20 September 2018
UN System Heads Consider Approach to Private Sector Partnerships
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In 2017, the JIU issued a report titled, ‘The United Nations System: Private Sector Partnerships Arrangements in the Context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’.

A chart outlines 12 recommended actions to be taken by various parts of the UN.

High-level UN officials met in the context of the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination, and their views are captured in a report to the UNGA from the UN Secretary-General, providing responses to each recommendation from the Inspector.

30 August 2018: The heads of UN system entities discussed the UN’s approach to private sector partnerships for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in response to a report from the UN’s Joint Inspection Unit (JIU). The UN system heads’ conclusions are reflected in a report of the UN Secretary-General to the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

In 2017, the JIU issued a report titled, ‘The United Nations System: Private Sector Partnerships Arrangements in the Context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ (JIU/REP/2017/8), authored by Petru Dumitriu, Inspector. According to the author, the need for this review came from: a “new wave of creating silos”; a need to shift from “ad hoc, short-term partnerships, focused primarily on resource mobilization” to longer-term, strategic and more stable forms of collaboration with the private sector; and the private sector’s need for information on engaging with the SDGs. The inspector adds that “these educational efforts are a major responsibility of the United Nations system as the orchestrator and facilitator of partnerships at regional, national and global levels.”

The 43-page document outlines the “normative basis” for private sector partnerships, including legal forms and operational frameworks, and discusses operational and administrative aspects of partnerships. The report builds on previous reports on protecting the image, reputation and values of the UN, including through safeguards for due diligence and risk management, and focuses on making the UN system “more effective in its cooperation with the private sector to support the 2030 Agenda” and fostering sustainability in the private sector’s business models. The report notes a shift in the approach to due diligence from “do not harm” to “do good.”

A chart outlines 12 recommended actions to be taken by various parts of the UN, its funds and programmes, and specialized agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The recommendations address, inter alia: revising the current guidelines on cooperation between the UN and the business sector; proposing a set of rules and guidelines for partnerships with the private sector, to allow for greater flexibility, simplification of procedures and speed in reaction; reviewing the mandate of the UN Office for Partnerships (UNOP) with regard to responsibilities for providing advice and facilitating partnerships in support of the SDGs; enhancing the role of the Private Sector Focal Points Network; creating a common database for vetting businesses; revising the mandate of the UN Global Compact to clarify its role in engaging business to support the 2030 Agenda and enhance UN Member States’ role in governance of the Global Compact; enhancing ownership and partnership at the regional and country levels; and support engagement by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The report notes a shift in the approach to due diligence from “do not harm” to “do good.”

High-level UN officials met in the context of the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) to discuss the JIU report on private sector partnerships, and their views are captured in a report to the UNGA from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The CEB organizations welcome the report and “generally support its findings and recommendations.” They also:

  • note that their specific needs and objectives vary in terms of private sector engagement, inviting the JIU to be specific in formulating its recommendations;
  • support the idea of updating frameworks for collaboration and shifting towards stimulating partnerships, rather than focusing on protection from risk;
  • note capacity needs at regional and country levels;
  • suggest clarifying the definitions of “business sector” (for-profit) and “private sector” (including not-for-profit foundations); and
  • note the establishment of a dedicated Results Group for Strategic Partnerships, within the context of the UN Sustainable Development Group. The Results Group’s members include the Global Compact Office and UNOP. The Results Group is tasked with: developing a UN-coordinated approach to strategic partnerships with the private sector, aligning tools and due diligence processes, and supporting countries and regions in their development of collaborations with the private sector; and simplifying processes to facilitate an increase in partnerships and effective communication between the UN and the private sector.

The CEB organizations also offer specific comments on each of the 12 recommendations. The report is expected to be considered by the UNGA during its 73rd session.

In another report to the UNGA, the Secretary-General discusses UNOP, which provides partnership advisory and outreach services in response to demand from the UN system, governments and non-State actors. The report indicates that in 2017, numerous companies, foundations and civil society organizations approached UNOP to seek advice and explore paths of engagement with the UN, with most enquiries related to mapping specific collaborative opportunities and identifying relevant partners within the UN system towards the advancement of the SDGs.

In December 2017, Guterres announced that UNOP will be “firmly established as the Organization’s global gateway for partnerships” (A/72/684-E/2018/7). In 2018, the Executive Office of the Secretary-General initiated a review of the operations of UNOP to inform a “reinvigorated platform for more effective partner engagement of public and private sector stakeholders.” [JIU report: United Nations System: Private Sector Partnership Arrangements in the Context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (A/73/186)] [CEB Report] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on UNEP report]


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