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Doing business with the UN – where’s the opportunity?

Written by Vlotides Vanessa on 25 August 2017

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With people facing humanitarian uncertainty around the world, the UN needs responsive expert suppliers to deal with crises.

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UN office in Geneva

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The United Nations reported that the world faces: 


  • a humanitarian crisis with more than 20 million people in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria facing starvation and famine.
  • displacement of 65.6 million people around the world, individuals who have been forced from their homes by conflict at the end of 2016.


With people fleeing war and the uncertainty of natural disasters striking, it’s crucial that the UN have access to responsive, quality and expert suppliers to deal with the crisis. To do that, the UN have a huge procurement task worth around £12 billion a year. With the UK being the ninth biggest supplier (in 2015) this is a promising market that UK companies should consider.


Where to start? 


The opportunities are vast with major fields of work of the UN: 

  • Health
  • Labour
  • Intellectual property
  • Human rights
  • Humanitarian action and disaster relief
  • Economic
  • Trade and development activities
  • Disarmament efforts
  • Science and technology
  • Research and training. 


With a wealth of opportunities, it’s important to understand the steps required to make your company eligible to be a supplier.


The first essential step is to register with UN Global Marketplace (UNGM), your gateway to 26 UN organisations. UNGM acts as an important procurement tool to shortlist suppliers for bidding. The UN system uses competitive tendering to award contracts so make sure your business is prepared for the bidding and selection criteria. They are also looking for reliable delivery, appropriate quality, competitive price and good after-sales service. Therefore, it's crucial to study the tender documents carefully and ensure that your offer meets all requirements. 


Who's who in UN procurement? 


It is highly unlikely that every UN organisation will require your goods and services. First you need to determine what each agency’s procurement requirements are, and then market your goods and/or services. Companies attending the EEN trade mission will have the support of Department of International Trade (DIT) in Geneva and Copenhagen to achieve this. With years of valuable experience, they know where the opportunities lie and have built strong relationships with the procurement officers. To facilitate these business opportunities EEN, with the support of DIT, organises individual meetings to introduce UK companies to key organisations in their respective cities, which are crucial to winning business. 


Key organisations in Geneva and Copenhagen include 




Do you think your business has what it takes to supply the UN? We can help you identify where the opportunities lie and arrange meetings for your company to meet with the right procurements officers in market.