Recent SDG Knowledge Weekly briefs have covered private and public options for financing the SDGs, as well as efforts to localize the Goals. This week’s column turns towards other innovative ways of delivering the Goals, looking at literature and news announcements covering public-private partnerships (PPPs), policy options such as special economic zones (SEZs), and country support platforms.

Touching upon both public and private sectors, Natalie Ross authored a report for the Council on Foundations titled, ‘Local Leadership, Global Impact: Community foundations and the Sustainable Development Goals.’ The report uses nine case studies from around the world to examine a range of philanthropic interests that explicitly link to SDGs covering food security, health, education, gender, infrastructure and data (SDGs 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, and 17, respectively), and implicitly touching upon the full breadth of the 2030 Agenda. The paper highlights that community foundations – regardless of their location – always work with local partners in the communities they serve to solve local problems. Ross offers ten tips to help community foundations and grassroots groups leverage the SDGs in their work, including working across sectors to ensure that federal budgets provide adequate services. Of the many lessons, one key takeaway is that the combination of convening power and local knowledge enables success on the SDGs. Catherine Cheney offers her take in a write-up on Devex.

Policy options such as special economic zones (SEZs) can also link the public and private domains, and help deliver the SDGs. SEZs are designated areas that feature unique tax, business and trade laws which differ from those of the country in which they are located. UN Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) James Zhan writes on World Finance that SEZs have shown promise for promoting “the right kind of investment” needed to achieve the SDGs. These zones can enable both governments and private sector actors to target efforts on sustainable development-oriented investment. Zhan further argues that the concentrated and purpose-driven nature of SEZs can provide lab-like conditions to test innovative, scalable development approaches.

However, SEZs face several challenges to continued survival, including: 1) fierce competition; 2) reductions in location-based advantages; and 3) compliance with increasing pressure to ensure sustainable production and consumption practices. Zhan frames the third challenge as an opportunity for SEZs to demonstrate their potential as “sustainable development zones,” becoming more competitive through partnerships with investment promotion agencies that catalyze foreign direct investment (FDI). Possible benefits of a such partnerships and a shift to sustainable development zones include increased information sharing and technical cooperation, as well as better communication and marketing of SDG investment opportunities.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed has highlighted the power of partnerships to achieve the SDGs. In her remarks to the UN Commission on Social Development earlier this month, Mohammed stressed the importance of local leaders and knowledge of local conditions in order to meet the needs of communities. The remarks call for federal and state governments to collaborate across scales, working with local authorities, private sector and civil society organizations. Mohammed provided examples from Nigeria where local initiatives led by state governments, in collaboration with civil society actors, work towards poverty eradication (SDG 1), forest management (SDG 15), and education on sustainable agricultural practices (SDGs 4 and 2). In partnering to take the Global Goals to local level, she highlighted the SDGs Center for Africa, which opened a Sub-regional Center in Monrovia, Liberia, in January 2018.

Also applicable across governance scales, the Basel Institute of Commons and Economics released a matrix that maps interactions between SDGs. The matrix classifies relationships as being of high, medium or low impact, and is intended to assist policymakers at any level – local, regional, national or international – seeking to maximize impact with limited financial resources.

At country level, the UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) Innovative Financing Lab based in Jakarta, Indonesia, is leading an effort to facilitate national SDG implementation. In a blog published on 22 February 2018, Francine Pickup, UNDP Indonesia, outlines how the Country Support Platform is partnering with other public and private Indonesian institutions to devise context-specific solutions on SDG finance and delivery. The post highlights the platform’s strategy of combining zakat, “a mandatory annual donation under Islamic law,” with other forms of finance to test new instruments that can fund SDG implementation. A more detailed SDG Knowledge Hub write-up is forthcoming.

On Islamic finance, the Islamic Development Bank and UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) announced a new partnership to collaborate on science, technology and innovation (STI) towards the SDGs. The collaboration manifests itself via a digital platform titled, ‘Engage,’ which focuses on SDGs 2 (zero hunger), 3 (good health and well-being), 4 (quality education), 6 (clean water and sanitation), 7 (affordable and clean energy), and 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure). Further, the Islamic Development Bank established the ‘Transform Fund,’ which provides finance to innovative start-ups, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and partnerships between researchers and entrepreneurs.

In Europe, a Regional SDG Coordination Leaders Forum convened from 21-22 February 2018. Hosted by the Republic of Belarus’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Minsk, the Forum brought together representatives from 40 countries in the region to discuss cooperation towards achieving the SDGs. It builds on a Belarusian initiative to establish a regional partnership on sustainable development, the results of which will be presented at the UN Economic Commission for Europe’s regional forum on sustainable development, taking place in Geneva from 1-2 March 2018. Mohammed took her message on the importance of partnerships to this event, as well.

Additional issues of the SDG Knowledge Weekly can be found here.