Nationality

United Kingdom

Education

Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, Lancaster University, United Kingdom

Languages

English, French

My career has traversed both the public and private sectors, and over the course of that journey I’ve learnt that nothing compares to the satisfaction which comes from serving a greater cause. As the Chief Procurement Officer for the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), I can see the immediate effects of my work in our mission and the people it serves. The fulfillment I get from this is something difficult to find in the private sector.

The UNOCI peacekeeping mission was established in 2004 when the Security Council determined that ongoing conflict in Côte d’Ivoire posed a significant threat to peace and security throughout the West African region. Its mandate includes monitoring cessation of hostilities and movements of armed groups. With approximately 9,000 armed personnel and 1,200 civilian staff, it is one of the United Nations’ larger missions. As the Chief Procurement Officer, it is my responsibility to negotiate the purchasing of goods and services; everything from food and supplies to electricity and fuel. Put simply, it is the field procurement team’s job to make sure that the mission has everything it needs to operate and that both civilian and military personnel have the resources they need to get their jobs done.

Although the tasks I perform in Côte d’Ivoire seem at first to be similar to those I did the private sector, the United Nations in fact has a very specific process for purchasing what it needs. Every contract is tendered competitively, either globally or within the local market; it’s a strictly competitive system to ensure that we get the most cost effective deal, and to ensure transparency and fairness to our suppliers.

At the United Nations we also give local suppliers the opportunity to bid for what would otherwise be globally sourced products. By tendering locally, we seek to engage with local economies by sourcing material from the country in which the field mission is based. An example of this in Cote d’Ivoire are the many engineering and supply items we require, for example, electrical good like air conditioners. All service contracts such as large scale engineering works, equipment maintenance, space rental, cleaning and catering are also purchased locally.

The circumstances under which we conduct our work are very different to most jobs. Field missions often operate under hostile conditions, such as the civil war in Côte d’Ivoire. An example what we have to work around is when, during the recent crisis, a supplier informed us that they could no longer provide us with fuel due to the prevailing hostilities. Without fuel, all our operations, critical in the fulfillment of our mandate to protect civilians, would have come to a halt. It was imperative that we developed an immediate alternative supply chain, rerouting our fuel supply to enter the country through a neighboring state.

A conventional career in procurement can often lead you to perform the same or similar tasks on a routine basis. At the United Nations, however, you never know what you’ll be called to do next. One of the highlights of my time with ONUCI, in fact, had nothing to do with the purchasing of goods and services at all. During the Côte d’Ivoire’s recent presidential elections, it was all-hands-on-deck for United Nations staff. The head of our mission asked for volunteers to act as ‘election observers’ and support the 20,000 polling stations across the country. As most Ivoirians had never voted in an election before, it was an exciting and historic moment for the Ivoirian population and the entire staff was keen to be involved. I was able not only to observe and assist in reporting from the polling stations, but also help collect the voting boxes and participate in the United Nations’ independent vote count verification process afterwards. We worked 72 solid hours in the initial phase, then took shifts to finalize the independent count for almost a week afterwards. It was an amazing experience which I will always cherish.

The United Nations provides its employees with an opportunity to do something meaningful and special with their talents and that’s what makes it a unique career choice for any experienced professional.

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