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Helsinki lands UN project agency

The UN's Investing for Impact social initiative focuses on renewable energy, health and affordable housing projects.

Ilmakuva Helsingin keskustasta.
Initially less than 20 people will be working for the Investment Office on Sofiankatu in downtown Helsinki. Image: Jouko Tapper / Yle

The UN has announced that the offices of Investing for Impact, a project affiliated with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), will be established in Helsinki.

UNOPS is an operational branch of the United Nations, tasked with building projects and attracting private investment for the UN, international financial institutions, governments and other partners around the world.

It focuses on three themes: renewable energy, affordable housing and health.

The Finnish government plans to further support the program with a budget allocation of approximately 20 million euros.

Social responsibility and impact

The 'Investing for Impact' project aims to "generate social and environmental impact alongside a financial return", according to the project's website, which means encouraging responsible investment decisions that also have a positive social impact. Examples of such projects might include the improving of air quality or the reduction of homelessness among young people.

The project was established in 2015 and is linked to the UN's Agenda for Sustainable Development, also known as Agenda 2030, which aims to eradicate poverty and hunger on a global scale by 2030.

"It was clear from the start that Agenda 2030 would require a lot of money. Much more than the UN's official development assistance can offer," said UNOPS CEO Grete Faremo, also adding that a strategic decision was therefore made to attract private investors.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimates that the investment gap to reach the targets set up under Agenda 2030 is approximately 2.5 trillion US dollars.

Advantages of locating in Helsinki

The Finnish Foreign Ministry's Ambassador for Innovation, Jarmo Sareva, welcomed the decision to locate the 'Investing' for Impact offices in Helsinki, and said he hopes UNOPS's presence in Helsinki will contribute to Finland's own development policy goals.

"They support the goals of sustainable development, which is also at the heart of Finland's own development policy," Sareva told Yle.

According to Sareva, Helsinki was chosen as the location for the project's offices because of the clear commitment shown to the project by the Finnish authorities since discussions began late last year.

"Finland was strongly committed to the idea of UNOPS coming here, from the levels of government, the city of Helsinki and other stakeholders," Sareva said.

Another important factor in the decision was Finland's previous work in the field of investing for social impact, which has been a focus for Finland's innovation foundation Sitra.

The offices of 'Investing for Impact' are expected to open on Sofiankatu in central Helsinki this coming autumn.

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