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Lessons Learned from UNOPS Work in Costa Rica

May 22, 2023

©UNOPS/Chris Umaña

On Thursday, May 18, the event "Critical Aspects and Success Factors in the Implementation of Infrastructure Projects" was held in the auditorium of the College of Engineers and Architects of Costa Rica. This event, organized by UNOPS in conjunction with the College of Civil Engineers, discussed UNOPS's experience in the country.

The event began with the introduction of the attendees, followed by a welcome speech from Alexandra Kianman Paredes, director of the UNOPS Multi-country Office for Panama and Costa Rica. She highlighted UNOPS's commitment to supporting countries in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and, specifically, the 2030 agenda, with an emphasis on SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, and SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities.

The main objective of this event was to generate a greater understanding of the role UNOPS has played in the implementation of road infrastructure projects in the country and to explore the lessons learned from the construction of major works in the greater metropolitan area.

From a talk given by UNOPS' main infrastructure advisor, Juan Carlos Rosas, details of the implementation of construction projects for 5 major road works carried out in San José were addressed: the duplication of the bridge over the Virilla River on national route 32, the duplication of the bridge over the Virilla river on national route 147 (Lindora), and the three underpasses of Las Garantías Sociales, La Bandera, and El Bicentenario (Guadalupe) in the eastern part of the ring road.

In the talk, it was concluded that there is a need for robust designs, created with depth and a high level of detail, based on prior studies to keep cost and time variations to a minimum during the execution of the works. Also, the use of contracts based on FIDIC contracts was highlighted, which generates a risk balance for the parties, and allows the manager to make decisions and implement them on time. Finally, it was identified that project management is key to facilitating the management of the work at all levels and speeding up decision-making.

Martín Arévalo de León, director of UNOPS in Costa Rica, added, "This dynamic is part of the spirit in terms of the development of our activities. We are most openly and candidly, opening up and exposing what we do, to be able to generate that trust in institutions and the population, which is transparency about the methods, mechanisms, the ways we do things, and, above all, with public funds and how these are used by partners."

As areas for improvement in project implementation, three were identified in this discussion: taking into account from the design stage the impact on public services, considering expropriations and the availability of land before starting the construction of the works, and improving the management times of projects; both from the administration for obtaining funds and from UNOPS internally, to promote greater agility in the face of partial availability of funds for project execution.

Olman Vargas, director of the College of Civil Engineers, emphasized the college's availability, with the support of the Federated College of Engineers and Architects, to provide a space for discussion on these topics, commenting: "As a college, we will always continue to generate these spaces, convinced that it is the best way to continue contributing to improving the quality of life of Costa Ricans and the socioeconomic development of the country."

©UNOPS/Chris Umaña

Regarding the continuation of UNOPS's work in the country, Alexandra Kiandman added, "There is much work to be done, making infrastructure is an art, it doesn't happen overnight, but we must leave with a reflection on why we make public infrastructure and how we can best benefit all Costa Ricans from each of the roles in which we can contribute. As UNOPS, we reaffirm our commitment to the country, we are very satisfied with the work we have been doing and how we have been doing it, and we want to continue working and contributing to the country."

Among the special guests at the event was the director of the National Road Council, Mauricio Batalla, who highlighted that "from this Executive Direction and the Ministry of Public Works, we understand that we need these strategic partners at both national and international levels to be able to move forward. It's the only way to get the country's infrastructure off the ground. I thank UNOPS, during these 9 months of management, for teaching me to overcome many of the problems and for prioritizing effectiveness, efficiency, and transparency in their management with the government."

©UNOPS/Chris Umaña

To continue contributing to this conversation, you can review the live recording of the event at the following 👉 link.


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