Photo: ADB

Partnerships with IFIs for Sustained Financial Growth

International Financial Institutions Contribute to a Shifting Business Model while Amplifying UNICC’s Digital Transformation Capabilities

UNICC, as a trusted shared service provider for the UN family and its related organizations, has a growing impact on the mission to address humanitarian crises on a global scale. With an increase in influential partnerships – at over 70 Clients and Partner Organizations –  and a 50-year record of effective digital business solutions delivery, UNICC is redefining how it delivers its services in a changing digital international development landscape.

Notably, opportunities lie ahead in UNICC’s growing number of partnerships with a particular group of institutions named International Financial Institutions (IFIs). IFIs are multilateral, regional and national development banks that fund UN-centric operations on an unparalleled scale around the globe. 

The UNICC Business Relationship Management is pleased and proud to see agreements with almost a dozen IFIs: ADBAfDBCEBIDBIFADIMFOECDOPECFUND and World Bank.

Critical to the mission to propel international cooperation and resources towards achieving the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals, IFIs are a key component in the funding, implementation and delivery of UN family development projects and programs. From the IFI’s 2013 open letter to then-UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ approach towards multilateralism to the 2030 SDG Agenda, IFIs and UN entities are expanding their partnerships day by day.

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Credit: IMF/Moore
Funding Relationships from the Source

It’s a welcome shift in UNICC’s business model to work with IFIs, who enter the funding process at early stages of humanitarian programme delivery.

UN Agencies (and through them, UNICC) typically enter the project cycles later, closer to and supporting ‘last-mile’ partnerships with NGOs and civil society organizations. In working with IFIs, UNICC can identify and develop opportunities beyond its traditional partnerships with the IT or business units of UN Agencies.

IFIs are involved in funding projects from the beginning, with a wide and deep perspective on programming, with substantial funds and advanced technology at their fingertips, to make the world a better place. 

Prado Nieto, Chief, Business Relationship Management, UNICC
Asian Development Bank

UNICC’s involvement with IFIs began in 2016 with a partnership with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), a global organization dedicated towards providing funding for development projects, $21.5 billion in 2019, to 49 countries in Asia and the Pacific. ADB initially approached UNICC looking for a provider of Disaster Recovery (DR) services, with UNICC providing a resilient backup infrastructure and environmental and security management in UNICC’s Geneva Data Centre. 

Since the original Service Delivery Agreement (SDA) in 2016, UNICC has worked with ADB to provide a number of critical services, granting the bank the title of UNICC’s first IFI ‘Privileged User’ for its influence as one of our top ten Clients.

Expanding the IFI Horizon

Following UNICC’s agreements with ADB, UNICC grew in visibility as I participated in 2019 meeting for IFI CIOs (Chief Information Officer) in Cape Town, South Africa. In the meeting, where more than 12 IFIs were represented by CIOs, we advocated for the potential for collaboration between IFIs and UN Agencies through UNICC’s support. 

We had a very good time, commiserating a little but learning and inspiring each other. I am sure you will all agree that we ought to continue strengthening our collaboration. We all share a similar mission and genuine partnership is what the world needs more. 

Denis Robitaille, the Vice President and Chief Information Officer of the World Bank’s Information and Technology Solution, IFI CIOs Club, Cape Town, September 2019

Even in the two years since the meeting in Cape Town, the progress is palpable. Services that are provided to IFIs include but are not limited to:

  • Disaster Recovery/Resilience
  • AWS Cloud Hosting
  • Data Lake
  • ERP
  • Robotic Process Automation
  • Business Intelligence.

The impact of UNICC’s services for IFIs go beyond the signing of contracts. Since IFIs not only require but also can afford the latest innovative technologies, these partnerships reveal several key areas of growth for the organization. 

Firstly, IFIs have the financial capabilities to outsource solutions from providers in the private sector, leaving UNICC to constantly sharpen and grow in all aspects of service delivery to keep up with competitors. Areas such as cyber security, Big Data, artificial intelligence are several of many solutions required by IFIs that will keep UNICC up to date with cutting-edge technologies. 

Additionally, in providing services and maintaining relationships with IFIs, UNICC will see a vitalization in the internal health of the organization. 

IFIs can help UNICC envision a future of growth and change, whether it’s volume discounts for shared services or an increase in onboarding skilled experts to support new challenges and projects. The partnership with IFIs carries the potential to improve UNICC’s financial health and enhance its digital transformation capabilities to support the missions of its Clients and Partner Organizations.

Photo: UNHCR

UN Agencies Transition to Cloud-based Telephony

​UNICC Supports Clients with State-of-the-Art Voice Solutions

Many United Nations Agencies are transitioning from conventional enterprise telephony systems to cloud-based solutions that allow users to make mobile, landline and international phone calls through Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) connections, with options for modern desk phones and computer ‘soft’ phones, unifying a whole set of communications collaboration tools across the enterprise.

UNICC has been acting as a key enabler for many Partner Organizations who wanted to adopt and modernize their enterprise voice solutions during the challenging times brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gabriel Galati, Head, Digital Workplace Services Unit, UNICC

UNICC has been involved in multiple migrations, implementing customized solutions that take into account each organization’s legacy telephony equipment and infrastructure, current phone carrier, location and local calling plans, organizational cloud strategy, functionality and interoperability requirements as well as current and evolving business needs.

UNICC is currently supporting up to ten UN entities and related organizations in their transitions to cloud telephony, including ADB, ICJ, IFAD, ITC, ITU, OPCW, UN Women, WTO and WFP HQ, with other UNICC Clients in the pipeline.

Our mission is to provide our Clients with the unique experience of making professional phone calls from anywhere at any time. And to do it in a “UN style,” achieving more with less.

Ricardo Pardal, Project Lead, Unified Communications, UNICC

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Microsoft voice system common option for the UN. Credit: Microsoft


The most common options (which can be mixed and matched) include an all-in-the-cloud solution, bringing the organizational phone carrier to the M365 phone system in the cloud or on premises) with different Session Border Controller options to connect to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN Carrier/Telco):

  • Phone system with Calling Plan (all-in-the-cloud solution)
  • Phone system with organizational phone carrier with Direct Routing
  • Phone system with organizational phone carrier via Skype for Business (/Teams) server
  • Enterprise Voice in Skype for Business (/Teams) server with own carrier.

Most UN Agencies chose the Microsoft Teams Direct Routing option through which they follow a gradual transition, integrating first the organization’s telephony equipment and/or third-party provider to the Microsoft Teams telephony solution in the cloud, moving through different stages of coexistence before eventually disposing the old system and embracing a comprehensive, cloud-based telephony implementation.

One of the key benefits of cloud telephony is that it allows to establish the least-cost route on calls. With voice gateways anywhere in the world, Clients can pay local instead of international fares while calling anywhere, anytime. UNICC has gateways in Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the US, but if the Client requires a new gateway, it can be established in the Microsoft Azure Cloud in just two days.

Moreover, with cloud telephony an organization can unify all its communications and collaboration tools, minimizing the number of applications their users need for calling, video meetings, instant messaging, Business Relationship Management and business processes.

Microsoft Teams is a solid solution, with an engine that has been developed and continually improved for over a decade and a modern front-end. But the UNICC Unified Communications team is also equipped to serve Clients who are interested in alternative solutions, for example Clients who prefer or require retain the functionality provided by on premise systems and a blend of traditional (landline) PSTN and VoIP (voice over IP) telephony options.

For instance, UNICC manages legacy Skype for Business and Cisco telephony systems, both on premise and in the cloud, for several Clients. Additionally, the team has in-house experts on Zoom, Polycom and more telephony and voice vendors, to fulfill each organizations’ business requirements, with interoperability between systems always available.

Microsoft Teams, with its voice solutions and other integrative apps is a versatile and powerful platform that can boost productivity and collaboration as no other application before it.

Mihai Petrescu, Operations Lead, Unified Communications, UNICC

UNICC also offers Calling Plan options with no legacy hardware nor provider. Through Microsoft Teams, the Client can call to phone numbers around the world without requiring any deployment or maintenance of on premise equipment. This is a streamlined and cost-efficient solution for Clients that want to skip the coexistence phase and move directly to fully cloud-based telephony. Cloud-based Calling Plans, however, are not available in all countries, making this a challenge for most UN Agencies.

The continuous commitment of the UNICC Unified Communications group, their technical expertise and their Client intimacy has allowed smooth enterprise voice integrations overcoming many challenges brought by the diversity and legacy of Client’s Unified Communications systems.

Gabriel Galati, Head, Digital Workplace Services Unit, UNICC

UNICC’s knowledge of the United Nations ecosystem means that its Unified Communications team can help each organization to obtain the option with best return on investment, whether that means reusing older networks and infrastructure, leveraging Skype for Business or Microsoft Teams licenses already purchased or adopting a brand new Calling Plan scenario.

UNICC Trusted Partnerships Rountable Screenshot of Panellists

UNICC Partners Discuss Trusted Partnerships for Digital Public Solutions

UNICC is commemorating its 50th anniversary and as part of the celebration the organization brought together preeminent partners to discuss the topic of Trusted Partnerships: Catalysts for Creative Digital Public Solutions in a public roundtable. 

In this 23 March event, prominent thought leaders from the UN family and beyond discussed the power of partnerships, guided by questions from moderator Prado Nieto Barrantes, Chief, Business Relationship Management, UNICC. 

The panellists of the Trusted Partnerships roundtable were:

  • Enrica Porcari, CIO and Director of Technology, WFP and Chair of the UNICC Management Committee
  • Hans Baritt, Controller and Director, Division of Financial and Administrative Management, UNHCR
  • Dianne Dain, WHO Innovation, Digital Health and Innovation, WHO
  • Jean-Louis Ecochard, Chief Innovation Officer, NetHope
  • Sameer Chauhan, Director, UNICC

The participants defined what successful partnerships look like. Enrica Porcari noted some of the key ingredients in the secret sauce of a strong partnership: hard work and patience to build trust, a shared ethos and continuous support. “We look for partners that are there every step of the way, working side by side with WFP, and who are not there just for the spotlight,” she said.

The discussion moved into the evolution of technology partnerships over the last years and the driving factors of this shift. One of the great values of trusted partnerships is that it allows for more resource efficiency. To that end, panellists noted that UN Agencies should collaborate and share solutions, instead of working independently.

Partnership is the art of understanding shared value. In WFP we have a number of partnerships, not many, but the ones that we have are deep, are sustained, are long-term. And definitely UNICC is one of them. 

Enrica Porcari, CIO and Director of Technology, WFP and Chair of the UNICC Management Committee

Participants shared their views on how partnerships encourage and drive more creative solutioning, with specific examples. They also discussed some of the most critical changes that organisations should make now to have robust, resilient and sustainable partnerships to face the future effectively. 

Dianne Dain reminded the audience of the UN Secretary-General’s description of the current global situation: “The world is facing the greatest crisis since the United Nations was created.” Global challenges including the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and many more can’t be solved by any single individual or organisation, but have to be tackled from different angles through partnerships.

Technology and partnerships play a large part in making the dollars go further. We have to partner across Agencies, leveraging and building on institutions like UNICC.

Hans Baritt, Controller and Director, Division of Financial and Administrative Management, UNHCR

Jean-Louis Ecochard offered his view on the value of trusted partnerships and going from the I to the We: “Diversity in partnerships brings creativity and innovation. We need this creativity to design digital solutions to conditions that don’t fit the current technological stack.” 

After half a century, UNICC continues providing shared services to UN entities and related organizations around the world, connecting groups who can come together to collaborate and make impactful digital solutions. 

UNICC depends on its partnerships with Clients and strategic partners, including public and private sector, NGOs, academic institutions and other entities, and appreciates organizations working together for social good, often counting on UNICC, to make the world a better place.

Photo: ITU/Farrell

FICSA and UNICC Team Up for a Brighter Future of Work for UN Staff

Sharing expertise in the digital transformation journey

The Federation of International Civil Servants’ Associations (FICSA), representing the views of over 40,000 International Civil Servants through their member staff associations/unions, recently signed an agreement with the United Nations International Computing Centre (UNICC).  Sharing expertise and experience in digital transformation journeys, UNICC has been identified as a crucial partner to address FICSA’s work on the digitalisation process, the digital divide and its mandate to ensure staff engagement.

To support building a sustainable framework for the future technology roadmap of the UN system means not only to put staff members at the center of the process, but to make sure that experts are right at the center with us.

Tanya Quinn-Maguire, FICSA President, at the Virtual 74th Annual FICSA Council Plenary where the recommendation for this partnership was adopted.

This exciting partnership allows for more extensive and better-informed staff consultation processes.  The short-term aims and goals of the partnership include:

  • Demystifying issues surrounding enabling technologies among staff members through high-quality education and training as well as expert-led support for staff representatives, so as to empower them to contribute to ongoing discussions on technology and organizational restructuring on behalf of their constituency;
  • Supporting staff members in employing digital tools in sustainable, healthy and proficient ways, in line with the UN Mental Health and Well-being Strategy;
  • Fostering a science-based and human-centered approach to the digital transition within the UN, with FICSA serving as a sounding board for UNICC projects and initiatives;
  • Identifying feasible solutions to address current inequalities in gaining access to and utilising enabling technology, including for those that are disadvantaged due to limited access;
  • Representing FICSA members at high level meetings with well-prepared FICSA positions.

Digitalisation has already begun, and FICSA members need to understand where these developments are heading. FICSA’s long-standing commitment to fact-based staff representation informed the Council’s decision to team up with professionals in digital business and technology at UNICC.

About FICSA

The Federation of International Civil Servants Association (FICSA) was established in 1952. Today, FICSA is a federation of staff associations and unions, which represents close to 40,000 members. FICSA fosters the development of the international civil service in accordance with the principles set forth in the UN Charter and the constitutions of the specialized agencies.

For more information, please reach out to business@unicc.org or ficsa@un.org. For media interviews, contact ficsa@un.org

Photo: AfDB

New User Organizations: AfDB and IDB

​UNICC is pleased to announce that the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) are new User Organizations. UNICC’s Business Relationship Manager for AfDB is Prado Nieto; for IDB it is Elena Sierra.

The African Development Bank (AfDB), with headquarters in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, works to spur sustainable economic development and social progress in its regional member countries (RMCs), contributing to poverty reduction. The Bank Group achieves this objective by:

  • Mobilizing and allocating resources for investment in regional member countries (RMCs)
  • Providing policy advice and technical assistance to support development efforts.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), located in Washington, D.C., works to improve lives in Latin America and the Caribbean. Through financial and technical support for countries working to reduce poverty and inequality, the IDB helps improve health and education, and advance infrastructure. Its aim is to achieve development in a sustainable, climate-friendly way.

The IDB prioritizes social inclusion and equality; productivity and innovation; and regional economic integration in its development work across Latin America and the Caribbean. In doing so, it addresses the cross-cutting issues of gender equality and diversity; climate change and environmental sustainability; and institutional capacity and the rule of law.