UN guidelines


The Purpose of the Common Guidelines is to:

  • communicate the basic principles for the procurement by the Organizations within the United Nations (UN) system;
  • guide the procurement activities and facilitate the harmonisation of procurement procedures among UN Organizations.

1. Preamble

The objective of procurement activities within the UN system is the timely acquisition of goods, works and services while addressing the following:

  • the objectives of the UN Organizations concerned;
  • fairness integrity, and transparency through competition:
  • economy and effectiveness;
  • best value for money.

Procurement in the UN system is governed by the established regulations and rules of each UN Organization. While such regulations and rules may differ in matters of detail, all organisations are guided by this document.

These Common Guidelines cover procurement stages from sourcing activities that precede a requisition to the execution of a procurement contract. They do not cover either the details of procurement, logistics or contract implementation matters that may be particular to each UN Organization concerned (Procuring Entity).

2. Participation by suppliers

2.1 Suppliers (i.e. providers of goods, works and services) participate, as a general rule, in procurement proceedings without regard to country of origin, unless the UN General Assembly or Security Council decides otherwise. The geographical scope of procurement may also be limited in certain cases determined by the Procuring Entity in accordance with the rules of each organisation.

2.2 Eligibility of suppliers

2.2.1 To be eligible, Suppliers must satisfy certain objectively justifiable minimum requirements, which include the legal capacity to enter into a contract, the necessary professional and technical competence, financial strength, plant, equipment and other physical facilities and qualified personnel to satisfy the requirements of the Procuring Entity.

2.2.2 Such minimum eligibility requirements should be distinguished from prequalification procedures used to determine the suitability of a Supplier for a specific project or contract. Being eligible for contracts with a Procuring Entity does not mean that a Supplier will be solicited to participate in bidding procedures or will pre-qualify for each relevant procurement activity.

2.2.3 Subject to the right of a Supplier to protect its intellectual property or trade secrets, the Procuring Entity may require the Supplier to provide documentary evidence or other information that it may deem useful to verify that the Supplier meets the requirements referred to above.

2.2.4 A Supplier that has been found at any time to have intentionally submitted false, materially inaccurate or materially incomplete information will not be considered eligible.

2.3 Registration

2.3.1 Rosters of eligible Suppliers are maintained by the Procuring Entity to ensure that a list of potential Suppliers is readily available.

2.3.2 Suppliers, wishing to be registered, should communicate directly with the Procuring Entity to request inclusion in its roster. Instructions on how to register will be provided by the Procuring Entity.

2.3.3 The information submitted by the Supplier will be evaluated by the Procuring Entity to establish the eligibility for inclusion in the roster.

2.3.4 Procuring Entities may invite from a Supplier directly or indirectly, e.g. by advertisement or other means, expressions of interest for general purposes or a particular procurement activity.

3. Solicitation documents

3.1 General

3.1.1 Solicitation Documents are used to request bids, proposals or quotations (offers) from Suppliers for the goods, works or services required. While the details and complexity of Solicitation Documents will vary according to the nature and value of the requirements, they will contain all information necessary to prepare a suitable Offer. Solicitation Documents will include, as appropriate: an invitation to offer, instructions to the offeror, form of the offer requested (bid, proposal or quotation), form of the proposed contract, conditions of contract - both general and special, technical specifications, lists of goods or bills of quantities and drawings, description of work, as well as necessary appendices, evaluation criteria and minimum qualification requirements.

3.1.2 In the Solicitation Documents, descriptions of the required goods, works or services will normally be generic. References to brand names, trademarks, catalogue numbers or similar classifications should be avoided. If it is necessary to quote a brand name or catalogue number of a particular manufacturer to clarify an otherwise incomplete description, the words "or equivalent" will be added after such references.

3.1.3 Solicitation Documents will specify internationally accepted standards, such as those issued by ISO, wherever these are available and appropriate. When particular national or other standards are required, the Solicitation Document will indicate that other standards may be acceptable, provided they ensure an equivalent or higher level of performance than the specified international standard.

3.1.4 Where it becomes necessary to clarify the Solicitation Documents for any reason, all Suppliers who have received the Solicitation Documents will be notified simultaneously in writing of the clarification. At any time before the deadline for submission of Offers, the Procuring Entity may, for any reason, whether on its own initiative or because of a request for clarification by a Supplier, modify the Solicitation Documents by issuing an addendum. The addendum will be communicated promptly to all Suppliers, to which the Procuring Entity has provided the Solicitation Documents and will be binding on those Suppliers.

3.2 Types of solicitation documents

3.2.1 Invitation to Bid (ITB): A Solicitation Document issued by a Procuring Entity in which the requirements for formal competitive bidding are specified. The ITB describes the Procuring Entity's requirements quantitatively & qualitatively in a manner which permits prospective bidders to submit bids on the same basis so that the award can be made to the lowest priced, technically acceptable bidder or best value bidder as evaluated in accordance with the ITB.

3.2.2 Request for Proposals (RFP): A Solicitation Document issued by a Procuring Entity in order to obtain proposals to satisfy a requirement which cannot be described in a complete or definitive manner. An RFP leads to the selection of the proposal that offers the best value in accordance with the evaluation criteria . Where appropriate, the RFP will indicate that negotiation may be undertaken in respect of one or more proposals.

3.2.3 Request for Quotation (RFQ): An informal Solicitation Document, normally used for low value procurement requirements, in which Procuring Entities request prices and commercial terms from Suppliers, for goods, works or services that meet standard specifications and are readily available on the market.

4. Solicitation of offers

4.1 Competition

4.1.1 Procuring Entities, as a general rule, use competition to procure goods, works or services. Such competition may be undertaken on an informal or formal basis and be either open or limited. As many Suppliers as is practicable will be given the opportunity to offer the required goods, works or services.

4.2 Open international competition

4.2.1 Open International Competition (OIC) is initiated by an advertisement, which invites interested Suppliers to request the Solicitation Documents from the Procuring Entity. Use of OIC is appropriate for goods, works or services of a relatively high value.

4.2.2 The Procuring Entity, at its discretion, may arrange the publication of a Procurement Notice in the United Nations' "Development Business", UNDP / IAPSO's "Procurement Update" or a publication of wide international circulation. The advertisement will contain information such as the scope of procurement, name and address of the Procuring Entity, and the scheduled date for availability of Solicitation Documents .

4.2.3 For complex or specialised goods, works or services, prequalification may be undertaken by advertising. Any Supplier requesting to participate will be provided with prequalification documents, which will contain instructions on preparing and submitting applications, the procurement requirements contemplated and any specific qualifications that may be deemed necessary for prequalification. Only suppliers that have been pre-qualified following evaluation are entitled to participate in further procurement proceedings for the specific requirement.

4.3 Limited international competition

4.3.1 Limited International Competition (LIC) is limited to a short-list of qualified Suppliers selected in a non-discriminatory manner by the Procuring Entity from rosters, pre-qualifications, expressions of interest and other sources. LIC is appropriate where OIC is unsuitable for economical and efficient procurement because of the value, urgent demand or limited availability of the required goods, works or services.

4.4 Local competition

4.4.1 For specified reasons the Procuring Entity may restrict the use of the solicitation methods as described in 4.2 and 4.3 to Suppliers located in the country or region where the goods, works or services procured will be used.

4.5 Direct contracting

4.5.1 As an alternative to competition and in the interest of the Procuring Entity, Direct Contracting through negotiation may be an appropriate method when, for example:

  • the contract relates to the procurement of proprietary goods, works or services;
  • standardisation of equipment or spare parts require compatibility with existing equipment;
  • rate contracts or standing offers were established by the Procuring Entity or following joint negotiations by several Organizations of the UN system;
  • the urgency of the requirement is such that the delay involved in applying other methods of procurement would be unacceptable;
  • offers for identical items have been obtained through competition within a reasonable period and the prices and conditions offered remain competitive;
  • the monetary value of the proposed contract is considered insufficient to make competitive procurement economical.

5. Submission, receipt, opening and evaluation of offers

5.1 General

5.1.1. All Offers will be received, accepted, opened, recorded and evaluated in accordance with impartial procedures established by the Procuring Entity.

5.2. Submission and receipt of offers

5.2.1 Suppliers must comply with the procedure for submission of Offers as well as the technical requirements expressed in the Solicitation Documents in order to protect the confidentiality, and allow for fair and non-discriminatory treatment, of their Offers.

5.2.2 An Offer may be modified or withdrawn before the deadline for its receipt. Such modification or withdrawal shall be made in the form indicated in the Solicitation Documents for the Offer.

5.3. Opening of bids and proposals

5.3.1 The Procuring Entity will fix a date and place for the opening of bids and proposals. Where the opening is public, the date, time and place will be indicated in the Solicitation Documents. The purpose of the opening is to verify that all formalities indicated in the Solicitation Documents are met, including the timeliness of the receipt of each bid or proposal and, where required, their sealed condition.

5.3.2 When the opening is public, Suppliers who have submitted bids are entitled to attend the opening, where each bid is opened and the names and addresses of each bidder, as well as the total value of each bid is announced.

5.4 Evaluation of offers

5.4.1 Once bids, proposals or quotations have been received and opened, they will be evaluated to determine which Offer best responds to the requirements established by the Solicitation Documents.

5.4.2 The Offers will be evaluated in accordance with the evaluation criteria specified in the Solicitation Documents. To the extent appropriate, the evaluation criteria will be given relative weight. Bids, proposals and quotations submitted in different currencies will be converted into a single currency, usually US dollars, using the United Nations operational rate of exchange in effect at the date specified in the Solicitation Document.

5.4.3 Except when negotiations have been authorised by the Procuring Entity, Suppliers will not be allowed to alter any Offer after the deadline for receipt provided for in the Solicitation Documents. The Procuring Entity may, however, request clarification of any offer during the evaluation.

5.5 Rejection of offers

5.5.1 The Procuring Entity may reject any or all Offers at any time before the conclusion of a procurement contract.

6. Procurement contracts

6.1 Formalisation of procurement contracts

6.1.1. Once the Procuring Entity has decided on the award of contract, that decision is formalised by the establishment of a legally enforceable relationship with the successful bidder. Normally, this is accomplished by a written procurement contract between the parties.

6.1.2 After a procurement contract has been awarded or the procurement proceedings have ended, unsuccessful bidders normally will be sent a formal letter of regret by the Procuring Entity.

6.1.3 The Procuring Entity will not disclose:

  • information that may prejudice legitimate commercial interests of the parties or inhibit fair competition;
  • information relating to the examination, evaluation and comparison of Offers.

6.2 Terms and conditions

6.2.1 All procurement contracts are subject to the General Conditions of the Procuring Entity. The Solicitation Documents will include a copy of, or incorporate by reference, the General Conditions of the Procuring Entity and special conditions, if any.

6.2.2. The General Conditions will include a clause on the settlement of disputes by arbitration and relevant provisions concerning the privileges and immunities of the United Nations that apply to the Procuring Entity.

6.3 Performance securities

6.3.1 The Procuring Entity may require Suppliers to provide a security to guarantee performance in accordance with the procurement contract. This performance security may be requested in the form of a bank guarantee, a standby letter of credit or other means in an amount related to the value of the goods, services or works involved and the payment conditions.

7. Ethical behaviour and relationships with suppliers

7.1 All procurement officials will maintain an unimpeachable standard of integrity in all their business relationships both inside and outside the Organizations in which they are employed. They will never use their authority or office for personal gain and will seek to uphold and enhance the standing of their Organization.

8. Statistical reporting

8.1 Each organization of the UN system will keep appropriate statistics on its procurement activities including details of geographical distribution of contracts. These statistics will be made available regularly to the Member States through the General Assembly of the United Nations.