Public-Private Partnerships Forum Strategizes to Evaluate, Scale Up Impacts
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The UN Economic Commission for Europe Public-Private Partnership Forum showcased projects and approaches for successful people-first PPPs.

The Forum previewed guiding principles on people-first PPPs, as well as a draft declaration on a zero tolerance approach to corruption in PPP procurement.

Case studies informed discussions on draft standards for PPPs in railways, renewable energy, roads and water supply and sanitation.

9 May 2018: The UN Economic Commission for Europe’s (UNECE) International Public-Private Partnership Centre of Excellence hosted a forum on “people-first public-private partnerships” (PPPs) for the SDGs. UNECE has announced a goal of achieving 500 people-first PPPs.

Convening on the theme, ‘Scaling up: Meeting the challenges of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through people-first Public-Private Partnerships,’ from 7-9 May 2018, in Geneva, Switzerland, the Forum focused on identifying and scoring effective partnerships, and building linkages across them to scale up their impacts. For example, rather than simply providing a roadway, how can a transportation infrastructure project enable market access for previously disconnected communities, while minimizing environmental degradation?

The Forum agenda notes that, historically, PPPs have been used as a means of delivering a service or project, often without considering broader impacts on issues such as poverty eradication. As development organizations begin to use PPPs for SDG implementation, questions have arisen about their suitability. Discussions at the Forum highlighted challenges associated with PPPs, such as high transaction costs, project replicability, and building capacity with limited financial resources. Addressing these challenges, sessions covered: fundamental principles that should underpin infrastructure projects, such as fair and open procurement rules; ways to implement existing standards including on the Zero Tolerance approach to corruption in PPPs and current documentation on Guiding Principles; strategies for the private sector to lead on women’s empowerment; and scaling up work already undertaken by the International PPP Centre of Excellence (ICoE).

A plenary session on cross-border “mega infrastructure projects” focused particularly on China’s Belt and Road Initiative (B&R). Following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between China and UNECE in May 2017, a workplan was developed to ensure cooperation in PPP capacity building. As part of the workplan, an international Policy Dialogue consisting of five future workstreams is planned, on: 1) promoting open, fair, transparent and sustainable procurement practices; 2) encouraging common standards and harmonized approaches to project development and implementation; 3) negotiating good deals and fair risk allocation; 4) increasing the sustainability of projects; and 5) empowering women in transformative people-first PPPs. The plenary session addressed questions relating to the five workstreams, such as “how can cooperation amongst the countries in the B&R set the highest standards of international best practice in PPP sustainable procurement?”

A compendium of 60 case studies spanning 33 countries supported the discussions. Each case study outlines the public and private organizations behind a project, the funders, the “who, what, when, where, why and how,” the SDG to which the project most directly contributes, and the extent to which the project delivers economic and social impacts for people, is scalable and replicable, and includes other stakeholders.

Moving forward, a project team will work on an evaluation methodology for people-first PPPs, as proposed by the Specialist Centre on PPP in Smart & Sustainable Cities. The proposal outlines five conditions that must be met in order for a PPP to be considered people-first, in the areas of: 1) increasing access and social justice; 2) resilience and environment; 3) economic effectiveness; 4) replicability; and 5) engagement of stakeholders.

UNECE has been exploring PPPs’ potential to contribute to the 2030 Agenda for the past several years, and previously published guidance on good governance in PPPs. [Forum webpage] [Forum agenda] [Database of case study material] [Proposed evaluation methodology for ‘People-First’ PPPs] [SDG Knowledge Weekly: Supply Chains and Public-Private Partnerships] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on PPP risks] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on UNECE and PPPs’ role in sustainable development][International PPP Centre of Excellence] [Specialist Centre on PPP in Smart & Sustainable Cities]

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