Policy Groups Call for Risk Awareness with PPPs
Photo by IISD | Lynn Wagner
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Eurodad issued a briefing paper on negative impacts of PPPs, focusing on their promotion by the World Bank Group, while a briefing paper from Global Policy Watch stresses the need for responsible promotion of partnerships undertaken by the UN Development System (UNDS).

Eurodad and Global Policy Watch joined a “global campaign manifesto” on PPPs.

The 2030 Reflection Group asserts that privatization and PPPs "involve disproportionate risks and costs for the public sector and can even exacerbate inequalities, decrease equitable access to essential services and jeopardize the fulfilment of human rights.”

23 October 2017: Several organizations have issued papers and reports examining the risks associated with the growth of public-private partnerships (PPPs) and other forms of private sector involvement in achieving the SDGs. The publications also suggest processes for the UN and development banks to address the risks.

The European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad) issued a briefing paper on negative impacts of public-private partnerships (PPPs). The paper titled, ‘Public-Private Partnerships: Defusing the ticking time bomb,’ finds that PPPs can impose large fiscal costs on the public, but the World Bank and other actors do not always alert countries to these risks. PPPs have “already left lasting negative fiscal legacies” including in the UK, Portugal, Ghana, Peru and Lesotho, argue authors Mathieu Vervynckt and María José Romero. The briefing encourages greater transparency and public scrutiny of PPP projects. It also calls for evaluating alternatives to PPPs, including public financing of infrastructure projects.

A briefing paper from Global Policy Watch also stresses the need for responsible promotion of partnerships, noting that currently, partnerships undertaken by the UN Development System (UNDS) result in “a dilution of governance” as well as lower quality assistance. The paper titled, ‘UN partnerships in the public interest? Not yet,’ expresses concern about a shift away from accountability in favor of corporate funding. The authors, Barbara Adams and Sarah Dayringer, welcome a proposed postponement of the UNGA’s Second Committee discussion of a resolution on partnerships, to allow for further discussion of multi-stakeholder involvement, guidance and accountability, and a system-wide approach to partnerships. The briefing also notes that, according to this year’s report of the UN Secretary-General on partnerships (A/72/310), progress has been made toward creating a draft set of draft guidelines to “govern the risk management in partnerships involving non-governmental organizations affiliated with business entities, corporate sustainability and public transparency to be of the highest importance.”

A work stream is underway on a system-wide approach to partnerships among the UN Global Compact, DESA and UNDG.

GPW highlights that another report of the Secretary-General, on the repositioning of the UNDS (A/72/124), reports on UN initiatives underway to review partnerships by launching “partnership focused work-streams.” The work streams include a process to adopt a system-wide approach to partnerships, to be developed among the UN Global Compact, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and the UN Development Group.

Eurodad and Global Policy Watch are among the 151 national, regional and international civil society organizations, trade unions and citizens’ organizations from 45 countries that recently issued a “global campaign manifesto” on PPPs. The document outlines threats to public finance, equality, democracy, and fundamental rights. On infrastructure, the organizations call on development banks to stop the “aggressive promotion and incentivizing of PPPs,” recognize the risks that PPPs can pose, and support countries in finding the best financing method. On public services, they encourage prioritizing domestic resources, and stress the need for high-quality, publicly-funded, democratically-controlled, accountable public services: “the wellbeing of our communities and societies depends on it.”

In addition, the 2030 Reflection Group issued its 2017 report on the theme, ‘Reclaiming the public (policy) space for the SDGs: Privatization, partnerships, corporate capture and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.’ Jens Martens of Global Policy Forum observes that some argue that the private sector is the most efficient way to provide the necessary means for implementing the SDGs. However, “many studies and experiences by affected communities have shown that privatization and PPPs involve disproportionate risks and costs for the public sector and can even exacerbate inequalities, decrease equitable access to essential services and jeopardize the fulfilment of human rights.” He calls to strengthen public finance in order to reduce corporate influence over people’s lives. The paper was launched in Geneva, Switzerland, on 23 October 2017, with the UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES). [Eurodad Briefing] [GPW Briefing] [Global Campaign Manifesto] [2017 Spotlight on Sustainable Development]

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