UNOPS: infrastructure sector needs to break out of the ‘silo mentality’

The call was made by the organisation at the launch of its new report at the Global Engineering Congress (GEC) in London today. 

UNOPS launched the report at GEC today. Image credit: Visual Eye
UNOPS launched the report at GEC today. Image credit: Visual Eye

Infrastructure workers need to stop thinking about development in terms of silos, a report by UNOPS, the United Nations Office for Project Services, has said.

Instead, the sector needs to realise that infrastructure is a cross-sector, integrated system of systems, that can have an effect across generations. 

Launching the report, Infrastructure: Underpinning Sustainable Development, in a keynote address at GEC, Nick O’Regan, UNOPS Director of Infrastructure and Project Management, said:

“No longer is it an option to build schools with inadequate sanitation facilities, or to design public transportation systems that don’t consider the threat of women being exposed to harassment and abuse, or build infrastructure that doesn’t consider natural hazards and offsets development gains when disaster strikes.

“We cannot afford to continue to get it wrong - morally, socially and economically.”

We owe it to our children to “create an environment that’s resilient, sustainable and equitable - and the built environment can be an enabler, or an obstacle to this,” he added. 

Infrastructure can help achieve multiple UN SDGs

Because infrastructure projects have a cross-sector impact, they can also have multiple effects across several SDGs, the report found. 

By analysing real-life projects implemented by UNOPS around the world, it discovered that networked infrastructure influences 72% of SDG targets, while non-networked infrastructure influences 81% of targets. 

This reinforced how important the role of infrastructure is in achieving the SDGs. 

“Infrastructure has long-term impact by virtue of the fact that it’s built to last,” O’Regan told delegates. 

“It can lock in development patterns for decades. The choices made now will affect the lives of our children, and theirs.”

The report was published by UNOPS and the University of Oxford-led Infrastructure Transition Research Consortium (ITRC). It can be downloaded here.