Further reading

Meet a UN Focal Point: Katia Adamo, Associate Economic Affairs Officer, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe


Public private partnerships (PPPs) are of considerable interest to developing countries and transition economies, partly as a result of the financial crisis and the diminished ability of governments to finance critical projects as well as the increasing demand from citizens for better infrastructures and services. However, governments still face barriers in identifying, designing, financing and implementing projects that add value and meet social, economic and environmental goals. A lack of information on international best practices, however, is holding back the development and implementation of successful PPPs. Katia Adamo, Associate Economic Affairs Officer at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) International Centre of Excellence on Public – Private partnerships (ICoE), is working to change this.

In her position at UNECE, which she began on 1 September 2013, Katia is assisting governments, together with the ICoE Specialist Centres and the UNECE Business Advisory Board, to develop international best practices and standards on PPPs which are inspired by the Millennium Development Goals and the objectives of the post-2015 United Nation Development Agenda.

Prior to joining the United Nations, Katia worked as a civil servant at Her Majesty the Treasury in the United Kingdom and as a seconded national expert at the European Commission, where she was advisor on EU climate and energy policy and international climate finance. She studied international affairs in Rome and she holds a masters degree in environment and development from the London School of Economics and Political Science. In describing her work at the United Nations thus far, she states, “The international environment is my favorite part of working at the UN. The diversity of staff and opportunities for things you can learn are much bigger. I also enjoy the global reach of my office and working with the private sector. I previously worked only with governments – and this job gives me the opportunity to look at policy development from both private and public sector perspectives.”

While she has been at UNECE for only 6 months, she has already tallied some significant accomplishments. Particularly noteworthy is her work on establishing an International Centre on PPPs and Water and Sanitation in Geneva, which will be an international platform on water PPPs with the final aim to develop and promote the sharing of international best practices at global level. Other Specialist Centre have been, and are being, established across many important sectors – such as health (the Philippines), renewable energy (Morocco),ICT broadband (Azerbaijan) and Highways (India). The mission of these Centres is to collect information on successes and failures from past and current PPP experiences and to distil from such analysis the principles of best practices. The Specialist Centres run under the auspices of the UNECE PPPs International Centre of Excellence (ICoE), based in Geneva, which acts as an umbrella for all the sector-specific Centres and aims to help governments in achieving excellence in PPPs development and implementation by identifying international PPPs best practices and standards.

In describing the Specialist Centres, Katia explains, “There is a lot of information on PPPS out there, but it is very fragmented. The UNECE has a long history and expertise in PPPs and working on national capacity development. Together with the specialist centres, the ICoE will review national and regional cases for the different sectors.” She adds, “These Centres are expected to produce best practices guides for their sector and the ICoE in Geneva will then translate them into international standards through a rigorous intergovernmental UN process.”

The Specialist Centres are also important for the dissemination and implementation of best practices in their country and region. Moreover, they can host events and organize trainings and master classes on PPPs for senior civil servants. The Centres are not UN offices, but the idea is that they should be hosted by governments, universities or foundations with the hope of continuity of their activities.

In her current position, Katia has also supported the establishment of the UNECE Business Advisory Board (BAB), which aims to help the ICoE to develop international best practices and standards in PPPs and to assist countries in their successful implementation through high-level national consultative meetings. The BAB, which was established in Moscow in October 2013 and is chaired by James Stewart from KPMG’s Global Infrastructure Practice, gathers a group of the world’s leading international companies involved in Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs). At its second meeting on 13 February 2014, the BAB agreed on a program of “experience and knowledge sharing in PPPs” with a number of countries, including the Philippines, Morocco and Turkey, that will take place in 2014. Katia explains, “The Business Advisory Board is a unique advisory service for developing countries and emerging economies and it is the implementing arm of the ICoE. The UN has a strong convening power and it offers an impartial framework under which the private sector and the governments can close the current infrastructures gap through the optimal development and implementation of PPPs.”

In the coming months, the ICoE priority areas of work will be water and sanitation, health, roads, ICT broadband and renewable energy. At the next meeting of the UNECE team of specialists on PPPs to take place on 23–24 June 2014, Katia and her colleagues will present the first results of the work on the international PPPs best practices guides on health PPPs and procurement PPPs. Katia will also continue to work on establishing the International Centre on Water PPPs to be launched at a joint UNECE–World Bank international conference in October 2014.

For more information, please contact Ms. Katia Adamo, Associate Economic Affairs Officer in the Economic Cooperation, Trade, and Land Management Division at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).