Business Operations


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Business Operations are defined loosely as “all non-programmatic activities needed to deliver UN Programmes efficiently and effectively.” This in effect implies quite a range of operational processes, tasks and infrastructure development and maintenance, from policy to implementation, from personnel management to telecommunications infrastructure, from banking to security, from procurement to building maintenance.

In order to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of UN operations in country and throughout the UN System, the practice of streamlining a lot of this operational work has become known as harmonization of business practices, which includes common services and common premises.

Message from Jens Wandel, Co-Chair UNDG Business Operations Working Group.

It is key to recall that without UN programmes there would be no need for business operations, and that without business operations we would be unable to implement programmes. This symbiosis and the need for constant communication between these two areas of expertise cannot be overemphasized and it is key to the development of shared operational services and efficiently functioning programmes.

Objectives of Common Services and Harmonized Business Practices

The overall objectives of Common Services and Harmonized Business Practices:

  • enhanced development results through strengthened linkages between the Programme and business operations supporting programme delivery;
  • strengthened reputation of the UN as a strategic, coherent and (cost-) effective partner working together as One;
  • reduced operational costs through the reduction of monetary and labor costs realized by leveraging economies of scale, simplifying procedures and reducing duplications in UN operational transactions and processes;
  • increased quality of business services for both resident and non-resident agencies with reinforced links to UN programme efforts under the One Programme; and
  • enhanced transparency and accountability for the delivery of joint operational results through improved monitoring of expenditures and progress.

In general harmonized business operations include the following areas:

  • Strategic Planning (BoS)
  • Common procurement
  • Common logistics and transport;
  • Common ICT
  • Common HR
  • Common audit
  • Common finance
  • Harmonized approach to cash transfers (HACT)
  • Common premises

UN Business Operations Documents

UNDG Business Operations Strategy (BOS) 2014

UNDG BO ME Framework_2014-05 (English - 776 kB)
BOS Factsheet 2016-08 (English - 352 kB)