Over the past 40 years, Malawi has been one of the most stable and peaceful countries in Africa. It has an enviable record of holding five predominantly peaceful elections, including the peaceful transition of power between opposing parties. However, this stability has not translated into sustained development and poverty reduction. In 2016 Malawi ranked 170 out of 188 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI) , only one position up since 2010. The proportion of the population living below the international poverty line was 69.6% 2016. Malawi is among the most vulnerable countries to the adverse effects of climate change and environmental shocks and uring the 2016/17 lean season, Malawi experienced its worst food security crisis in over a decade, with 6.7 million people (40% of the population) in need of food assistance.
The UN is an important player in this context and one of the main development partners of the government of Malawi with a total delivery of 272 million USD in development and humanitarian assistance in 2017. However, reaching the most vulnerable and achieving the SDGs by 2030, requires the UN to be more agile, efficient and targeted in its programming, achieving more with less.
The UN Secretary General is embarking on a bold and ambitious reform to make the UN system more effective and efficient, and fit for purpose to achieve the aims of the Sustainable Development Goals; to end poverty and hunger, while ensuring a sustainable future and leaving no-one behind. As a part of the reform efforts, the Secretary General has called for UN offices to focus on constructing One UN Houses, to ensure cost effectiveness and coordination and ensure that the UN delivers as One.
Experience from other countries where UN agencies share a building, demonstrate that it helps promote UN coherence, inter-agency cooperation and teamwork and enables the UN to work more effectively. It also fosters better internal and external communication and generates savings in operational costs and additional savings from the integration of administrative services. The UN in Malawi has already realized 2.8 million USD in cost savings through harmonized operations between the nine agencies present in Malawi, but is limited from engaging in further harmonization such as common services centers, by the physical distance between the UN agencies.
The Government of Malawi is supporting the idea of having a UN House and has donated 42 acres of land for this purpose. In this project, the Government of Malawi will be the holder of the mortgage and the owner of the premises. The UN will pay rent for 15 years until the cost of the building is covered. Once the costs have been recovered, the UN will stay rent-free as long as there is a UN presence in Malawi, allowing more resources being channeled to development and the people most in need.
UN agencies (under the leadership of UNDP) and with support from the Malawi Government through the Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development are looking to build the UN house, starting construction in 2019 at the latest. The project has been included in the Government of Malawi Priority List for Public Sector Investments for the Financial Year 2018/2019.
The local market in Malawi is small with few private construction companies. Finance is expensive, with current mortgage rates above 20% per annum, limiting the affordability of the project. The UN is hence looking for private investors that would be able to finance the construction of the building at an internationally competitive rate. Securing financing at a competitive rate of maximum 5% would allow the UN to start a procurement process for Build, Operate and Transfer of the One UN House.
The total cost of the UN house is 16 million for a green and sustainable building. Repayment will be 15 years and the loan holder will be the Government of Malawi, with the UN paying directly to the financier for 15 years until the mortgage is repaid.