Palais des Nations, Geneva, 5 February 2013
In addressing the infrastructure challenges in the Palais des Nations, Clemens Adams, Director, Division of Administration at UNOG, gave an overview of the intent of the United Nations to repair and renovate the Palais des Nations and pointed out that the United Nations is currently looking at various innovative ways to do so, including the PPP option. He also gave a quick historical outlook of the Palais des Nations since it was built to service the needs of the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations Organization.
• The Palais is one of the most significant and busiest facilities that the United Nations operates;
• 10,000 meetings and conference are held every year, attended by over 28,000 delegates;
• It has about 100,000 visitors annually; and
• Provides a work place for approximately 4,000 staff members and consultants.
Ensuring that the premises are brought to current standards and a few issues that give strong emphasis to renovate the Palais were also discussed:
• Outdated electricity installations;
• Dysfunctional water and sewer systems;
• Lack of adjustments to the needs of people with disabilities;
• Inefficiency of the space utilisation – the Palais has the capacity to accommodate 20 to 25% more staff;
• Deficiencies of energetic operations of the Palais; and
• Analogue technologies from the 70s.
The renovation timeline:
• Up to 2011 – pre-planning including studies and proposal to renovate the Palais;
• Currently – a more detailed planning exercise and identifying various options to finance;
• June 2013 – the Secretary General’s report to the General Assembly on the Strategic Heritage Plan and work towards implementation.
In his presentation, Geoffrey Hamilton, the Chief of the PPP programme at UNECE, spoke about the Team of Specialists’ initial findings on the PPP option to refurbish the Palais des Nations, the feedback that was received from member States and the proposals for the follow-up study undertaken by Toyo University under the overall responsibility of the Team of Specialists on PPPs.
Regarding the initial findings, the reference was made to the special session held in Geneva on 6 December 2012 that included several PPP case studies similar to the Palais des Nations.
Overall the findings conclude that the PPP option is a relevant and valid one for UNOG considering its advantages of on time and to budget delivery alongside some legal issues relative to the Palais:
• PPP controls cost: the private sector works to contract;
• Private sector introduces innovation;
• Competition amongst bidders difficult to realise as UNOG is prevented by the rules governing procurement;
• The Palais’ sovereign immunity.
Feedback received from the governments portrays PPPs as a type of ‘humanitarian gift’ thus it was also recommended to have a more objective analysis of advantages and disadvantages of PPPs, whereby the issues of length of preparation and complexity are tackled.
• Identifying the scope and scale of the project;
• Potential involvement of the private sector inside the Palais and its effect on the UN brand;
• Undertaking a baseline study of the risks associated with different PPP models – failures, their causes and recommendations on models.
The idea behind the baseline study is to bring support to the notion of PPPs alongside providing UNOG with an honest assessment.