The United Nation’s central procurement portal, United Nations Global Marketplace (www.ungm.org), publishes a number of online resources to help suppliers familiarize themselves with UN procurement policies and procedures. We recommend familiarizing yourself with this website and the resources available.
Of particular note is the “Doing Business with the UN agencies” and the “UN Procurement Practitioner’s Handbook,” which can be found by a search on www.ungm.org. These guidelines ultimately play into the contracting phase, so it’s important to review them early in the process.
Finally, the following practical tips are recommended when preparing and submitting proposal documents:
- Keep in mind that the UN awards contracts based on value for money, not lowest price.
- Read through multiple procurement notices and contract awards, even outside your industry, to familiarize yourself with the language and requirements.
- Always respond when invited to submit an offer in order to keep your organization relevant even if you should not be in a position to participate. Beginning with bids on smaller contracts, in order to establish a track record, is recommended.
- Study the documents carefully and ask for clarification if there is any uncertainty.
- Ensure that your offer meets all the requirements (including quality certificates, financial statements, catalogues, submission forms etc.,) in the requested format and language.
- Meet the submission deadline.
- Attend bidders conference and public bid openings when invited.
- Have patience — the UN procurement process can be lengthy, and several checks and balances are built into the approval and procurement process.
- Request feedback — if you participate in a high value solicitation (more than
- $200,000) and you receive a letter of regret, you may request a debriefing. Requests must be made in writing within ten business days. Contact the U.S. Commercial Service New York office for assistance, if necessary.
Trade Promotion & Advertising
We recommend contacting the U.S. Commercial Service New York office to discuss your interest in trade promotion opportunities within the United Nations system. That office organizes UN procurement seminars during which attendees receive an introduction to UN procurement and have the opportunity to engage with UN procurement officials.
Additionally, there are a growing number of trade shows focused on humanitarian aid and development that have applicability in the UN context. For example, you may want to consider:
- AIDEX hosts three annual events in Brussels and Nairobi and offers a platform for professionals in humanitarian aid and international development. https://www.aid-expo.com/
- AIDF Global Summit hosts an annual event in Washington, D.C., and offers a platform of global expertise and cross-sector engagement for representatives from the UN, government agencies, development banks, national and international NGOs, civil societies, research institutes, the private sector, and media. http://disaster-relief.aidforum.org/
Principle Business Associations
The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) is a membership association focused on promoting international trade, responsible business conduct, and a global approach to regulation. The ICC the only business organization admitted as an Observer at the United Nations General Assembly. https://iccwbo.org/
Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU) is a nonpartisan, U.S.-based organization that works to expand international trade and commerce. It does this by helping its member companies engage internationally and by facilitating mutually beneficial relationships between business and government leaders worldwide. http://www.bciu.org
The United States Council for International Business (USCIB) is a U.S.-based membership organization dedicated to advancing the global interests of American business. http://www.uscib.org/
Limitations on Selling US Products and Services
There are no limitations on selling U.S. products and services at the United Nations. In fact, American companies regularly capture the largest share of UN procurement ($1.7 billion or 8.7 percent in 2019. However, U.S. companies should be aware that UN General Assembly Resolution 57/279 (2005) on procurement reform encourages UN organizations to increase opportunities for suppliers from developing countries and countries with economies in transition. In 2007, General Assembly Resolution 61/246, reiterated the request to consider procurement from developing countries. In response, UN organizations have placed more orders with suppliers from these countries.
United Nations Global Marketplace: www.ungm.org
U.S. Mission to the United Nations: https://usun.state.gov