The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) convened its 2017 Partnership Forum on the topic of ‘Partnerships for promoting opportunities, increased prosperity and sustainable development for all'.
In the keynote address to the Forum, the President of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice said the private sector must uphold environmental and governance standards in their global operations.
5 April 2017: The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) convened its 2017 Partnership Forum with a focus on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure) and the role of partnerships. A roundtable discussion addressed the potential need for principles and guidelines for partnerships.
Introducing the Forum, convening on 5 April 2017, in New York, US, on the topic of ‘Partnerships for promoting opportunities, increased prosperity and sustainable development for all,’ ECOSOC President Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava described the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs as “a fight that we can only win if we join forces.” He said that ECOSOC’s multi-stakeholder approach and role as coordinator of the UN development system’s activities positions it to encourage greater focus on “the impact and sustainability of those partnerships in which the UN system is involved.”
UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Peter Thomson said the insights of local actors must be paired with the resources of global actors to ensure free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education for all, among other ambitions. He stressed the need for partnerships to be “strategic and innovative,” and to include “governments at all levels, the UN, international financial institutions, civil society, the private sector, academic and scientific communities, tech leaders and innovators, philanthropic institutions, and grassroots organizations.” He added that governments’ role is to open doors for partnerships through an enabling environment for investment, while the UN maps existing SDG partnerships and identifies gaps where new ones are needed.
In a video message to the Forum, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed called for a greater emphasis on transparency, accountability, impact and coherence in partnerships. She highlighted the need for partnerships that: mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources, to support the achievement of the SDGs in all countries; focus on the long haul, beyond specific projects; and allow for leveraging financing from sources besides official development assistance (ODA). Mohammed also highlighted the role of data and technologies, calling to change “the way we plan, deliver and monitor sustainable development goals.”
In the keynote address to the Forum, Mary Robinson, President, Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, said the collaborative spirit that resulted in the SDGs and Paris Agreement is “under attack from rising waves of populism and myopic decision making,” and stressed that security and prosperity depend “not on the strength of our borders or the size of our armies, but on the depth of our education systems and the extent of global access to water, food and electricity.” She expressed concern about the impacts of fossil-fuel based development, and called for a global partnership that weaves together the challenges of advancing sustainable development and addressing climate change. She spotlighted the leadership role of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the small island developing States (SIDS) on climate action, such as the Climate Vulnerable Forum members’ 1.5 degrees Celsius commitment.
Robinson said the question is “whether countries have real choices between sustainable and business as usual development options.” She said developing countries need support from industrialized countries in order to make sustainable alternatives a real alternative to fossil fuels-based systems. On public-private partnerships (PPPs) and other new forms of investment in infrastructure, she said the private sector must uphold environmental and governance standards in their global operations, including throughout their supply chains, and called to integrate environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting. She also highlighted the importance of implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and developing substantive National Action Plans to do so.
UNECE called on the UN to develop guidelines for external partners as “one United Nations.”
In the afternoon roundtable discussion on ‘Principles and guidelines governing United Nations-associated partnerships,’ panel speakers: called to assess partnerships beyond core guidelines (International Labour Organization); noted the need to sensitize the private sector, since PPPs have not been a formal part of the development system (UN Economic Commission for Europe); and called on the UN to develop guidelines for external partners as “one United Nations,” and to consider development assistance to leverage PPPs (UNECE). Panel respondents said the UN has principle-based guidelines (international Chamber of Commerce), and outlined the elements that partnership guidelines should include, such as a focus on impact, emphasis on interconnectivity among 17 SDGs, and transparency and reporting (Global Reporting Initiative).
In statements from delegations, the Group of 77 and China called to bolster South-South cooperation, but only as a complement to North-South cooperation, while the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) stressed the need for developed countries to fulfill official development assistance (ODA) commitments. The LDCs said partnerships should consider national situations, policies and priorities.
Denmark said existing partnership guidelines should be utilized and built upon, such as those being used by the Global Compact. [UN Press Release] [Meeting Summary] [ECOSOC President Statement] [UNGA President Remarks] [Remarks of UN Deputy Secretary-General] [Mary Robinson Keynote Address] [Forum Webpage]