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UN S3I programme to open office in Helsinki

12 Aug 2019, 19:57 ( 9 days ago) | updated: 13 Aug 2019, 09:41 ( 8 days ago)

DF Report
City of Helsinki photo by Mika Lappalainen.

The UN Social Impact Investing Initiative (S3I) is going to open a new office in Helsinki, said a government press release.

S3I of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) is a programme for promoting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in developing countries.

Opening its new office in Helsinki, the S3I initiative will focus on major infrastructure projects in three sectors: renewable energy, affordable housing, and health. It will operate as project developer, making projects suitable for investment and attracting private investor finance. Impact investing means responsible investment in which the investor aims not only to make a return but to generate a social impact.

UN member countries have made a commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the aims of which include eliminating poverty and hunger by 2030. The finance needed to achieve the UN’s objectives for sustainable development is immense. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimates that the annual investment gap for achieving the goals is USD 2.5 trillion.

“Bringing public and private financing together will provide a new channel for managing the developing country risks and will enable a greater social impact. Public financing will also mobilise private finance for promoting sustainable development. The new office in Helsinki will also assist in building sustainable growth and in establishing new areas of expertise in Finland,” said Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Ville Skinnari.

UNOPS selected Finland as the location of its S3I office because of its attractive environment for innovation and impact investment, the openness of Finnish society, and low level of corruption. The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra is among those organisations that have long been helping to build a suitable operating environment for impact investing in Finland. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment has also been implementing national employment projects financed by impact investment measures.

“We were really impressed with the commitment of the government in supporting new and innovative ways to reach the Sustainable Development Goals. This aligned well with our ambition to build an international social impact investing initiative, helping nations across the world to achieve their goals,” says UNOPS Executive Director Grete Faremo.

“The city is part of this process of enabling UNOPS to move its S3I operations, and in this concrete way we want to foster the image of Helsinki as a city that is internationally networked and provides a great operating environment for global organisations. The S3I initiative is of global importance and also supports Helsinki’s goal of a more significant role for cities in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori.

The relocation of the UNOPS S3I initiative to Helsinki adds to the UN presence in Finland: Helsinki already has the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER), and Otaniemi in Espoo is home to the UN Technology Innovation Labs (UNTIL).

The S3I office will be located in Sofia Future Farm in the heart of Helsinki. An agreement was signed on 12 August by Minister Skinnari and UNOPS Executive Director Grete Faremo in this regard.