23 April 2019
UN Officials, Partners Call for New Approach to Partnerships
UN Photo/Manuel Elías
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The 2019 ECOSOC Partnership Forum took place under the theme ‘Partnerships driving inclusive implementation of the SDGs,’ with a focus on SDGs under review at the July 2019 HLPF session.

The UN’s Joint Inspection Unit recommended a set of revised UN guidelines for partnering, including “significant streamlining,” a new system-wide database on partners, and a set of common standards.

11 April 2019: Examples of how multi-stakeholder partnerships support the achievement of the 2030 Agenda were in focus at the 2019 Partnership Forum convened by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Participants from government, the UN system, the private sector and civil society discussed partnerships for advancing the SDGs to be reviewed during the July 2019 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF): Goals 4 (quality education), 8 (decent work and economic growth), 10 (reduced inequalities), 13 (climate action), and 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions).

The Forum convened on 11 April 2019, at UN Headquarters in New York, US, under the theme ‘Partnerships driving inclusive implementation of the SDGs.’ It was co-organized by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the UNs Office for Partnerships (UNOP) and the UN Global Compact. The Forum’s key policy messages will inform the HLPF meeting in July.

Opening the Forum, ECOSOC President Inga Rhonda King observed that the global momentum that led to the adoption of the 2030 Agenda “is increasingly under pressure.” She stressed that partnerships that engage with the UN must be transparent and accountable, as well as coherent with UN’s values and standards.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals) is the “connective tissue” that will ensure a holistic approach to sustainable development. She emphasized that to achieve the scale and impact needed to achieve the SDGs, governments and the UN system need to prioritize investments in platforms and coalitions that harness “a much larger ecosystem of partners,” including small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and local actors. She explained that the interlinkages embedded in the SDG framework cannot be fully addressed if the international community remains “in the narrow, siloed approaches of sectoral interventions and partnerships.” She added that young people, particularly young women and entrepreneurs, need to be placed “at the forefront of SDG progress.” She further stressed the need to fill gaps in partnership skill sets, tackle financing shortfalls and address data deficiencies.

Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, highlighted the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ (DESA) analysis of the voluntary national reviews (VNR). He said the study revealed common threads regarding multi-stakeholder partnerships and their potential for SDG implementation:

  • More countries are recognizing the importance of building strategic and inclusive partnerships with different stakeholders, including the private sector, civil society and local governments;
  • Many countries have recognized the importance of creating an enabling environment for partnerships at the national level;
  • In an increasing number of countries, private sector initiatives to support the SDGs are growing in number; and
  • Different forms of partnerships – public, public-private and multi-stakeholder – are emerging in sectors such as renewable energy, housing, infrastructure, agriculture and technology.

During a session on ‘Showcasing Good Practices’ on SDG 4, Rebecca Affolder, Global Partnership for Education, said GPE is centered around country leadership and aligning partners behind national strategies. She explained that the initiative works with governments to bring different actors into a single planning process, starting with a single sector plan. She added that 77 million more children attended primary school between 2002 and 2016 thanks to the Partnership.

On SDG 8, Susana Puerto, Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth, said the initiative: aims to scale up action on youth employment; has “a strong evidence-based value proposition” driven by a diverse set of 63 partners (from governments, civil society, youth organizations, regional organizations, academia, parliaments and the media); and a set of core principles to which partners subscribe. Led by the UN Chief Executives Board for Coordination, it has eight thematic areas, including: green jobs; digital jobs; apprenticeships; transitions from informal to formal employment; self-employment; and youth in hazardous occupations.

Partnerships are now a must-have at the country-level.

On SDG 10, Mari Skåre, Permanent Mission of Norway, representing the Every Woman, Every Child Initiative, said investing in health means investing in human capital, bringing prosperity for all societies and a good life for individuals, and thus “good partnerships” are crucial for maximizing health outcomes.

On SDG 13, Wasim Ahmed, Islamic Development Bank (IDB), representing the Global Islamic Finance and Impact Investing Platform, observed that the IDB President has turned the bank into a “developers bank” of like-minded partners to achieve the SDGs, and started the Platform – together with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) – to leverage private sector finance for impact investments.

On SDG 16, Karina Gerlach, Center on International Cooperation, New York University, representing Pathfinders for Just and Inclusive Societies, noted that the Pathfinders involve 40 states, international organizations and others to accelerate delivery of peaceful, just and inclusive societies. She said Pathfinders created a ‘Roadmap for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies,’ which supports implementation through a recommendation of nine catalytic actions, and which has been adopted by 24 states and 18 partnerships.

In a session on ‘Raising Ambition for UN-associated Partnerships,’ Yuri Afanasiev, UN Development Coordination Office (DOCO), stressed that partnerships are now a “must-have” at the country level. In addition, he observed that partnerships now figure into the UN reform process, citing examples of partnerships with private companies. Good practices are still challenging to scale up to the global level, he said, partly because the UN is still working “in experimental mode” and partly because of its “historical attitude” of being 100% risk-avoidant. However, he cited as successful examples the work undertaken by the UN with Unilever, the International Solar Alliance, and India’s tea industry.

Petru Dumitriu, UN Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), presented changes in the UN’s policies and guidelines on partnerships, explaining that they were previously geared towards managing reputational risks than to “the proactive creation of partnerships.” He observed that the UN’s procedures take too long in administrative terms and make the organization “incompatible” with private sector partners. The JIU has recommended a set of revised guidelines, including “significant streamlining,” a new system-wide database on partners, and a set of common standards.

Priya Gajraj, UN Resident Coordinator for Senegal (via video conference), said around 40% of SDG implementation in Senegal is government-funded, with the rest to be met with private sector funding. To enable that, she identified several key actions, including: creating an enabling environment; utilizing blended finance; and building up local capacity to evaluate the impact of investments.

The concept note for the Partnership Forum notes that the UN Secretary-General has initiated reforms in the area of partnerships to meet the demands of delivering on the 2030 Agenda, and the UN Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG) is leading a system-wide effort in this regard. Six partnership “work streams” were identified in December 2017, which are still ongoing:

  • UNSDG to agree on a system-wide approach to partnership;
  • Strengthen system-wide integrity, due diligence and risk management, including the ten Global Compact principles on for private sector engagement;
  • Improved global level governance from the Global Compact;
  • Reinvigoration of UNOP as the global gateway for partnership;
  • A system-wide compact with the international financial institutions; and
  • Efforts to invigorate UN support for South-South cooperation.

[Forum Website] [Programme] [UN Press Release] [UN Meeting Coverage] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]

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