The latest annual statistical report on United Nations procurement shows that the global body spent $17.6 billion on goods and services for its operational activities in 2015, up $400 million from the previous year.
According to the U.N. Office for Project Services, the 2 percent increase can be attributed to a rise in purchasing from UNDP, particularly in pharmaceutical products. Across all U.N. organizations, health-related purchases comprised 23 percent of total spending, confirming that health spending is up as the global body contends with humanitarian crises and global epidemics.
As in previous years, the United States, India and the United Arab Emirates were the biggest suppliers to the U.N. system in 2015, accounting for 21 percent of the total procurement amount. Also among the top 10 country suppliers are Afghanistan, which has been a mainstay on the list since 2004, and Kenya, which provided $445.32 million in goods and services in 2015.
With its considerable purchasing power, the U.N. faces the opportunity to advance sustainable development through its procurement practices. The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 highlights this by including targets for sustainable consumption and production.
Calls for the U.N. to continue increasing opportunities for suppliers from developing economies have led to the ever growing amount of procurement from transitioning, developing and least developed countries. Kenya, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Turkey and Ethiopia showed the largest increases between 2005 and 2015, seeing a combined volume increase of more than $2.45 billion over the last decade.
Last year, the U.N. spent $10.8 billion in developing economies, a rise of $215 million from 2014 — making up 62 percent of the U.N.'s total spend for its global activities.
The most detailed procurement report to date includes, for the first time, disaggregated data on least developed countries. Of the said amount, $3.1 billion came from least developed countries, representing 18 percent of overall procurement volume in 2015.
The largest LDCs in terms of supply to the U.N. are Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Sudan. In these countries, more services and raw materials are purchased by the U.N. than products.
It is clear that there is a positive trend on the part of U.N. organizations to implement sustainable procurement measures. Grete Faremo, executive director of UNOPS ascertains, “As we look toward financing the sustainable development goals, this report provides vital information to help us understand how we should focus our resources to help the most vulnerable people.”
Patricia Sarmenta is a development analyst at Devex’ surveys and advisory services team. She contributes to custom research projects and surveys commissioned by leading companies and development institutions. Patricia has a master’s degree in anthropology from the University of the Philippines, as well as degrees in sociology, global politics and cultural heritage from Ateneo de Manila University.
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