UNOPS and sustainability

On its website UNOPS says that it provides five services. Three of these include the word ‘sustainable’: sustainable infrastructure; sustainable procurement; and sustainable project management. Their use of the term seems to fit with OED’s third definition of ‘sustainable’ given in an earlier posting, ie:
a. Capable of being maintained or continued at a certain rate or level.
b. Designating forms of human activity (esp. of an economic nature) in which environmental degradation is minimized, esp. by avoiding the long-term depletion of natural resources; of or relating to activity of this type. Also: designating a natural resource which is exploited in such a way as to avoid its long-term depletion.

The description of sustainable project management contains the idea of “measuring sustainable success“. They describe this by saying that (my emphasis) “… local authorities and communities are engaged and all potential outcomes and impacts are considered, to make a real, sustainable and positive difference. This is why UNOPS measures project success beyond time, cost and quality. We focus on incorporating lessons learned from tens of thousands of projects to find the best way to contribute to the development goals of our partners. …. By considering the economic and environmental impacts of a project, and by promoting local ownership and building local capacity, we prioritize project sustainability.

The description of UNOPS sustainable infrastructure service leads with a section on ‘promoting sustainability‘. This explains that (my emphasis) “engaging with UNOPS makes for a partnership built on shared sustainable development goals, which promotes community engagement, environmentally-friendly construction, the capacity development of local industries and gender equality.

There is a policy for sustainable infrastructure whose purpose is “to ensure that the development and living conditions of all segments of society are not put at risk, but enhanced by the design and implementation of infrastructure projects. In particular, it enables the identification of opportunities for sustainable infrastructure activities, while simultaneously facilitating the detection of socially or environmentally detrimental impacts associated with the design, development and implementation of infrastructure projects and the creation of methods to eliminate or mitigate these impacts.” The policy sets standards for sustainable development to be incorporated into UNOPS infrastructure activities. The standards cover four areas to be considered by projects:

  • human rights;
  • labour and decent work;
  • the environment;
  • transparency, accountability and anti-corruption

For its third sustainable service, UNOPS seeks to advance “sustainable practices in procurement”. These involve:

  • “building long-term environmental, economic and social considerations into solicitation and contract documents;
  • informing our partners of the environmental impacts of various products;
  • applying different evaluation models to allow consideration of life cycle cost and total cost of ownership.”


“sustainable, adj.”. OED Online. December 2012. Oxford University Press. 7 March 2013 <>.

Arrogance Reduction Strategies …?

Judging from the abstract, Hulme (2010) is suggesting that country programmes – or certainly those involving the IMF and World Bank – need “arrogance reduction stratagies to transform their control-oriented cultures“. Is this a more widespread problem that UNDP needs to deal with?

HULME, D. 2010. Lessons from the Making of the MDGs: Human Development Meets Results‐based Management in an Unfair World. IDS bulletin, 41, 15-25.

Management per result: an approach to international development project design

Ika and Lytvynov (2011) argue that “results-based management (RBM) has proved to be a valuable tool for international development project management; however, there are some inconsistencies that limit the use of RBM at the design phase to manage for results. This article presents a “management-per-result” approach to reinforcing the project design function of RBM and illustrates its application to a real-life project. Shying away from a technocratic approach, it emphasizes a “quick-and-dirty” approach and proposes an updated version of the logical framework to include success criteria and factors and very rough estimates for both project costs and benefits for targeted project results for different types of projects (infrastructure development, “process” type of project, and so forth).

IKA, L. A. & LYTVYNOV, V. 2011. The “management‐per‐result” approach to international development project design. Project Management Journal.

Some observations about One UN

Some observations from Eddie Borup ….

The One UN was initially a trial – Vietnam was one of the first.

However it changed from a “single UN Structure” to be a Single UN Budget and all UN agencies in one Building – so the impact is not as big as it could have been.  A single building is very sensible and there are some savings i.e. security, admin, building rent/services. Having a single budget is more exciting as it means that in a Results Based Budget it becomes clear how many agencies are interfering with “Poverty” or “Aids” so it gives the Country a better chance to have a focused approach and clear lines of responsibility.

Here in the Maldives I have tried to get the UN Family to agree to a “One Project Management Capacity Development Plan” as a way of building on the concept – many different agencies are all doing PM development…not always teaching the same principles!

I think the following link is the paper that kicked it off:
Search on ‘One UN’ as well as ‘Delivering as One’.”

History of UN development cooperation – more why less how?

In The UN and Development: From Aid to Cooperation Odén (2010) reviews the work of that name by Olav Stokke (2009). Odén opines that “Stokke has successfully woven a comprehensive, detailed and thought-provoking UN aid and development tapestry. …. it will certainly be used as a central reference work for scholars interested in the history of UN development cooperation, including its underlying ideas and driving forces.” He also says, however, that he “would have preferred more of ‘why’ and less of ‘how’“. What do other authors have to say about the ‘why’?

ODÉN, B. The UN and Development: From Aid to Cooperation. Forum for Development Studies, Vol. 37, No. 2, June 2010. 269-279.
STOKKE, O. 2009. The un and development: from aid to cooperation, Indiana Univ Pr.

Plan for partial rather than total success?

Richard Jolly was Special Advisor to the Administrator of UNDP between1995 and 2002, principal architect of the annual Human Development Report and a champion for the 20/20 initiative. Jo Bealls writes about him in Fifty Key Thinkers on Development (edited by Simon, 2005):
In the first co-authored volume of [a 12-volume history of the UN’s] economic and social contribution, Ahead of the Curve (Emmerij et al., 2001) Jolly is dismissive of concerns about the origin and ownership of ideas, emphasising instead their impact and spread and he is firm that the UN has played an important role in this regard. In a paper written in preparation for the Human Development Report 2003 (Jolly, 2003) he appealed for a more nuanced and flexible interpretation of success in terms of achieving UN goals. Too often, he argued, UN development projects are considered ‘failures’ because global goals are only partially or regionally met, when in fact huge progress has been achieved. If setting global goals is to be valuable and successful, he contended, ‘it is important now to plan for partial success and partial failure, not for the extremes of either total success or total failure’ , especially in the cases of the least developed countries.”

Has there been wider agreement of Jolly’s view that the UN should plan for partial rather than total success or failure? If so, to what extent has this been implemented and with what results?

EMMERIJ, L., JOLLY, R. & WEISS, T. G. 2001. Ahead of the curve?: UN ideas and global challenges, Indiana Univ Pr.
JOLLY, R. 2003. Global Goals–the UN experience. Background paper for the Human Development Report, 85–110.
SIMON, D. 2005. Fifty Key Thinkers on Development, Taylor & Francis.

UNDP action plan & report on delivery

In June 2010 Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator, introduced the UNDP Action Plan thus: “Looking ahead, my vision is for UNDP to be widely acknowledged as a world class, knowledge based development organization which helps developing countries make transformational change and helps channel the strengths of the entire UN development system to that end.

In July of that year she issued a report ‘UNDP in Action 2009/2010: Delivering on Commitments‘. Its contents were:

Letter from the UNDP Administrator
Introduction: making a real difference
UNDP in Action: Delivering on commitments

  • Poverty Reduction and the MDGs: countdown to 2015
    Up Close Rwanda: Tackling Poverty Through Local Governance
  • Democratic Governance: Providing an Enabling Environment
    Up Close Indonesia: A Decade of Electoral Support
  • Crisis Prevention and Recovery: Building Back Better
    Up Close Croatia: Controlling Arms, Preventing Violence
  • Environment and Sustainable Developm ent: Adapting to a New Reality
    Up Close Brazil: Eliminating CFCs

UNDP and the UN System: Focusing on Development
Inside UNDP: Living Up to In ternal Commitments
UNDP Resources

CLARK, H. 2010. UNDP in Action 2009/2010: Delivering on Commitments. New York.