Partnerships come into focus

unhqAs the international community heats up with the advent of the post 2015 development agenda underway, there can be no denying that multi-stakeholder partnerships (MSPs), will be central to the effective implementation. At special event hosted by ECOSOC on 27 February, the focus was squarely on multi-stakeholder partnerships and making them work for the Post 2015 agenda, specifically in terms of alignment and in examining models that work.

The President of ECOSOC stressed that for two decades partnerships have become an integral part of the UN’s work with increased efforts to mobilize partnerships in order to promote development. He added that while being important on a global level, it was important to ensure that partnerships worked effectively at the national level and deliver results.

In his remarks, Ambassador Sajdik discussed the mushrooming of partnerships which are “voluntary by nature, rarely the same, and often with variable reporting and other requirements.” He suggested that we must look for new and innovative ways to harness multi-stakeholder partnerships and we must ask ourselves what partnerships should look like in order to best link to the post 2015 agenda.

The first panel “Aligning Partnerships with the post 2015 development agenda: how and where should this be done?” with Michael Shank of Climate Nexus moderating offered an overview on the different partnerships and cited finding from a recent survey by the International Civil Society Centre (ICSC) in 2014 examining 330 partnerships. It noted that 38% were not active or demonstrating measurable impact. At the same time, 26% of the partnerships were active, but conducted activities that were not directly related to their public goals. The survey served as a clear reminder that there is work to do in the partnership landscape.

The panellists reiterated the need to involve actors at all levels of society, and focused on how MSPs are central to supporting the implementation of a new integrated and sustainable approach required for challenges at global, national and local levels. Through partnering capacities, MSPs bring together resources and complementary skills necessary to face complex and cross-sectorial issues. While enhancing the scale of action, MSP’s offer partners a reduction of the transaction costs of activities. Furthermore, what is required is: i) efficient, effective, Government-led multi-stakeholder platforms; ii) strong, specific areas of accountability, and iii) building the capacity of actors as well as their ability to partner effectively.

Representing the private sector, Mr. Klaus Leisinger stated the need to engage top management and reminded the audience that different stakeholders define problems differently and often with different value systems, thus it’s critical to focus on definable solutions and take time to understand partners to build trust and be successful. Charles Badenoch of World Vision iterated the need to focus on 3 key areas for MSP’s; including 1) implementation linked to national development plans, 2) the need for strong accountability to learn what works and to build trust, 3) and the need to build capacity for all sectors.

From her perspective in Zimbabwe at the Center for African Development Solutions, Prof. Hesphina Rukato (via satellite) emphasized that “people need to own the development agenda” to create consensus and provide sustainable flow of resources, while the UN should focus on the continuous mechanisms to engage all stakeholders.

The second panel focused exclusively on sharing best practices and “Partnership models that work: monitoring and reviewing in action.” Moderator Raj Kumar of Devex reinforced the notion that multi-stakeholder partnerships will be the “critical modality” for the post-2015 period and reminded the audience about the need to identify partnership models that work by learning from successful initiatives.

Some suggested for greater partnership involvement with the private sector- incentives could be provided. Other best practices of MSP include: (i.) clarifying the purpose and narrative of partnerships as well as drawing well-defined and understandable goals and targets for all partners; (ii) focusing on core benefits for partners and promoting win-win approach; (iii) giving all partners an active role in the initiative.

Adding to the private sector perspective, Gary Lawrence of AECOM suggested that for partnerships to be successful and to align with SIDS and transform development—“partnerships must be technically feasible, economically viable and politically acceptable.”

Representing REEEP, Martin Hiller identified the need for strategic and clear goals which has been decisive for the success of REEEP’s many energy partnerships and suggested the need to measure impact on the ground rather than activities as well as establishing a global framework to provide a template for measurement. He felt that government should “work to address market failures and should explore incentives for those who take early risks.”

There was discussion about the role that governments play in incentivizing private sector involvement. Private investments require regulation, rules, predictability and stability. While governments can help in creating markets necessary to make these investments possible, the right balance needs to be found between regulation and incentives.

Kandeh Yumkella shared his experience at Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All), a mega partnership working in over 100 countries, citing the need for companies and countries to incubate ideas, especially within the energy space. He pointed out that partnerships are not “simply asking companies to write checks, but to be thinking about developing markets.”

The participants seemed to agree that measuring results is decisive for the success of partnerships. Panellists cited the need to focus on measuring impact on the ground and take into account the different levels of action. From the Rotary Foundation, Michael McGovern spoke to the need for stakeholders to have clearly defined roles as in the case of Polio eradication, which although relatively easy to measure –requires alignment and inclusion of local, regional and national leaders. He suggested a clear document up-front to outline roles and responsibilities as well as an independent body for monitoring and evaluation.

Part of the discussion moved to the central issue of accountability, with an overall prerequisite on building trust. Accountability was viewed as equally important for all partners – especially to prevent conflict of interest and align partners around the common priorities for the new development agenda and making them accountable to the UN.

As such, Member States were encouraged to give strong consideration to ECOSOC as a good place to set the broad rules of engagement. Kathy Calvin of UNF highlighted the central role of accountability and a need for strong country ownership to develop successful multi-stakeholders programs like Every Woman, Every Child, Cookstove Alliance, and GAVI. Discussants cited a need to look at outcomes from various markets and the lessons learned from “when we tried.” Calvin highlighted the critical role for public sector in setting standards, norms and coordination.

In Q&A and comments by Member states, there were differing perspectives of the role of governments and whether incentives should be utilized in monitoring of MSP’s and devising effective implementation frameworks. In concluding remarks by the President of ECOSOC, the way forward seems to be a stronger consideration to hone in on what works for evaluating multi-stakeholder partnerships and to explore what learnings were effective related to global oversight mechanisms and potential platform on issues related to measurement.

For more information:

ECOSOC special event on “Multi-stakeholder partnerships: Making them work for the Post-2015 Development Agenda”