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ECOSOC/6675
27 February 2015
2015 Session, Interactive Dialogues (AM)

Speakers in Economic and Social Council Welcome ‘Mushrooming’ Partnerships as Vital for New Development Scheme, But Stress Need for Oversight

Expanding the United Nations’ partnerships — with Governments, business, the philanthropic community, civil society and academia — would be central to effectively implement the new development agenda, Martin Sajdik, President of the Economic and Social Council, told the 54-member body today, as delegates evaluated how to harness their potential, including by setting up voluntary review mechanisms to assess results.

“It will be important to consider how best to channel the valuable contributions and expertise of stakeholders in advancing the implementation of the new sustainable development goals,” Mr. Sajdik (Austria) said, opening a half-day special event entitled, “Multi-stakeholder partnerships:  Making them work for the Post-2015 Development Agenda”.

The last two decades had seen a “mushrooming” of such collaborations, he said.  They had become an integral part of the Organization’s work and they were rarely the same:  they could have different structures and characteristics, employ different monitoring and review mechanisms, and/or choose to include reporting requirements.  While they were important on a global level, what really mattered was what citizens noticed at the national level.

For that, he said, voluntary review mechanisms were needed.  Such a platform could allow Governments to take stock of the role, trends, innovations and financing of multi-stakeholder partnerships.  At the same time, he cautioned against putting in place too many different implementation and review mechanisms, which would result in a loss of oversight.  Lessons learned from today’s discussions could provide ideas for a possible framework for reviewing and evaluating partnerships in the post-2015 period.

The day featured two panel discussions:  the first, moderated by Michael Shank, Climate Nexus’ Director of Media Strategy, considered how partnerships could best be aligned to the post-2015 development agenda.  A common vision and common goals were important, said Mr. Shank in opening remarks, as were “accountable aims and assets” — transparency, measurable goals, and sufficient human and financial resources.

The second panel, moderated by Raj Kumar, Co-Founder and President of Devex, highlighted elements of successful partnerships that could be extracted to help define a partnership framework for the post-2015 era.  Thinking about the future, Mr. Kumar said, required structures that brought together various actors.  It also meant identifying how to support partnerships, pinpointing issues that needed top-down attention, or bottom-up action.

Throughout, delegates weighed the criteria needed to align global partnerships with the post-2015 development agenda, raising questions about where to “house” the oversight of those collaborations and how to shape that monitoring architecture.  Questions also centred on the relationship between the private and public sectors, particularly around financing, as well as on how to avoid conflicts of interests, especially among different United Nations bodies

In closing remarks, Mr. Sajdic said today’s debate offered important ideas ahead of the Council’s annual Forum on Partnership, to be held on 28 May.

Dialogue on Aligning Partnerships with Post-2015 Development Agenda

The first dialogue this morning was moderated by Michael Shank, Director of Media Strategy at Climate Nexus.  It featured: Klaus Leisinger, Founder and President of the Global Values Alliance Foundation; Charles Badenoch, Vice-President for Global Advocacy at World Vision; and Hesphina Rukato, Founding Director of the Centre for African Development Solutions.

Opening the discussion, Mr. SHANK raised the question of whether partnerships for development were working.  In order to ensure that they did, he said, “appreciative inquiry” was needed to bring all parties to the table.  A common vision and common goals were important, as were “accountable aims and assets” — transparency, measurable goals, and sufficient human and financial resources.  In addition, dispute mechanisms were critical, as conflict was unavoidable in partnerships.  Partners needed to work continuously to build trust and legitimacy.  Strong facilitation throughout the process was needed, as were binding rules with external monitoring.

Mr. LEISINGER said that there was broad agreement that partnerships could continue to bring about innovative solutions.  They helped to build bridges between different constituencies.  In order to create successful partnerships, management had to allocate appropriate time and input, which sent a strong message from the top.  The post-2015 development agenda was not a business-as-usual approach, especially at the “meta level”, he said.  Many issues were evolving quickly, and different stakeholders defined problems in multiple ways.  If the international community wanted to succeed, he said, it needed “to be sure that we have shared values”, and stakeholders should understand each other’s perspectives on the problems.

Mr. BADENOCH agreed that a business-as-usual scenario was no longer acceptable.  Cross-sector partnerships were among the primary means by which innovation could be delivered. “We urgently need a broad range of partnerships at all levels,” he said, stressing that those needed to reach who the Millennium Development Goals had left behind — the most vulnerable.  He pointed to three important issues:  efficient, effective, Government-led multi-stakeholder platforms; strong, specific areas of accountability; and building the capacity of all actors.  “Partnering is not easy,” he said, adding that all sectors needed to strengthen their capacity to partner.

Speaking via video link from Harare, Zimbabwe, Ms. RUKATO said that she had been involved in an assessment in how far Southern Africa had come in implementing the World Summit on Sustainable Development outcomes.  From that experience, she said, she felt that continuous commitment to agreed development targets was needed, as was sustainable resource flows.  The focus had been more on processes and less on impact, which had hampered the achievement of the Goals on the ground.  One area where there had been success was peace and security.  For example, the Ebola crisis had “really brought everyone together”, including civil society and the private sector.  While national ownership of the sustainable development goals, especially in Africa, was crucial, all partners should focus on issues such as capacity-building and technology transfer.

Mr. SHANK posed three questions:  which criteria were needed to align partnerships with sustainable development goals; where the oversight of the post-2015 development agenda should be housed; and what the architecture of that oversight should look like.

In response, Mr. BADENOCH stressed that partnerships with common values took time to build.  On architecture, he said that national platforms for all of the sustainable development goals were needed in-country, but that a global platform for each was also needed.

Mr. LEISINGER agreed that transparency, accountability and time were needed to build partnerships to achieve the sustainable development goals.  “Let’s take the time to understand each other,” he said, adding that different partners brought a diversity of views and skillsets.  “The oversight should be at the United Nations,” he added, pointing to the Global Compact as an example of an international architecture.

Ms. RUKATO said impact and ownership were two criteria that needed to be aligned on a day-to-day basis in order for partnerships to truly help achieve the sustainable development goals.  Governments should bring together stakeholders on the national level, but should report regularly to a regional platform and eventually to the United Nations.

In the ensuing dialogue, several Government representatives agreed with the need for a bottom-up approach that was citizen-centred, as well as with the notion that the sustainable development agenda should be monitored and assessed at the global level under the auspices of the United Nations.

The representative of Brazil said that the new agenda was about people, planet and prosperity.  “It is nothing like the [Millennium Development Goals],” he said; it was about human rights and involved all countries.  It was important to understand the scope of what the world was trying to achieve, he stressed.

The representative of the European Union Delegation underscored that Governments could not achieve the sustainable development goals by themselves, and that new channels of partnerships were needed.

Switzerland’s delegate pointed to the United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development as an example of architecture to house the post-2015 development agenda, and raised the question of how to “further refine” such global oversight mechanisms in order to ensure that all stakeholders participated actively.

Representatives from the Republic of Korea and the International Chamber of Commerce also participated in the dialogue.

Panel Discussion on Partnership Models that Work

Moderated by Raj Kumar, Co-Founder and President of Devex, the panel featured presentations by:  Kathy Calvin, President and Chief Executive Officer, United Nations Foundation; Kandeh Yumkella, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Chief Executive, Sustainable Energy for All Initiative; Gary Lawrence, Vice-President and Chief Sustainability Officer, AECOM Technology Corporation; Michael McGovern, Rotary Foundation Vice-Chair and Chairman, Rotary International Polio Plus Committee; and Martin Hiller, Director-General, Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership.

Opening the panel Mr. KUMAR said partnerships were a critical new modality for the next 15 years.  Governments, non-governmental organizations and companies were “stretched thin”.  Thinking about the future required structures that brought together a variety of different actors.  It also meant identifying how to support partnerships — and pinpointing the issues that needed top-down attention or bottom-up action, which would be evaluated on their social and economic impact, or on their business impact to the bottom line.  Professionals 15 years from now likely would have experience that spanned the private, Government and civil society sectors. 

Mr. HILLER said the partnership he represented dated to 2002, set up by the United Kingdom Government.  With the creation of the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative had come a “flag bearer” for pursuit of a global vision.  His group’s theory of change was based on low-carbon action, which could not be achieved without an increase in prosperity.  Generally speaking, a partnership must have a clear strategic vision.  For his group, the issue of “co-benefits” really meant “core” benefits, which started with the client’s perspective.  For example, in Indonesia, his group was helping tofu producers transition from fire to an alternative fuel, which had saved them 1.5 hours each day — a “core” benefit that aligned with his group’s focus on small- and medium-enterprise development.  In addition, it was important to measure impact on the ground, as well as to foster collaborative knowledge management systems.  There were all sorts of silos that should be linked in order to answer questions, for example, about water and energy use.  Such an integrated approach could underpin the Council’s partnership strategy to bring the sustainable development goals into cohesion.

Next, Ms. CALVIN said one lesson learned in the Millennium Development Goals experience was that an “all hands on deck” approach was needed.  Maximizing impact required placing a problem at the centre and involving all actors to solve it.  By providing common goals, multi-stakeholder partnerships had been successful in increasing financing and fostering both accountability and country ownership.  The “Every woman, every child” campaign, for example, had mobilized more than $45 billion in new funding and disbursed some $27 billion.  More than 70 Governments had made commitments, having worked with myriad non-Government organizations.  A strong accountability mechanism that examined what was being delivered had been successful.  In connecting the private sector’s greatest strengths with the public sector’s greatest needs, she said it was important to recognize that many in the private sector wanted to give their time and expertise — not simply their money.  They understood that accountability was important.  She urged inviting the private sector to help create suitable accountability mechanisms.

Mr. YUMKELLA said the “Sustainable Energy for All” was a mega-partnership, comprising 2,000 non-governmental organizations, 100 countries, and several foundations and corporations.  The goal was to create an energy movement.  On lessons learned, he said it was important to have a clear common narrative.  Also, partners had to benefit from the collaboration, sometimes by contributing to society or by making their social interventions profitable.  “Give the partners something to do,” he said.  When the initiative was launched three years ago, he worried that, in forming an executive board, whether chief executive officers would want to come back to a meeting when they could be doing a $100 million deal.  “Energy touches everything in human development”, he said, noting that the initiative had about 10 sectoral partnerships.  He discussed in that context a global gas flaring reduction partnership — led by the World Bank and involving oil and gas companies — explaining that the energy wasted through flaring could supply 50 per cent of Africa’s electricity if redirected.  Needed were markets, technologies, countries — to create legislation — and companies to provide a technical team.  Targets were also important to eliminate flaring by 2030.  On financing, achieving the sustainable development goals required bringing in banks that could link with institutional investors.  Companies would not invest the billions of dollars expected without enabling conditions, such as regulations and predictable public policy.

Mr. LAWRENCE, noting that his company had 110,000 employees in the infrastructure sector, said people often referred to companies as entities.  “We are also 110,000 citizens and their families,” he said, noting that his company’s ability to serve the markets lay in recruiting and retaining the right people — which could not be done if the company’s reputation was bad or if employees were not seeing their efforts make a fundamental difference.  AECOM was a design, build, finance and operate company.  Having heard partnerships discussed for years, he asked what would be done differently, so that the outcome of the sustainable development goals resulted in a better environment for people in the future.  AECOM had worked with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, in helping countries model risks for climate change.  With IBM, it had created models for a variety of urban environments, in order to learn about the opportunity costs of one investment versus another.  Efforts must be technically feasible, economically viable and politically acceptable.  The different interests at play created an “intellectual tension” that allowed for finding better solutions.

Mr. MCGOVERN said polio had been around for a few thousand years and was endemic today in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.  Rotary had begun its fight against the disease in 1979 in the Philippines.  Since then, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United States Center for Disease Control and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had been involved to complete the eradication.  “This is something that has taken over $10 billion,” he said, noting that when eradication efforts started, there were 350,000 cases per year.  In 2014, there were only 370 cases.  The current calendar year had seen 10 cases.  Ending the disease required coordinating mechanisms from the local to the global level.  Citing an example, he said today’s Polio Oversight Board phone meeting had been held with the Executive Directors of WHO and UNICEF, chaired by the head of the Center for Disease Control and involved senior experts from Rotary and the Gates Foundation.  Every partner needed a role that was outlined in a strategy document.  His organization did fundraising, advocacy and awareness-raising, and volunteer support.  All committees involved all partners.

To a question on what panellists would like see in the future, Mr. YUMKELLA said more robust governance structures were needed to mobilize more partnerships.  In the United Nations system, there was a danger that, when something was mainstreamed, it disappeared.  For energy, a United Nations governance structure that examined the field in its totality was needed, as had been the case for atomic energy.  States also must debate how address energy issues, especially the link between energy and security.

On the role of public financing, he said Governments played a lead role in creating, expanding and incentivizing markets.  For energy, setting up a project development facility was important, as was Government accountability.

Going forward, Mr. LAWRENCE discussed the idea of “differentiating scale”.  Some efforts needed a global structure, while others did not.  There often was an institutional disconnect that had to be managed.  The water-food-energy-security nexus would be important in the future.  How those different and complex aspects were managed was at the centre of the energy question.  A good approach would be to solve an energy problem, for example, in a way that reduced water degradation and food de-contamination, and that made society more tolerant of the governance necessary for civil society and the private sector to solve those problems.

On the tension between bottom-up and top-down structures for achieving the sustainable development goals, Mr. MCGOVERN said there was a long distance between global board-room discussions and what was happening on the ground.  It was important to have global frameworks for monitoring and evaluation.  In that context, he cautioned against recreating twentieth century administrative structures that pulled together results from different places and assembled them.  The water-energy nexus, for example, raised the question of how to manage those resources from both ends.  To do that required flexible knowledge- and data-management tools, as well as open access to finance data, all of which helped small companies find new business ventures.

Ms. CALVIN said work on the Millennium Development Goals had been done in silos, which would not be the case with the sustainable development goals.  She urged breaking out of silos and taking advantage of cross-cutting opportunities.  More broadly, the critical role of the public sector was to provide standards, norms and coordination.  She said defining the goals and roles in advance of partnerships was essential to foster agreement among stakeholders.

Speaking in the debate were the representatives of the Republic of Korea, Brazil, Argentina, China and Germany.

For information media. Not an official record.