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: Unsplash/heylagostechie

UNICC Participates in Swiss and Italian Career Fairs

UNICC strives to build a dynamic pipeline for its talented workforce, with commitments to gender parity, diversity and inclusiveness. With this goal in mind the organization regularly shares its profile and job opportunities with career fairs in countries where it has offices (Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the United States). UNICC also supports the UN’s Youth 2030, an ambitious system-wide strategy to guide the United Nations and its partners to work meaningfully with and for young people around the world.

With the goal to build visibility and partnerships with academic institutions, UNICC offers internship opportunities for college students in a variety of fields, from all areas of digital business and technology, to enhance their educational experience with professional training and exposure to the organization’s work. Through internships, students can learn from the UNICC community, while UNICC benefits by creating a diverse workforce, expanding the organization’s expertise and reach to the latest theoretical and technical knowledge and staff resources.

Last week, Geneva and Brindisi colleagues met students and graduates interested to learn more about joining the UNICC family. 

ICT Career Days in University of Salento

In Italy, UNICC virtually attended the ICT Career Days organized by the University of Salento on 29 and 30 March. Service Management Assistant Luca Contursi delivered a presentation and together with Service Management Coordinator Angelo De Angelis and HR Assistant Julia Cassista, interviewed students in 15-minute, one-to-one meetings. The team’s goal was to share current and potential internship opportunities in UNICC’s Brindisi, Italy office. To give the students a glimpse of work there, the interviews were conducted in Italian and English. 

While this was the first time UNICC participated in ICT Career Days there, an event focused on students with technical profiles, the partnership between the University of Salento and UNICC has been in place for five years. UNICC has attended previous Career Weeks with a wider scope and hosted several interns from the institution.

Swiss International Career Day

Also on 29 March, UNICC attended for the fifth time the International Career Day (ICD) event organized by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. This fair offers young professionals and students a platform to meet with representatives of international organizations and find out about jobs and career opportunities in the multilateral environment. 

UNICC’s HR and Communications teams worked together to create an attractive virtual booth, a platform with information about the organization, including UNICC’s Working With Us video, available internship and job opportunities and a presentation about UNICC. The UNICC team was ready to answer direct messages from attendees with questions about how to get started in an international organization.

HR Officer Martin Alirol and HR Assistant Isabel Guardeno Exposito hosted two breakout rooms where students could meet the HR team. The third breakout room was hosted by current UNICC interns in different units, including HR’s Gianna Gkramozi and Diego Arista Vinaixa, Laura Reis from Procurement and Finance, and Ha-Young Kwon, interning in Communications. Students also had the opportunity to schedule short one-to-one interviews.

UNICC promotes and facilitates cooperation with academic institutions in many ways. In addition to internships and engaging with students in specific projects such as the recent Global Hackathon: Data for Good, UNICC collaborates with researchers, benefiting from high and deep level of skills in specific areas, co-sponsoring events, and much more.

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.

Common Secure Conference Follow-up Days
Photo: Unsplash

Common Secure Conference Follow-up Days

The successful Common Secure Conference of November 2020 resulted in a number of action points and areas of interest that led to follow-up sessions held virtually 2 and 3 February 2021, with wide participation from Common Secure Threat Intel Network service subscribers as well as some esteemed United Nations guests.

The first day began with a welcome by Tima Soni, Chief, Cyber Security Section, UNICC, a presentation session from UNDP and two roundtable discussions, including Jorge Flores Callejas, Inspector, UN Joint Inspection Unit  and UNODC as guests.

The second day began with UNICC presentations from Monica Price, UNICC Cyber Security Awareness Consultant and Tom Buelens, Information Security Specialist, ending in a round table discussion focused on “responsible vulnerability disclosure,” with very active participation of attendees from different Agencies (and Common Secure subscribers).

Common Secure subscribers attending included ADB, CTBTO, FAO, IDB, IAEA, ICJ-CIJ, IFAD, ILO, ITU, OECD, OHCHR, PAHO, UNCTAD, UNDP, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICC, UNICEF, UNIDO, UN OIM, UNRWA, WFP, WHO, WIPO and WTO, plus the UN Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) and UNODC.

Agenda

Day One

  • Virtual Common Secure 2020 Conference Follow-up – Presenter Tima Soni, Chief, Cyber Security Section, UNICC
  • Practical Cyber Threat Intelligence: How to Apply the Diamond Model to Detect and Counteract Threat Actors in the Cloud – Presenter: Oleksiy Kuzmenko, Deputy CISO, UNDP
  • Possibilities of State Parties’ Support in the Process of Reaction to Cross-border Cyber Incidents Affecting UN and Related Partners Organizations – Roundtable Discussion with Guest of Honor: Jorge Flores Callejas, Inspector, UN Joint Inspection Unit (JIU)
  • Privacy as a Challenge in a Risk Assessments Process relying on OSINT, including SOCMINT, and CSINT – Roundtable Discussion.

Day Two

  • Security Awareness Services from UNICC – Presenter: Monica Price, Cyber Security Awareness Consultant, UNICC
  • Comparative Analysis of Password Managers – Presenter: Tom Buelens, Information Security Specialist, UNICC
  • Responsible Vulnerability Disclosure – Roundtable Discussion.

Common Secure members found the follow-up conference valuable and a testament to a growing and solid network of collaborators to keep the entire UN family safe.