JIU/REP/2020/3 Common premises in the United Nations system: current practices and future prospects

Despite of forty years of mandates, progress has been limited, partly because until 2017, common premises were not managed as a systemwide endeavour. Wider participation in common premises planning has begun to take root through the current repositioning of the United Nations development system which has changed the approach to common premises in important ways, such as the target of reaching 50 per cent of common premises by 2021 and including sub-national locations. The review finds that while it has positive attributes, the target also holds important limitations.

The objectives of common premises need to be clarified because expectations of efficiency savings have become blurred and qualitative factors for common premises have fallen off the table. An important lacuna is the lack of data on which to base concrete forecasts or on which to carry out planning and priority setting.

The absence of capital financing mechanisms remains a barrier. Efforts to develop private-public partnerships have proven far from successful and need to be reviewed. The current reform process is emphasizing consolidation within existing premises.

The inter-organizational arrangements to support common premises that have been established under the United Nations Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG) need to be improved. The onus for finding common premises solutions has rested too heavily on the UN Country Teams, who are often ill-equipped for these tasks.  The UNSDG should make changes that strengthen planning and analysis of common premises opportunities at the global level as well as provide more proactive central support to UN Country Teams through the lifecycle of specific projects.

The review considers that while helpful, common premises are not likely to resolve the main inefficiencies in how the United Nations system acquires and manages premises in the field. More far-reaching change should be considered. Rather than a piecemeal, location or organization-specific approach, a global view of the United Nations system property portfolio could be considered to defragment and professionalize field real estate management.

The review makes eight formal recommendations aimed at improving the management of the common premises agenda.

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