IOs Themselves Operating as Private or Market Actors

Intergovernmental organizations sometimes take on the same role as private sector actors. There are many examples of this such as IOs buying goods and services from others, or IOs themselves selling particular services.
Frontex and Hawkeye 360

Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, has contracted HawkEye 360, an American geospatial analytics company, in 2019, to add the detection of electromagnetic radiation to their multilayered border surveillance system.

“As of 2018, HawkEye 360 was one of the first commercial providers to launch a series of small satellites capable of scanning the entire surface of the Earth for high-frequency signals. The transport was carried out by a Falcon9 from SpaceX.”

Besides Elon Musk’s Space X, Hawkeye 360 also relies on Artificial Intelligence and started a partnership with Amazon’s ML Solutions Lab.

© Matthias Monroy, Maritime surveillance: Spy satellites in Frontex operation, Security Architectures in the EU, 26 June 2022 & Contract Award Notice


The ITU Software and Data Systems

The Radiocommunication branch of the International Telecommunication Union sells a variety of software and data systems related to, for instance, radio regulations, frequency allocations, or radio spectrum management.

© RR5 Table of Frequency Allocations Software & Radio Regulations Navigation Tool

For example, the Spectrum Management System for Developing Countries is available for purchase at a price of 5100 CHF. It contains Article 5 of the Radio Regulations, monitoring network planning for optimization of spectrum monitoring networks, an interface to the spectrum monitoring software of Rohde & Schwarz and of Thales and a general interface for any other monitoring software.

© Spectrum Management System for Developing Countries (SMS4DC)



The UNOPS and the S3i Scandal

"We combine the best of the UN and the private sector to ensure our partners maximize the positive impact of their peace and security, humanitarian and development projects – with equality, inclusiveness, sustainability and resilience as the foundations of our work."

© About UNOPS

The United Nations Office for Project Services was established to implement projects for the UN system. The UNOPS S3i programme was an investment initiative to promote sustainable projects and attract private investors. One of the programme’s projects was the building of 1.3 million affordable housing units in developing countries within the framework of a $60 million partnership with Sustainable Housing Solutions Holdings (SHS), a private company registered in Singapore. But no houses have been built following the partnership, an internal UN investigation was launched and UNOPS has launched legal action in an effort to recover the money invested in the project.The selection of SHS as a partner in the UN project is one of the numerous questions raised in relation to the complex web of suspected misconduct.”

© Finland at centre of multimillion dollar UN sustainable housing scandal, Yle News, 8 June 2022

"Every year, trillions of dollars of investment in infrastructure will be needed to achieve the 2030 Agenda. The international community cannot do this alone. We will not achieve the SDGs without stronger private sector involvement."

Grete Faremo, former UNOPS Executive Director

© UNOPS joins new partnership in support of the world's ocean



“More than numbers”, the IOM and McKinsey

In 2018, the International Organization for Migration collaborated with the American consulting firm McKinsey to publish the “More than numbers” report. The authors of the report take the view that more and better data “could boost benefits of migration by at least USD 35 billion”

"The report “More than numbers” urges governments to put data at the centre of the debate on migration using a value-driven approach. The time to invest in better migration data is now."

William Lacy Swing, IOM Director General

© "More than numbers" Report

The WHO and Consulting Firms

The World Health Organization has been using external consultancy services to facilitate internal reform for many years. According to its records, in 2021, the WHO has awarded service contracts, “outsourcing consulting and audit services”, to several consulting firms including for instance: McKinsey, Dalberg, Deloitte, and the Boston Consulting Group. In total, for the year 2021, the WHO has issued 844 consultant contracts with individual consultants for a total value of US$ 35 323 224.

© WHO Procurement, Contract Awards

In 2020, one ‘pro bono’ consulting contract was, in part, paid by the WHO, and, in part, paid by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  “The total cost of the engagement, as worked out by Consultant A, was US$ 7.30 million, of which 55% (US$ 4.03 million) was to be borne by Consultant A, 35% (US$ 2.53 million) by WHO and about 10% (US$ 0.73 million) by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation."

© Report of the External Auditor-Audit of the World Health Organization (WHO) for the Financial Year ended 31 December 2020

"As the global pandemic unfolded last year, BCG rapidly mobilized teams to support worldwide efforts to fight the spread of the virus. We are extremely proud of our work that contributed to saving lives in this unprecedented time and remain committed to providing our best minds and efforts to support the progress of public health."

Statement by the Boston Consulting Group

© Julia Belluz, The World Health Organization broke its own rules to spend millions on BCG consultants, Vox, 16 June 2021

Examining the Role of Public Actors as Private Entities: Scrutinizing the Use of Private Consultants by the World Health Organization

The use of private consultants by public actors, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), has come under scrutiny, highlighting concerns about their functioning as private entities. The WHO's engagement with Boston Consulting Group (BCG), for instance, has raised questions about transparency, value for money, and potential conflicts of interest. Allegations have been made that the WHO changed evaluation criteria to favor BCG, leading to the awarding of contracts despite other firms scoring higher based on pre-specified criteria. These revelations raise doubts about the independence and impartiality of public actors when they engage private consultants.

Furthermore, the audit findings shed light on the negotiation practices of BCG on behalf of the WHO. Instances of discounts being secured on protective gowns and masks were highlighted, but subsequent issues with the quality of the procured items and missed opportunities for greater savings were identified. These findings raise concerns about the due diligence and oversight exercised by public actors when dealing with private consultants. It raises questions about the extent to which public actors are prioritizing the interests of the public and ensuring the best outcomes for the services procured, as opposed to potentially favoring the interests of the private consulting firms.

Despite facing criticism, the World Health Organization (WHO) has justified its engagement with private consultants, such as Boston Consulting Group (BCG), by stating that these companies provide expertise in areas where the organization lacks in-house knowledge or wants to access current best-in-class standards.

“The [consulting] companies have supported WHO in areas where we lack in-house expertise or want to tap the current best-in-class standards.”

WHO spokesperson

© The World Health Organization broke its own rules to spend millions on BCG consultants

Overall, in light of these concerns, it is essential for public organizations like the WHO to prioritize transparency, accountability, and adherence to established criteria when engaging private consultants. Managing potential conflicts of interest and ensuring the public's trust and confidence should be paramount. Striking the right balance between utilizing external expertise and maintaining credibility is crucial for the effectiveness of public actors in fulfilling their mandates.

© World Health Organization criticise for consulting spend

Ericsson Response, the UNHCR and the WFP

Ericsson Response has been a long-standing partner of the World Food Programme and participates in the Rapid Response Connectivity Carrier (R2C2) project, a drone solution aimed at providing connectivity and internet access to humanitarian staff or communities in a disaster situation. The first drone prototype was elaborated in collaboration with two other companies: Elistair and Clogworks.

© The Rapid Response Connectivity Carrier (R2C2)

The UNHCR also recently signed a global partnership with Ericsson to provide faster and more efficient internet access and connectivity to people in refugee and emergency situations

"Technology is an absolutely vital element of UNHCR’s work and responses across the world. IT enables UNHCR to coordinate the delivery of life-saving assistance on the frontline of humanitarian crises where basic commodities are scarce – and in emergency situations, IT tools form the backbone of critical services, from biometric enrolment of refugees and asylum-seekers to interagency coordination."

© UNHCR and Ericsson Sign Global Partnership Agreement

The WFP and Alibaba

"We started this strategic partnership with Alibaba in 2018 because we know that in the digital age, cooperation with the technology sector is critical. We need to continuously explore the latest technologies, newest ideas, and build lasting synergies with partners like Alibaba to help us reach those furthest behind."

David Beasley WFP Executive Director

Under the partnership between the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and  the Chinese multinational technology company Alibaba Group (Alibaba), Alibaba provides leading digital technology to accompany the WFP digital transformation. Alibaba Cloud particularly collaborates on the project of the World Hunger Map, monitoring the situation of hunger around the globe, using Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and data analytics.

©WFP and Alibaba enter strategic partnership to support UN Sustainable Development Goal of a world with Zero Hunger

"By having the most up-to-date food security information on one central platform, the WFP, the broader humanitarian community and global leaders can monitor progress and identify negative trends early, making it possible to make better-informed decisions to improve efficiency and response time while curtailing costs."

©WFP and Alibaba unveil next generation of machine learning technology in the fight against hunger


WFP Partners with Palantir

"The partnership with Palantir underlines WFP’s strong commitment to digital transformation as it strives to meet the goal of ending world hunger by 2030. Building upon Palantir’s world-class data integration technology, WFP will develop new analytical tools to seize digital opportunities, improve real-time decision-making, and enhance global operations."

© Palantir and WFP Partner

In order to cut costs and increase efficiency in delivering supplies to populations in need, the World Food Programme has partnered with the controversial American software company Palantir. Within the framework of the reported $45 million pro bono partnership, Palantir will help the organisation analyse its vast amount of data through the WFP data platform DOTS. This partnership has raised many concerns in the humanitarian community particularly concerning data protection.

"We are looking at partnerships to change the way we do things."

Enrica Porcari, WFP Chief Information Officer

© New UN deal with data mining firm Palantir raises protection concerns, The New Humanitarian, Ben Parker, 5 February 2019;  Why Humanitarians Are Worried About Palantir’s New Partnership With the U.N., Slate, Faine Greenwood, 13 February 2019  & Open Letter to WFP re: Palantir Agreement, 8 February 2019.



Europol and Palantir

The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, EUROPOL, is the law enforcement agency of the European Union. Since 2012, and until its use was discontinued in 2021, Europol had been using the Gotham system by the controversial American big data mining and analytics company Palantir.

"Following a regular public tender procedure, customised Palantir Gotham software was in use at Europol as a tool for operational analysis, in particular for the visualisation of datasets and to identify new lines of investigation in support of the competent authorities in EU Member States and beyond. Europol started using the software for analysing operational data as part of Task Force ‘Fraternité’ in 2016 (investigations following the terror attacks in Paris in November 2015). Since mid-2017, Europol was using Palantir for the operational analysis of all counter terrorism related data."

© Use of Palantir software by Europol – EU Commission answer

UNHCR and IrisGuard

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees collaborates with governments and NGOs to collect data on the people it assists and to maintain its identity registration tools. The UNHCR also collect biometric data for its Biometrics Identity Management System using a private iris-scanning company, IrisGuard, to collect iris scans from refugees. Then, third parties such as, partner humanitarian organisations, banks and supermarkets can instantly authenticate refugees and provide food assistance without requiring vouchers, cards or PINs.

© UNHCR Registration Tools & IrisGuard Launch EyeCloud to Assist Refugees With Biometric Banking

"By using the EyeCloud©, the result of an innovative public-private partnership with the biometrics company IrisGuard and a local bank, UNHCR is the first agency ever to provide biometrically authenticated cash assistance to refugees."

© UNHCR Document



The ILO's Procurement Bureau

The International Labour Organization is the author of many instruments concerning the social responsibility of enterprises and public contractors. In its own activities of procurement, the ILO requires the contractor to follow principles of international labour standards, such as: “the freely-exercised right of workers to organize […], further and defend their interests and to bargain collectively”; “the provision of wages, hours of work and other conditions of work not less favourable than the best conditions prevailing” and “the provision of social security benefits.”

© Terms and Conditions applicable to ILO Contracts

The Procurement Bureau is the Unit responsible for the procurement of goods, equipment, works and services at ILO headquarters and field offices.

Recent tender opportunities include works in the areas of technical support, consulting, supply and construction.

© ILO’s Procurement


The OIV and the Wine Market

The International Organisation of Vine and Wine’s missions include promoting scientific and technical research and experimentation in the domain of vines, wines and grapes; framing and monitoring the implementation of recommendations; contributing to a harmonisation of practices of wine-producing countries; and more generally advancing scientific knowledge in the field.

© Presentation of the OIV

It is an active actor on the wine market and promotes the activities of the viticultural sector. It is particularly active in the field of research, teaming up with private vine and wine companies such as, Moët-Hennessy or Yalumba.

"To set the stage, the companies in the consortium are engaging with each other to identify research areas that are consensually recognised as priorities for the grape and wine sector."

© The OIV and Leading Grape and Wine Companies

The OIV also offers ampelography courses to “transmit up-to-date knowledge and to create a dense network between professionals in the sector.”

© OIV’s Ampelography course

EUROCONTROL and BT’s New Pan-European Network Service

After a common procurement process, EUROCONTROL and forty-one industry partners signed a 10-year contract of €50 million with BT Group, a British multinational telecommunications company, to provide and manage the New Pan-European Network Service. The aim of this network is to increase the reliability and security of aviation data flows.

© EUROCONTROL selects BT for NewPENS

“With air traffic expected to double in the years ahead, the need for secure and highly reliable communications has never been greater and of more importance. Many leading multinationals, such as members of the BT Radianz Cloud, the world’s largest secure networked financial markets community, already rely on BT to connect their critical global operations, people and data. The networking infrastructure we will put in place for the NewPENS community will ensure ultra-high levels of resilience and security for air traffic controllers to help them guide planes safely to their destinations”
- Bas Burger, CEO Global Services, BT.

© Better and safer data flows for aviation, BT Website

EUROCONTROL and Air Traffic Management

The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL) is a civil-military international organisation working to support air traffic management in Europe.

"Our raison d’être is to support European aviation and we do this by delivering technical excellence and civil-military expertise across the full spectrum of air traffic management."


EUROCONTROL's activities include service provision, research and development, and project implementation EUROCONTROL also aims to provide “coordination with key aviation players at various levels” and support "the future evolution and strategic orientations of aviation.”

© EUROCONTROL's Services

ICAO as a consultant

ICAO provides assessments against its own requirements to public and private organisations. According to ICAO:

Assessments against ICAO requirements in civil aviation training could be conducted outside of the TRAINAIR PLUS Programme. The ICAO assessment report provides a clear and independent vision of the operations within a training organization and highlights critical areas requiring improvements. ICAO can therefore provide this assessment service to any organization involved in aviation training wishing or needing to be benchmarked against ICAO reference documents, without necessarily having the objective of being a member of the TRAINAIR PLUS Programme. This service is offered under the form of a consultancy for all Civil Aviation Authorities, governments, training organizations or manufacturers having training activities.

@ Assessment and Consultancy

The ICAO's Technical Cooperation Bureau

The International Civil Aviation Organization provides services to its Member States through its Technical Cooperation Bureau (TCB) established in 1952. It is involved in around 250 projects each year in all the fields of civil aviation: safety, security, environmental protection and sustainable development.

"As part of ICAO, a non-profit organization, TCB can offer its services under most favourable and cost-effective condition and guarantees strict neutrality, objectivity and transparency, as it does not represent any particular national or commercial interest, nor the interest of any donor in general."

© ICAO Technical Cooperation Bureau

More specifically, TCB’s clients can get help concerning the recruitment of professionals, receive training, get expert advice or obtain procurement opportunities for instance.

©ICAO TCB Portfolio

ESA and the New Space Economy

Through ESA Space Solutions, the European Space Agency seeks to promote space innovation by financially supporting entrepreneurs in Europe and encouraging businesses to enter the space economy. It provides several different programmes for funding directed to private actors, such as ESA Business Applications and ESA Business Incubation Centres.

"ESA Business Applications offers funding and support to businesses from any sector who intend to use space (satellite navigation, earth observation, satellite telecommunication, space weather, space technologies) to develop new commercial services."

On top of zero-equity funding which can go up to 50% of the project cost, ESA offers technical and commercial guidance, access to ESA’s network and partners and the use of ESA’s brand to provide credibility to the business.

© ESA's Business Applications

One example of such project opportunity is the NHS future hospital initiative “promoting innovative solutions exploiting space technologies for the benefit of the NHS ecosystem.”

© NHS' Future Hospital Initiative

For start-ups, the ESA Business Incubation Centres provide extra support. “Over 700 start-ups have been fostered throughout Europe with thousands of new high tech jobs created thanks to the applications of space systems, the valorization of ESA intellectual properties and the space technologies transfers - and more than 180 new start-ups are taken in yearly at the ESA BICs.”

© ESA's Business Incubation Centres

ESA's Third Party Missions

The Third Party Missions programme consists of around 50 Earth observing satellite missions that are not owned or operated by ESA. ESA has agreements with the owning organisations, institutions and private companies to acquire, process, and distribute the data collected in their missions. This programme provides Earth observing data for research and development to users all around the world, including businesses and start-ups, supporting ESA’s goal to facilitate the use of space technology and systems.

© Third Party Missions Overview & Infography

Earth Online is the ESA's Earth Observation information discovery platform where Third Party Missions Data is shared.

© Earth Online

Procurement at the WMO

"The objective of the procurement activities within the WMO is to achieve best value for money for the acquisition of goods and services in a manner that supports fairness, integrity and transparency, and is directed towards maximum economy and effectiveness within, and in accordance with, the objectives of the Organization."

In an effort to guarantee transparency, the World Meteorological Organization provides a list of its latest tenders and of the awarded vendors. Tenders include construction works, provision of consultancy services, supply of equipment and provision of security services.

The WMO is also a service provider, particularly of corporate services, including consultancy, conference and translation services, international and local consultancies, training, public relations services and catering.

© WMO Webpage Procurement

The International Organisation for Migration Offering Services

The UN family member, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) provides services worldwide. There are especially two kinds of services who have a great impact around the entire globe. 

Firstly, the IOM provides visa processing services, which benefit both migrants and governments:

"In support of regular and complementary migration pathways, IOM Visa Application Centres (VACs) facilitate safe, regular and orderly migration and mobility by improving visa processing. Efficient and timely processes that safeguard the rights and needs of migrants while maintaining States’ security considerations, benefit both migrants and governments. States are finding it increasingly challenging to process the large volumes of visa applications, given that two-thirds of the world population require visas to travel. In response, governments are increasingly outsourcing migration management related tasks to external service providers, primarily seeking to improve service standards, lower costs, reduce wait times for migrants and to increase territorial coverage."

Another service with great worldwide significance provided by the IOM are the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration programmes (AVRR). These operations assist migrants and governments with safe voluntary returns while at the same time aiming at avoiding the stigmatisation often connected to returns. According to the IOM the return journey should be organized in the most suitable and viable ways. As much as possible, returnees should travel on commercial lines like any other passengers, as this represents a cost- and time-effective option that preserves migrant dignity and anonymity.

"Migration is often perceived as a one-way journey, starting from one’s homeland to a new country of destination. The reality can be more complex, however. For some, the need to go back home is felt at a certain point, triggered by the desire to reunite with family, changed conditions in either host countries or countries of origin, or the lack of legal status and work opportunities. Since 1979 IOM, the UN Migration Agency, has been implementing Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programmes worldwide, assisting more than 1.5 million migrants. For IOM, AVRR is an indispensable part of a comprehensive approach to migration management. Every year, IOM provides tailored AVRR assistance to tens of thousands of migrants returning home voluntarily under diverse circumstances. Beneficiaries may include stranded migrants in host or transit countries, irregular and regular migrants, asylum seekers who decide not to pursue their claims or are found not to be in need of international protection, as well as migrants in vulnerable situations, such as victims of human trafficking, unaccompanied and separated children, elderly migrants or those with health-related needs. The successful implementation of AVRR programmes requires the cooperation and participation of a broad range of actors, including the migrants, civil society, private sector, academia and the governments in host countries, transit countries and countries of origin."

© IOM UN Migration info sheets

The Universal Postal Union Providing Services

The Universal Postal Union (UPU) was established in 1874 and is the second oldest intergovernmental organization in the world. Today it is also a part of the UN family, as one of the United Nations specialized agencies. 

Being the primary forum for cooperation between postal sector players the UPU provides a lot of services in many different ways, anywhere from defining postal products to hiring out its conference facilities. The UPU charges fees for these services, constituting the second pillar of the financing system of the Union, and thus forming a perfect example of an IO operating as a private or market actor. 

© UPU's Webpage and Programme and Budget 2019 (Finance Directorate (DFI) Directorate of Executive Office (DIRCAB).

The Digital Transformation of Postal Services

Mastercard is an American multinational company in the financial services industry and is one of the world’s leaders in digitalized and electronic payment methods. The Universal Postal Union has announced its collaboration with Mastercard to promote the digital transformation of postal services. By seeking to encourage the development of e-commerce solutions via the Post around the world, the UPU act as an actor in the striving market of e-trade.

"The digital transformation of the postal network started years ago, but the pandemic has further triggered the modernization of our business model. It is really an important moment for the postal sector."

Pascal Clivaz, Deputy Director General of the Universal Postal Union 

© UPU and Mastercard Partner

The WCO Trade Tools Platform

“WCO Trade Tools is the official platform of the World Customs Organization created to facilitate your work as actor of the international trade to classify your products and support the exporting / importing of goods.”

The World Customs Organisation’s Trade Tools platform seeks to support for actors in international trade by providing essential information to support trade activity.

© WCO Trade Tools

The platform offers three different packs with different services and prices.

“The Business pack fits to most Business needs as it contains the Harmonized System + Origin. Only the Full Pack offers all content available on WCOTradeTools and allows multi-user functionalities such as the sharing of information between employees spread in various locations.”

© WCO Trade Tools Pricing

UN Humanitarian Air Service

"The United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), managed by the World Food Programme (WFP), offers safe, reliable, cost-efficient and effective passenger and light cargo transport for the wider humanitarian community to and from areas of crisis and intervention. It is the only humanitarian air service that gives equal access to all humanitarian entities."

UNHAS takes a fee from their passangers. The fee is smaller than for normal flights, but this payment still gives the air service charasteristics of a private sector actor. 

© WFP Webpage

Joint Effort for Digitalization in Tourism

Since 2019, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and Telefónica, one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world, have been continuing their cooperation based on the agreement they signed in Madrid. The main goal of cooperation is to promote innovation in the field of tourism and to ensure that tourism adapts to new customer requirements.
To achieve this goal, the parties aimed to implement various tools such as digital entrepreneurship, application of new technologies in the tourism sector, Digital Education and Training, and the development of a special Digital Agenda for the tourism industry, and are currently continuing to take appropriate measures.

“This framework agreement is very important because the technologies are drawing the future of travel and tourism. Virtual and augmented reality, Big Data, cognitive intelligence and the Internet of Things will be a fundamental part of the tourist experience and Telefónica is a very important player in the provision of these services. The fibre networks deployed by Telefónica will also be decisive in making this a reality that will have an impact on the experience of users and on the services provided by the different players in the sector.”

Eduardo Navarro, Director of Communication, Corporate Affairs, Branding and Sustainability of Telefónica

“Innovation and digital transformation are among the priorities of the World Tourism Organization in order to provide additional impetus to tourism as an ally of sustainable development.”

Jaime Cabal, Deputy Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization

© UNWTO partners with Telefónica to promote tourism sector digitalization

The World Tourism Organization Providing Online Education

"The Tourism Online Academy is an online learning platform that will provide self-paced, 100% online courses that mainly focus on concepts, areas of interest and fundamental principles related to the tourism sector, addressing the challenges it faces such as globalization, digital revolution, travel marketing and sustainability, among others. These flexible courses allow participants to reconcile academic, professional and other personal commitments."

Yes, there is an IO, or more specifically a UN specialized agency, working with the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) provides online courses for the tourist sector. The courses vary from travel laws to how to maximise your SPA. Some courses are free but others may cost several hundred euros. 

© UNWTO Tourism Online Academy Webpage

Interpol's IGCI Project

Interpol has established a Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI) in Singapore to facilitate cross-border cooperation on cybercrime. The IGCI aims at equipping the world’s police with the tools and knowledge to better tackle the crime threats of the 21st century, with a cutting-edge research and development facility for the identification of crimes and criminals, innovative training, operational support and partnerships. The IGCI works in collaboration with police, research laboratories, academia and public and private sectors. The Cyber Fusion Centre (CFC) brings together experts from law enforcement, industry and academia to actively identify and develop intelligence about emerging threats and criminal cyber entities.

In other words - a lot of private sector actors are involved and affected. 

© Interpol's Webpage & Cyber Fusion Centre's Webpage  

NATO and Microsoft

"We see this signing as another step forward in the NATO -Industry Cyber Partnership, building a stronger cyber defence network today with Microsoft, but also with other Industry partners across the world"

Ambassador Sorin Ducaru, Assistant Secretary General of NATO's Emerging Security Challenges Division

In 2015 the NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCI) signed a Government Security Program (GSP) agreement with Microsoft, the American multinational technology corporation. The GSP is a programme designed by Microsoft, for government agencies, to evaluate and protect existing systems and maintain more secure cyber infrastructure.

“The agreement expands technical information sharing between Microsoft, other GSP parties and the NCI Agency. The NCI Agency will gain access to technical information, and documentation about Microsoft products and services, as well as information about internet safety, threat intelligence, online training tools and guidance to help mitigate the effects of cyberattacks across the region. A practical effect will be, for instance that Microsoft will provide the Agency with data about hosts that have been infected with botnet exploits, and the Agency will be able use this data to identify and remediate potential vulnerabilities in these systems.”

© NCI Agency and Microsoft sign cyber operation agreement

NATO and General Dynamics for IT Modernization

In 2017, the NATO Communications and Information Agency signed a 80 million € contract with General Dynamics, the American defense company, in order to adopt more widely cloud computing technologies in the framework of NATO's IT Modernization programme. The contract also includes options for future phases and amounts to a total value of 140 million €.

"This contract will fundamentally reshape NATO's nervous system and allow us to reduce costs. In light of its importance to the Alliance's cyber posture, it is paramount that the work is executed on time, in scope and in budget. I look forward to our journey to the cloud with General Dynamics IT,"

Koen Gijsbers, NCI Agency General Manager

© NATO signs milestone contract for IT modernization

NATO’s Ballistic Missile Defence

In 2018, Lockheed Martin and ThalesRaytheonSystems partnered to provide the North Atlantic Treaty Organization with a territorial Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) command and control capability. 

“ThalesRaytheonSystems will be prime contractor and system integrator for the defence solution, which will combine operational experience and components coming from different partners. Lockheed Martin developed the ballistic missile defence planning capability through its Defence Design System.  Additionally, both Lockheed Martin and Raytheon bring significant expertise and experience as prime contractors for the United States’ ballistic missile defence capability.”

© Lockheed Martin And ThalesRaytheonSystems Join Forces To Provide The NATO Alliance With Battlespace Intelligence System

NATO's Common Operational Picture and Thales

The NATO Common Operational Picture (NCOP) programme is aimed to capture, aggregate and correlate georeferenced operational information to generate a single, comprehensive picture of a NATO theatre of operations. In 2021, NATO has awarded the delivery of Increment 2 for the NCOP programme to the French multinational company Thales, previously awarded for Increment 1 of the programme in 2012.

"Thales has developed a software system based on an open architecture, with specialised modules that draw on the company’s experience of different aspects of the command chain and are fully compliant with commercial and military standards. This system is designed to provide the operational community with secure access to multiple COPs overlays on a geospatial reference. Tactical information from multiple systems and data sources will improve situational awareness for joint forces."

© NATO relies on Thales for a real-time view of the operational situation in joint theaters 

NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance

The Alliance Ground Surveillance programme is aimed at providing NATO members with and airborne ground surveillance system for NATO’s military and civil-military operations. It includes several industry players including Northrop Grumman, Airbus, Leonardo and Kongsberg.

The aircraft used for this programme is the remotely piloted RQ-4D, uniquely adapted to NATO requirements and produced by Northrop Grumman, the American multinational aerospace and defense technology company.

© Alliance Ground Surveillance

"The final AGS system will consist of five remotely piloted RQ-4D Global Hawk aircraft, developed and produced by Northrop Grumman as well as six mobile ground stations from Airbus and two transportable ground stations from Leonardo."

© Airbus delivered first equipment to the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Programme

The NATO Support and Procurement Agency also recently signed a contract with Northrop Grumman to provide in-service support for the AGS programme.

© NSPA signs contract with Northrop Grumman for NATO Allied Ground Surveillance (AGS) In-Service Support

Nato's Business Portal

Nato is a huge intergovernmental organisation with many relationships with the private sector. On the Nato Business Portal you'll find links to Nato agencies and bodies who work tightly with the private sector. 

Nato is also interesting because of its internal system of weapon-buying. A couple of years ago the Nato-member Turkey angered Nato and especially the USA when the Erdogan-administration chose to sign a contract with Russia to buy a missile defense system.

© Nato Webpage & Deutche Welle (DW) Webpage

IOs and Procurement

For most IOs procurement is an effective way to satisfy the needs of the organization. IOs need goods and services, often provided by the private sector, in order to ensure that the purposes of their activities are achieved. The buying of goods constitutes a great example of the second research angle. The World Trade Organization (WTO), The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) are big IOs exemplifiying this activity.

© WTO Webpage, IOM Webpage, IOM Global Procurement and Supply Unit (pdf) & ILO Webpage 

Ethical Principles Guiding the ICRC's Partnerships with the Private Sector

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), is one of the most widely recognized organizations in the world, having won three Nobel Peace Prizes (in 1917, 1944, and 1963). Though, not an intergovernmental organization, but an international non-governmental organization, the ICRC still poses as a great example of an IO trying to collaborate with the private sector in an ethical manner. The avenues for collaboration listed below, such as "driving innovation and testing new business models and solutions"  show that the ICRC acts a lot like a market actor while cooperating with businesses. As all other IOs the ICRC claims that they will only accept support from partners whose policies and activities are consistent with their principles. 

"The aim of these principles is to establish a transparent framework for relationships between the private sector and the ICRC. Relationships with the private sector encompass all forms of support by companies, corporate- and private foundations, and wealthy individual donors. Support can range from donations and campaigns to operational collaborations and joint innovation. An operational partnership is established only if it strengthens the capacity of the organization to carry out its activities worldwide in accordance with its specific mandate and the principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (hereafter referred to as "the Movement")."

"The ICRC recognizes that the expertise and financial capacity of the business and philanthropic community can help it achieve its humanitarian objectives. The avenues for collaboration and value generation with the private sector are captured by five pillars of engagement:

- Promoting best practices and shared analyses

- Driving innovation and testing new business models and solutions

- Leveraging complementarity, assets, networks, and skills

- Collaborating with suppliers

- Mobilizing resources through impact philanthropy

The ethical criteria and guiding principles below apply exclusively to relations with the private sector in this first domain. The ICRC will only accept support from partners whose policies and activities are consistent with these principles."

© ICRC Webpage 

An Increasing Role for Managerialism and Consultants - a Threat for the Publicness of IOs

Even though there's an increasing desire for more transparency and accountability in IOs, the enhanced importance of business-like activities such as consultants and managerialism have changed the focus of the working manners of the IOs. IOs have traditionally been perceived as quite bureaucratic, but over the last years a shift, driven by both stakeholder dynamics and a normative change in who is seen as having the authority to make claims over professional best practices, has been noticed. Intergovernmental organizations are composed primarily of sovereign states and are supposed to be public and universal to the entire mankind. A shift towards more private sector-like activities causes a tension between public and private interests.  

"As we have seen above, consultants have become important to IGOs, and introduce a new ethos of operations, focused on marketable skills and the application of best practice honed from a global marketplace. This has at least two effects. The first is that there is a tension that cuts through IGOs, between ‘rules’ and ‘performance’, with professionals pitted against one another over the basis for professional judgement (experience and expertise v skills/talent and best practice). The second is how institutional memory is valued as a resource for policy development, especially if the gatekeepers of policy design and implementation have migrated from viewing IGOs as bureaucratic entities towards transnational professional networks. Transnational policy clubs also affirm the notion that policy knowledge is best found among those who move easily between public and private sectors (Tsingou, 2015). In these settings consultants can exert significant amounts of influence by determining how best practice standard should be governed (Wright, Sturdy, & Wylie, 2012)."

© Taylor and Francis Online, Leonard Seabrooke & Ole Jacob Sending: Contracting development: managerialism and consultants in intergovernmental organizations

The Council of Europe and Interest Groups

The Council of Europe (CoE) is an intergovernmental organization known mostly for its work in favor of human rights, highlighted through the European Court of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. The CoE cannot impose ratification of conventions other than the European Convention on Human Rights. Despite its non-significant policy impact in core issue-areas, a little known fact is that close to 400 private interest groups and NGOs pursue lobbying activity in the CoE and invest considerable resources in so doing. A possible explanation for this is that in policy areas characterised by high levels of uncertainty, decision-makers tend to to a greater extent rely on the advice of expert networks that operate on a value-based rationale. The number of interest groups has grown steadily in the 2000s. The CoE itself notes that civil society constitutes an important element of the democratic process, an alternative way for citizens to participate in the decision-making process. Despite the lack of a clear impact on European policies there is still evidence that principles elaborated at the Council are frequently translated into national and international law. This means that private sector interests as well play a role in the noble CoE. 

© Silke M. Trommer & Raj S. Chari: The council of Europe: Interest groups and ideological missions? Taylor & Francis Online

© Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation In The Decision-making Process (Revised), adopted by the Conference of INGOs on 30 October 2019 (Council of Europe)

The European Union Using Public-private Partnerships to Increase Economic Growth

The European Union (EU) is probably the most known IO to most Europeans. Because of its strong supranational character, the EU is also a quite different organization. The Union excercises far-reaching powers that are directly referred to it from the member states, these are powers that traditionally have belonged to sovereign national states. The EU thus has a far more distinct role for the EU-member states than for instance the UN and its member states. 

The EU has been in an economic crisis almost uninterruptedly since the global recession that broke out in 2008. Just like other IOs the EU has sought new, alternative ways to finance its operations, such as giving grants to projects within the EU. For the 2014-2020 multi-annual financial frame two types of financial instruments had been developed: equity/venture capital and debt. Through these instruments the indirect supply of financial resources for investments are being aimed, especially encouraging  the participation of private investors among the public ones. The objective of the usage of the innovative financing instruments is to attract private investments which without assistance from these financial instruments might be considered too risky for the private sector.

As a strong supranational organization, the EU, of course, always exerts strong budget influence on all its member countries. With this example we aspire to show the usage of new, more market-based ideas for increasing revenue.

The European  Union  aims  to  increase  the  use  of  public-private partnership  to achieve  sustainable economic  growth  and  to  respond  to the  needs  of  European level,  particularly  to  accelerate  the development  of transnational  infrastructure. Due  to  the  economic  and  financial  crisis caused  a decrease  in  appetite  for investment,  but  also  due  to  risk-averse of  the  private  sector,  high  value projects  and  the  prolonged  period  of revenue  return,  the  European  Union seeks  to  give  an impulse to  public- private partnership projects by financial instruments. Thus, this paper aims to present the most appropriate financial instruments  developed  by  the European  Union  that  can  be  used  in public-private  partnership  projects and  analyze  their  influence on the use of these projects.

© Zaharioaie Mariana: Appropriate Financial Instruments for Public-Private Partnership in European Union,  Procedia Economics and Finance 3 (2012) 800–805

© Branten Eva, Purju Alari: Innovative Financial Instruments in EU Funding Schemes, Baltic Journal of European Studies, June 2013.

UN Operating as a Market Actor

The UN is one of the intergovernmental organizations that also operates as a market actor. Thus, this institution earns income by offering the sale of various goods and services, including various gifts. The main goal is not only to raise funds for the work of the UN, but also to spread different messages such as gender equality and peace.

"The Dove of Peace collection showcases a multicoloured dove with shapes and colours inspired by country flags from around the world. The colourful dove carries a message of peace for all nations, the fundamental goal of the work of the United Nations."

"Italian artist Armando Milani designed this iconic collection (War into Peace) for the United Nations. The timeless design represents the purpose of the Organization since its foundation after World War II- to keep peace in a rapidly changing world."

"The design of the UN emblem was patterned on an “azimuthal north polar projection of the world”, in which the land masses were spun around a concentric circle with the United States, as the host nation, in the centre. The “diagram” is encircled by crossed branches of olive. UN Publications sells the only official UN emblem gifts, with all proceeds supporting the work of the United Nations."

© Official United Nation Gifts

UNDP Partners with Local Businesses in Earthquake Response Efforts

In the aftermath of a destructive 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Türkiye on 6 February, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) partnered with local businesses to provide aid and support to affected communities. By collaborating with local chambers of commerce and business associations, the UNDP was able to leverage the resources and expertise of the private sector to facilitate the delivery of emergency supplies and logistical support.

This public-private partnership is an example of how international organizations, like the UNDP, can operate as private actors to drive positive change and promote sustainable development in disaster-stricken communities.

"From the moment the disaster hit, TÜRKONFED's Crisis Desk coordinated assistance from every region of Türkiye to the earthquake zone. In this context, we worked hand in hand with more than 60,000 members across Türkiye and many other stakeholders. A disaster of such magnitude requires cooperation between and among national and international actors. As such, we need to expand inclusive and participatory collaborations for the mid-to long-term recovery process.”

Arda Batu, Secretary General and Board Member of the Turkish Enterprise and Business Confederation (TÜRKONFED)

© In Türkiye, local businesses on the frontline of the earthquake response

ICAO and Google to collaborate on improving methodology for calculating flight carbon emissions

The new agreement between ICAO and Google aims to enhance collaboration and refine their respective tools for assessing aviation emissions. By working together, they seek to offer more reliable data to help the public, industry stakeholders, and regulators make environmentally sustainable decisions regarding air transport.

Currently, various aviation carbon calculators yield diverse results due to differences in data and methodologies. ICAO's partnership with Google aims to improve accuracy and consistency in estimating carbon emissions for passengers and shippers worldwide. The ICAO Carbon Emissions Calculator, endorsed by aviation regulators, and Google's Travel Impact Model, which provides emission estimates at the individual passenger level, will be enhanced through this collaboration.

Both organizations are committed to promoting sustainability and transparency in travel choices, ensuring more accurate reporting of greenhouse gas inventories and carbon footprints.

This initiative represents a significant example of an intergovernmental organization operating in a role that intersects with private sector activities, specifically in the development and application of technology for environmental sustainability within the aviation sector.

@ ICAO and Google to collaborate on improving methodology for calculating flight carbon emissions