The procurement of vital goods and services provides an essential building block for many United Nations activities, whether it is responding to natural disasters, peacekeeping or encouraging development. These operations rely heavily on our efficient and transparent ability to purchase the required food, labour, medicines and other items needed to fulfil United Nations (UN) goals.

But procurement can and should be more than this. It should be a crucial tool in the development process itself. It should stimulate local markets and drive innovation.

By providing business opportunities to a wider range of companies in all countries, procurement can help build strong economies and well-functioning communities. Buying goods and services directly from the countries we are trying to support can also ensure local ownership of UN projects, boosting their effectiveness.

Many organizations in the United Nations family are well aware of this and already use our considerable buying power to get the best deal for everyone involved in the process – both beneficiaries and suppliers. It is time we all learnt from their best practice.

As part of an ongoing internal effort to reform its procurement activities, the UN is seeking to be as inclusive as possible and extend procurement opportunities to previously overlooked vendors. This not only increases fairness and efficiency, but creates the opportunity for the entrepreneurial spirit and industry in the developing world to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Already I have seen part of this picture take shape with strengthened local economies and the burgeoning of opportunities. I’ve seen companies get the support they need to become capable of growing their business beyond their borders, for the benefit of their families and their communities. However, much work still has to be done.  This publication provides a forum for ideas on how to conduct procurement in sustainable and innovative ways; examples of how UN procurement can reach out to new vendors.

In that spirit, I commend this report to all those concerned with the welfare of the developing world.