practices that include the use of solar panels covering 25% of daily needs in the Valencia Data Centre, 100% of renewable energy in both the Primary and Secondary Data Centres in Geneva as well as cooling by circulation of water from the Lake Geneva and deployment of environmental sensors and optimization in the North American Data Centre.

Green Technology for the UN Ecosystem

Solutions for greening the UN – and the globe – require a multilateral approach encompassing all fields, including digital business and technology. As the preferred provider of shared services and digital business solutions for over 70 Clients and Partner Organizations in the UN ecosystem, UNICC has stepped up as a technology innovator.

Green ICT does not have to be an oxymoron. We want to leverage UNICC’s technical expertise to collaborate with our UN Partners and make the system better through better adoption of green technologies. 

Sameer Chauhan, Director, UNICC

New and rapidly developing technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, machine learning and robotics hold incredible promise for the advancement of human welfare with huge efficiencies in UN Agency operations. Some examples of UNICC services that promote sustainability are:

  • Facilitating global participation and engagement in multilateral processes through digital diplomacy platforms.
  • Reducing the use of paper by offering an electronic signature system for the UN family, directly impacting SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production and SDG13: Climate Action.
  • Enabling dozens of organizations to continue business operations through online platforms, virtual desktops and collaboration tools, reducing the carbon footprint resulting from highly-curtailed travel and office management.

Internally, UNICC has run several campaigns for both sustainable office space and a sustainable home office, ensuring UNICC staff follow sustainability principles even when working remotely. UNICC has banned plastics from the office space, sorts all garbage for recycling, has instituted the use of reusable water bottles and provides volunteer opportunities for environmental activities.

With less than a decade until the deadline to meet the goals of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, UN Agencies must practice due diligence and ensure alignment with sustainable practices. UNICC can play a strategic role in helping organizations achieve these goals. Through our words and our actions, we aspire to live up to the Sustainable Development Goals and support our Clients and Partner Organizations in doing the same.

Common Secure Conference 2021
Credit: UNICC

UN Cyber Security Practitioners Gather at UNICC’s 2021 Common Secure Conference

Conference Participants Share Insights on Cyber Practices and Provide Feedback on UNICC Common Secure Services

UNICC’s cyber security solutions enable the United Nations family to enhance cyber resilience by strengthening governance, architecture and operational components of Clients’ cyber security programmes.

UNICC hosts an annual Common Secure Conference, bringing UNICC’s Clients and Partner Organizations together to share intelligence on cyber practices and to provide feedback on UNICC Common Secure services.

Nearly 200 participants from 33 organizations gathered for this year’s conference, held virtually between 16 and 24 November 2021.

Thanks to all participants involved in this year’s Common Secure conference, for the opportunity to learn how other teams deal with cyber incidents and for sharing invaluable insights over potential service improvements. We will continue proving the value of the Common Secure family giving back to this great community.

Bojan Simetić, Information Security Specialist, UNICC

Common Secure Conference Agenda

The first week was open to cyber security practitioners from across UN Agencies, which includes many stakeholders and partners beyond the Common Secure membership.

The sessions were a blend of UN and cyber security vendor presentations, including speakers from Adobe, the Cloud Security Alliance, the CyberPeace Institute, Disruptive Consulting, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Spanish National Institute for Cyber Security (INCIBE), Interpol, StrangeBee and the European Union’s Computer Emergency Response Team (EU-CERT).

UNICC Common Secure members had the opportunity to provide input on UNICC’s services during various sessions in the second week, including the ‘The Future of Common Secure’ panel discussion with speakers from IAEA, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UN Women. Partners shared good feedback on current Common Secure services and identified some areas for improvement.

Cyber security experts from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), World Food Programme (WFP) and World Health Organization (WHO) also presented on a number of cyber matters during the second week.

According to a majority of participants, the Common Secure Conference helps them improve their skills and support cyber programme development with presentations relevant to their current work. Additionally, participants appreciate the opportunity to build relations with cyber security peers from other Agencies and beyond.

UNICC Cyber Security Services

In order to best protect its Clients and Partner Organizations, UNICC offers information security services including:

  • Governance and CISO Support
  • Common Secure Threat Intel
  • Security Operations Centre (CSOC), Security Incident and Event Management (CSIEM)
  • Vulnerability Management, Phishing Simulation, Penetration Testing,
  • Incident Response and Forensics
  • Information Security Awareness
  • Infrastructure and Network Support
  • PKI Digital Identity
  • Electronic Signature
  • Secure AuthN (federated authentication services) and more.

UNICC continues to develop its experience and expertise. UNICC was awarded a 2020 (and 2017) CSO50 Award for its Common Secure Information Security services. The UN Joint Inspection Unit reviewed the state of cyber security in the UN and recommended to leverage UNICC’s services.

Photo: UNDP

UNICC Supports UNDP Task Force on Electoral Assistance during Zambia Elections

AI-powered fact-checking tool iVerify, piloted during Zambia elections, shows global promise

Misinformation, disinformation and hate speech are some of the flagship challenges of the modern era. The 2020 US election, and its violent aftermath, is one of the most visible examples of how the viral spread of misinformation can negatively affect the electoral process. But according to a recent Ipsos poll, fake news is a global trend. Of 25,000 people surveyed in 25 countries, four out of five believe they’ve been exposed to fake news.

Among those, 87% believe fake news is made worse by the internet, and 83% believe that fake news has negatively impacted the political discourse in their country. Misinformation and disinformation creates doubt in people’s minds about what to trust, which in volatile periods like elections can lead to violence. Ultimately, what is often referred to as ‘fake news’ undermines public trust and the capacity of citizens to identify reliable sources of information.

A verification solution (called iVerify) to combat misinformation was piloted in Zambia, ahead of the historic August 2021 general elections in which opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema took power from Edgar Lungu, who led the country since 2015.

The iVerify Zambia project aimed to build the credibility of the fact-checkers in the context of Zambia’s information landscape. On several occasions the team’s interventions resulted in content producers removing content, and publishing retraction statements, on the basis of iVerify fact-checking reports.

Photo: UNDP

iVerify was developed by UNDP through the Brussels-based Task Force on Electoral Assistance and the UNDP Chief Digital Office. The Task Force then came to UNICC to help develop and implement the solution they had designed.

iVerify is a fact-checking initiative which combats the spread of false narratives during election periods by combining new technology like AI and machine learning with tried-and-true in-person fact-checking. It was developed in response to “repeated requests over the past three years from UNDP Country Offices and national counterparts on how to deal with misinformation and hate speech in elections,” says Gianpiero Catozzi, UNDP Elections Senior Advisor and Coordinator of the European Commission-UNDP Joint Task Force on Electoral Assistance.

iVerify is a digital solution deployed by UNDP in support to national actors to mitigate disinformation, misinformation and hate speech during elections. The digitalisation of identification of threats to information integrity, fact-checking, and response/issuance of counter-narratives has proven beneficiary to local actors working in this field. This initiative is focusing on capacity building of local actors, iVerify highlights the sovereignty of beneficiaries in the fact-checking process and does not intervene in the content-making.

Credit: EC-UNDP JTF

UNICC’s Role
The Task Force asked UNICC to collaborate on the development and implementation of a solution to process disinformation cases and ultimately post the findings on a publicly-available country portal focused on the Zambia elections held on 12 August 2021. The portal had to be ready in good time for that.

The UNICC team included Application Delivery, Cloud and Data and Analytics team members, who worked to deliver the iVerify tool and platform.

iVerify processes articles and outputs reports with a determination of their veracity. The inputs are either manual, by members of the public or the iVerify team, or automated. People can submit articles for review via text (WhatsApp, SMS, and more) or directly through the iVerify platform. Leveraging CrowdTangle, which allows iVerify to track public content across social media, iVerify also automatically reviews articles in Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit daily, running them through Detoxify, an open-source algorithm which uses machine learning to detect hate speech.

“We selected Detoxify after looking at a lot of machine learning tools,” says Mark Belinsky, Digital Innovation and Scaling Specialist at UNDP’s Chief Digital Office. “A lot of effort was put into limiting algorithmic bias, which is critical in these sensitive situations and too often overlooked when introducing artificial intelligence systems into programming.”

These reports are then sent to the team of in-person fact-checkers, composed of individuals linked to one or several national counterparts that have been capacitated and equipped through the iVerify’s initiative. As part of their fact-checking assignment, the team follows up with the people or institutions mentioned in a story to determine the veracity of the claims made. If those in-person verifiers find hate speech, disinformation, or misinformation, they flag it and publish an article on the iVerify website to let the world know.

iVerify leverages another open-source technology, Check, to help. It uses human-in-the-loop machine learning to match content so that anything already labeled false doesn’t have to be reviewed again, improving efficiency. All of these tools and approaches are open and available to anyone to use. The solution is a set of integrations build around the Meedan Check platform, providing additional features to facilitate the fact-checking process and the dissemination of fact-checked stories to the public.

The publishing process use a WordPress site that receives the reviewed and categorized information for the public user. The solution also integrates many additional plugins that allowed local actors in Zambia to be able to use additional communication channels such as WhatsApp and email. It also offers an integrated dashboard to show indicators by source channels, information tags, processes and time frames.

The first version of the product was delivered using an Agile approach. The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) was released on 20 July, and on 4 August there were 13 fact-checked stories. The Task Force was then able to use the platform for the Zambia 12 August elections. In Zambia, “iVerify contributed to encouraging a stronger connection between all the groups in the election who have a role to play,” Mathilde Vougny says, from the media, civil society, law enforcement, the electoral commission, and more. “We managed to build synergies.”

What’s Next
The UNDP iVerify team has been supporting the November elections in Honduras, and is preparing as a next challenge to deploy in Liberia in 2023.

Their experience in Zambia taught the team to start deployments earlier in electoral processes to give the time to local actors to get used to the iVerify digital tools. Given the unique political climate of each country, the iVerify cannot be a simple duplication and entails significant customisation.

But, according to Mathilde Vougny, the end goal is similar for each new iVerify country. Those goals include “creating an ecosystem where information is exchanged, and building a network of journalists and other actors who benefit from fact-checked information,” she says.

Read the UNDP story here and European Commission story here.

Photo: UN/Dicko

UNICC Supports UNOCT’s New Connect & Learn Platform

UNICC Participates in 1 October UNGA Side Event

UNICC’s Learning Services and Application Delivery teams collaborated with the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) to design, implement and launch its new “Connect & Learn” Learning Management System (LMS) platform, on 1 October 2021 on the margins of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

The “Connect & Learn” platform offers a unique opportunity for UNOCT’s partners and beneficiaries of capacity-building to connect worldwide through a Communities of Practice forum and learn through its eLearning component that offers a wide range of self-paced modules and instructor-led courses and on counter-terrorism.

UNICC’s Learning, Application Delivery and Communications teams demonstrated a high level of proactive and professionalism in delivering UNOCT’s new Connect & Learn platform and its launch event, contributing to our mandate through innovation.

Leila Ezzarqui, Chief, External Partnerships Section (EPS), Special Projects & Innovation Branch, United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism
UNOCT programmes at Connect & Learn. Credit: UNOCT

The development of the Connect & Learn Platform in partnership with UNICC shows how UNOCT continuously seeks to better support international efforts to counter-terrorism and prevent violent extremism through innovative approaches. On the one hand, the platform contributes to support to programmatic activities through an online capacity-building delivery and acts as an accelerator of in person activities.

On the other hand, the online Communities of Practice forum enables Member States, the private sector, regional organizations, civil society, and academia from across the globe to share information, knowledge, good practices, and lessons learned allowing UNOCT to strengthen the scope and depth of its work.

The platform features flagship UNOCT Global programmes such as Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism in Central Asia; Preventing and Responding to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Terrorism; Cyber Security and New Technologies; Gender and Identity Factors; Countering Terrorist Threats against Vulnerable Targets; Border and Security Management; Fusion Cells; Security of Major Sporting Events, and Promotion of Sport and Its Values as a Tool to Prevent Violent Extremism; Countering Terrorist Travel; Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism; and its Program Offices for Counter-Terrorism and Training in Africa and International Hub on Behavioural Insights to Counter-Terrorism.

Connect & Learn online courses. Credit: UNOCT

The launch event demonstrated the importance of adopting ‘whole-of-society’ approaches to countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism with guest speakers from UN Member States, civil society organisations, the private sector and academia.

During the event, UNOCT presented two videos produced by UNICC’s Communications team. The first video was an animation video demonstrating the Connect & Learn platform that UNICC helped to develop, highlighting the eLearning and Communities of Practice features and tools within the platform, along with some of the engaging content. The second one was a short video which showcased the UNOCT programmes available at the LMS platform, for accelerated capacity building and outreach activities.

The UNICC Learning Services and Communications teams were present at the event, to assist and answer any questions related to the platform and services that UNICC provides.

Watch the recorded event on: UN WebTV (https://media.un.org/en/asset/k1p/k1pzcr1a18).

For more information, visit the UNOCT web page on the Connect & Learn platform launch.

JIU Cyber Security Presentation
Photo: UNICC/Chauhan

UN JIU Recommends a Fund for Member States Donations to Improve the UN System’s Cyber Posture with UNICC Shared Services

The UN Joint Inspection Unit Reviews the State of Cyber Security in the United Nations

In today’s digitalised world, cyber security has emerged as a matter of importance for international organisations, and the United Nations is no exception. The potential consequences of a weak cyber security posture go beyond the disruption of ICT infrastructure and systems – rather, it affects the ability of the United Nations to deliver its mandate is at stake.

The United Nations Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), an independent external oversight body that conducts evaluations, inspections and investigations in the UN, has reviewed the use of cyber security practices across the UN, with distinct recommendations for UN Agencies to leverage cyber security services from the United Nations International Computing Centre (UNICC) and for the Centre to establish a fund for donor contributions.

The JIU report, Cybersecurity in the United Nations system organizations (JIU/REP/2021/3), identifies common cyber security challenges and risks faced by the UN system, provides an analysis of responses to these threats and examines current inter-Agency dynamics as well as the potential for shared solutions.

The increased interconnectedness and interdependence of systems and data calls for an approach that recognizes cybersecurity risks as a cross-cutting and collective issue that cannot be addressed in isolation.

Catherine Pollard, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance

The JIU recommends in the report that the Director of UNICC establishes a fund for donor contributions in 2022 to complement the capacity of the Centre to design, develop and offer shared services and solutions to enhance the cyber security posture of the UN system.

In addition to this, the JIU recommends that the UN General Assembly takes note of the recommendation addressed to UNICC’s Director to establish a fund and invites Member States wishing to reinforce the cyber security posture of the system to contribute to it.

Advantages of Engaging UNICC and the Need for a Fund

The JIU report on cyber security in the UN system highlights some of the benefits of engaging UNICC, primarily its strict cost-recovery model that ensures a high degree of transparency in the costing of services, ensures a continuous coordination with Partner Organizations and requires the closest possible alignment between service needs and service offer.

However, the same cost-recovery model and absence of profit-orientation can represent an obstacle, as UNICC’s service offerings are dependent on its Partner Organizations providing seed funding to cover the costs of developing new services to meet their demands. 

In this regard, the main aim of the fund the JIU report is recommending would be to finance shared, cyber security solutions to launch cyber security services that would enhance the cyber security posture of UNICC Partner Organizations. The fund would also allow to lower the cost of some of UNICC’s current services to enable more organizations to benefit from the shared cyber security solutions. 

The recommendations made by the Joint Inspections Unit will enable the UN system to strengthen its cyber security posture collectively and uniformly. 

Tima Soni, Chief, Cyber Security Section, UNICC

Other advantages that distinguish UNICC from commercial providers cited in the report include the progressive decrease in the cost of the services as UNICC’s Partner Organizations benefiting from these services grows, the Centre’s intimate knowledge of the system and needs of individual organizations. The objective is to render the system more secure for all, including UNICC as a member of the UN family, keeping in mind that UNICC is subject to the same administrative rules and structures as its Partner Organizations and its engagement with relevant inter-Agency forums. 

UNICC Shared Services, the Most Promising to Protect the UN Family

UNICC’s cyber security solutions enable its Partner Organizations to enhance cyber resilience by strengthening governance, architecture and operational components of cyber security. One of UNICC’s flagship cyber security services is the Common Secure Threat Intelligence Network, which functions to share timely, relevant and actionable security threats and incident information to enhance the ability of its members to prepare for, respond to, and mitigate risks associated with these threats. UNICC’s Management Committee has already approved that the mechanisms set up through this service be leveraged to share timely threat intelligence information with all UNICC Partner Organizations.

The JIU auditors note that this service, which addresses a long-standing collective need, has been assessed in particularly positive terms by a majority of the Centre’s Clients. According to the report, UNICC’s Common Secure Threat Intelligence Network can be considered the most promising cybersecurity service in terms of its potential to naturally attain full system-wide subscription and realize actual protection gains for the system. 

UNICC is ISO 20000, 27001 and 22301 certified. UNICC received the CSO50 award in 2017 and 2020 for the common cyber security services the Centre has built. UNICC also undergoes the ISAE 3402 audits to provide assurance on the services it provides.

Member States Welcome the JIU Report

The JIU and the United Nations Secretariat presented these findings during a special event on 4 November 2021 at the General Assembly in New York, USA, where the inspectors reiterated their request to UNICC to establish a fund to allow Member States to support the provision of shared solutions and system-wide cyber security services.

The event was attended by Member States delegates, UN Secretariat officials including Bernardo Mariano Joaquim Junior, Chief Information Technology Officer, UN Assistant Secretary-General, Office of Information and Communications Technology, representatives and heads of IT and cyber security in the UN and the Director of UNICC, Sameer Chauhan. Participants agreed on the importance of cooperation and collaboration among UN family organizations on this matter. 

Photo: UNICC/Chauhan

Tima Soni, Chief, Cyber Security Section at UNICC, was invited to participate in the presentation to share her views on the state of cyber security in the UN and answer questions together with UN CITO, Bernardo Mariano Joaquim Junior. 

The presentation at the General Assembly underscored the value of the JIU’s recommendations with the goal to actively share the findings across the UN family.

Photo: UNHCR

UN Partner Portal – New Members, New Growth, New Capabilities

Harmonized, Efficient and Easy Collaboration between Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and their UN Partners

We need to come together and explore every avenue to keep children learning and help them through this difficult time. With such initiatives like the learning hub, we are able to swiftly deploy innovative, scalable solutions for children and youth.

Fazlul Haque, UNICEF Deputy Representative, Egypt

New Members

The UN Partner Portal welcomes the UN Secretariat as the fifth UN Agency join the UN Partner Portal, together with UNFPA, UNICEF, UNHCR and WFP. The UN Secretariat’s DESA, OCHA, OHCHR, UN Habitat, UNEP and UNODC offices and departments will be working with UN Partner Portal (with more offices to come).

The Portal also welcomes the 5327 new CSOs (with 1498 CFEIs, Call for Expression of Interests already in place) joining over the past year, bringing the total to 18,877 CSOs.

UNFPA is ready to migrate its partners into the UNPP and is ready to take its partnerships to a whole new level of integration, optimisation and growth.

Nicole Kim, Programme Specialist, UNFPA

The UN Secretariat, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF and WFP, with operational support from UNICC, have joined forces to deliver the UN Partner Portal, a platform for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to engage with the UN on partnership opportunities. The UN Partner Portal is designed to facilitate a harmonised, efficient and easy collaboration between the UN and its partners.​

Many of the new capabilities at the UN Partner Portal website, including the new website design and News Centre, were delivered by UNICC Application Delivery and Communications teams.

The UN Partner Portal is simplifying and strengthening UN partnership processes. By choosing the right Partners, we can better support projects and programs, achieve better results and be that much closer to reaching our goals, making life better for everyone everywhere.

New Growth

It’s been a busy year at the UN Partner Portal with 4766 projects, 2313 projects completed, with over 1600 COVID projects alone.

Credit: UNICC

UNICEF, UNHCR and WFP are creating and completing projects at record numbers, with UNFPA and the UN Secretariat now starting.

Credit: UNICC

New Capabilities

New Features include needed changes for UNFPA to invite NGO partners, ‘UN Type’ and ‘Government’ type for Agency members with permissions to register and new filters to enable Agency members to perform due diligence on Partners that have completed verification.

New Website Look and Feel

The Portal website has undergone some changes that benefit both CSOs and UN Agencies, with published branding guidelines and a two-phased project to modernize its look and feel, branding updates to main page, About UN Partner Portal page, Resources page and News Centre for success stories. The Partnerships Opportunities area also has new filters to make it easier to find, filter and sort Opportunities.

Visit our new News Centre for recent partnership success stories.

About the UN Partner Portal

Benefits

The development of the UN Partner Portal draws on decades of successful partnerships between the UN and civil society, consultations with networks of NGOs, as well as best practices in partnership management, to support the harmonisation and simplification of business processes. Benefits include:

  • Learning more about UN partnership processes​​
  • Registering and creating online profiles once that can be accessed by multiple UN Agencies
  • Viewing partnership opportunities from multiple UN Agencies​​
  • Submitting concept notes to UN Agencies for funding consideration.

Features​

  • CSO partnership opportunities posted by multiple UN Agencies in a single location
  • CSO Partner profiles to alert UN Agencies of CSO field presence
  • Harmonised CSO Partner declaration accepted by all UN Agencies
  • CSO Partner concept notes (both solicited and unsolicited) reviewed by UN Agencies
  • Reduced timelines for CSO partnership selection and processing
  • CSO partnership data and metrics on partnership practices
  • UN Agencies verification and risk profiles of prospective partners
  • Key Partner profile data extraction for UN Agency analysis.

The Portal is designed to encourage harmonization within the UN and it is expected that more UN Agencies and their associated Partners will join the Portal in the near future.

The Portal also represents the efforts of UNHCR, UNICEF and WFP to implement the 2016 World Humanitarian Summits’ Grand Bargain commitments to reduce duplication and management costs and enhance partnerships with local and national actors.

There’s a reference to the UN Partner Portal in Independent Review of the Grand Bargain at Five Years: “Launched in November 2018, the creation and roll-out of the UN Partner Portal has been impressive” (Page 71,72).

UN Partner Portal teams have a continuous improvement approach, where feedback from UN Agencies and CSO users is important. We ran a survey over January 2021 to gather comments about features, functionalities and use of the platform.

UN Partner Portal Promotional Video

CSOs Overview

UN Agencies Overview

Photo: UNICEF

New Partner Organization: UNICEF Supply Division

UNICC is pleased to announce that the UNICEF Supply Division (UNICEFSD) has been accepted as a UNICC Partner Organization. The UNICEF global supply hub is based in Copenhagen, Denmark, with regional supply hubs in Dubai, Brindisi and Panama.

UNICC’s Business Relationship Manager for UNICEF and UNICEFSD is Emily Bennett.

About UNICEF Supply Division

UNICEF’s supply and logistics headquarters – Supply Division – is located in Copenhagen, which is also home to the largest humanitarian warehouse in the world.

Supplies are essential to fulfil children’s rights. Supporting child survival and development programmes around the world, UNICEF-procured supplies are critical in providing for children’s health, education and protecting them from abuse, exploitation, and neglect.

UNICEF procures and supplies over 5,000 products to address the needs of children. In 2020 the value of the goods and services that UNICEF procured on behalf of countries rose to its highest in the organization’s history: $4.468 billion. Driven in part by the exponential demand for COVID-19 related supply items, this figure represented a nearly 17 per cent increase compared to 2019, and a 27 per cent increase since 2016. As well as supporting UNICEF’s ongoing programmatic activities, the Supply function provides rapid supply response to emergencies.

UNICEF also procures and supplies essential commodities on behalf of governments and other partners in their efforts. These procurement services can also include in-country logistics, capacity building, and project management.

Ensuring the global availability of essential supplies through influencing markets for lifesaving commodities such as vaccines, essential medicines and health products, and implementing a range of supply chain models to ensure these supplies are delivered to children, are two overarching focuses.

UN Travel Cube Plane Delivering Vaccines to Barbados
Photo: PMO Barbados

The Travel Data Cube: an Inter-Agency Project to Drive Savings in UN Travel Costs

UN Agencies Share Aggregated, Clean and Consolidated Air Travel Data to Improve Efficiencies

The United Nations has committed to delivering the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, including affordable clean energy (SDG 7), climate action (SDG 13) and improved life on land (SDG 15). In addition, UN Reform has mandated costs savings and more efficiency in operations across the UN family.

The UN Environment Programme has also called through its Greening the Blue programme for a carbon-neutral UN system measuring its environmental performance, reducing its environmental impacts and offsetting unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the 2017 Review of Air Travel Policies in the United Nations System by the UN Joint Inspection Unit, travel expenses are one of the largest budget components of the United Nations system after staff costs. The study looked at ways of enhancing efficiency and effectiveness of travel management; increasing accountability and transparency among managers who approve travel, taking into account travelers’ productivity, safety and security; promoting and increasing coordination and cooperation among organizations; and identifying good practices and lessons learned in order to promote, where possible, the harmonization of practices across the United Nations system. 

As a result, the UN family has been driving down travel costs over the years through improved systems, more stringent policies, inter-Agency collaboration to collectively renegotiate fares and provide better overall management. Although much has already been done, there are still opportunities for further improvement. 

A group of UN Agencies has recently come together on a voluntary basis through the UN Digital Solutions Centre to build the Travel Data Cube, a consolidated data cube to compare and contrast travel spending, including reviewing average travel cost rates on top routes.

The Travel Cube, built by the firm Areka Consulting with the coordination of the United Nations International Computing Centre (UNICC), contains travel information of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), UN Copenhagen, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO). 

The Travel Cube, utilizing the Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) ‘cube’ technique for analyzing multidimensional data to find insights, includes consolidated data from approximately 70 travel management companies (TMCs), who often have complex and detailed information on fares, class, restrictions, etc. 

In the cube, data is aggregated, cleaned, consolidated and shown in a visual and interactive web-based dashboard that allows users to perform data-driven fares negotiation with airlines, ultimately driving savings. The dashboard includes a mapping tool through which users can see which UN Agencies are covered by which UN airline contracts and the savings they deliver. 

The project team is now analysing the Travel Cube’s output data to understand which innovative, inter-Agency technology solutions could help drive further savings and optimized travel related policies.

About the UN Digital Solutions Centre

The  United Nations Digital Solutions Centre is operated in partnership by the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and is supported by the UN International Computing Centre (UNICC). By leveraging new technologies and UN expertise, the UN Digital Solutions  Centre aims to create a suite of digital solutions that can be shared among UN agencies to transform common business operations and streamline time-consuming transactional tasks. Solutions developed by WFP and UNHCR are made available to the entire UN system.  

Photo: UNRWA

UNRWA and UNICC Partnership Strengthens Common Objectives

UNRWA Consultants Grow in Number from 8 in 2020 to 50 Expert Resources Now

In June 2020, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the United Nations International Computing Centre (UNICC) signed an agreement that aims to enhance opportunities for Palestine refugees in Gaza. With this agreement, UNRWA provided ICT and other skilled support staff to UNICC, allowing UNICC to leverage UNRWA’s cost-efficient resource model and, just as importantly, support UNRWA’s mission to deliver services to over 5 million refugees in the Middle East. With this agreement, UNICC has been able to benefit from the UNRWA expert resources from web development, cloud computing and communications to data science, project management and cyber security, as follows:

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Credit: UNRWA

We are excited to partner with UNRWA since it has given us the opportunity to find very talented young individuals to join various teams across UNICC. These new colleagues are very ably supporting various teams across all of UNICC, and we in return have the privilege of seeing them thrive and grow into their roles. These Gazan colleagues get to work across the UN system through UNICC and we, as an organization, get to do our bit to directly contribute to the UN SDGs.

Sameer Chauhan, Director, UNICC

The Palestinian territories suffer from limited job creation with stubbornly high unemployment rates, hitting particularly youth and women. UNRWA’s partnership with UNICC is providing a chance for Palestine refugee youth as well as women of all ages, and it is contributing to UNRWA efforts to seed, grow and nurture talented resources among the refugee community.

UNRWA, as a UNICC Partner Organization, already subscribes to UNICC’s ICT services. This ICT services support partnership agreement brings closer collaboration between the two organizations, with ICT skills development and delivery being the new bridge for partnership. Now skilled and professional Palestinian ICT personnel at UNRWA can share their skills within the wider UN digital transformation efforts.

I believe that this is a great partnership providing livelihood opportunities in Gaza in the IT domain. This partnership allowed many young Gazans to pursue their career of choice while supporting their families. This is also a unique partnership where it shows how IT organisations evolve from being support organisations to those that directly contribute to Sustainable Development Goals.

Kaan Cetinturk, UNRWA CIO and Director of Information Management and Technology Department

From 1 June 2020 until 30 September 2021, almost a hundred skilled Palestinian professionals have had the opportunity to join UNICC in supporting the UN system. The journey started with eight people being on board and hard at work on interesting projects for UNICC Clients, with over 50 professionals working today with UNICC. 42% are female and 58% are male, also supporting the UN’s gender parity aims.

This allows UNICC to advance its own agenda on bringing more youth and women into the fold. Hani Cordiya, Head of the Information Technology Service Centre at UNRWA headquarters in Gaza, helped to forge this partnership, reporting to UNICC team leaders in Geneva, Switzerland, New York, USA and Brindisi, Italy.

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Credit: UNRWA

Collaborating with UNICC teams gives you the confidence to improve your skills and accomplish your goals. It also gives you a reason to challenge yourself and the obstacles that faced you, especially when you deliver work on time and see the Client satisfaction, with their confidence that their projects are in the right place. I am sure that becoming a member of the UNICC family was a most worthy decision.

Mai Ibaid, UI/UX Frontend Designer, UNICC
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Credit: UNRWA

Through this joint project, young, female and skilled Palestine refugees are able to contribute to the digital transformation of the UN in the digital business domain without the restrictions of geographic borders and strengthening UNICC’s capacity to deliver reliable ICT services driven by best practices.

This partnership has helped the Application Delivery team to make great strides in project start-up timelines, meeting implementation and completion deadlines, with cost-efficient and knowledgeable experts to round out our very busy App Dev team.

Venkat Venkateswaran, Head, Application Development Unit, UNICC

This partnership reflects UNICC’s substantive actions to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, especially in the areas of SDG 1 for no poverty, SDG 5 for gender equality, SDG 8 for decent work and economic growth and SDG 17 for partnerships to achieve the SDGs.