icon twittericon facebookicon youtubeInstagram

General Assembly and ECOSOC Conduct Joint Event on the Role of Partnerships in the Post-2015 Development Agenda

arton4429Recognizing that efforts need to be scaled up to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 and to establish an ambitious and transformative sustainable post-2015 development agenda, the United Nations General Assembly (GA) and the UN Economic and Social Council(ECOSOC) conducted a joint thematic debate on “The role of partnerships in the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda” on 9-10 April. In addition to the opening and closing sessions, the two-day event at UN Headquarters featured five panel discussions that sought to examine the role of partnerships; identify and leverage new partnership models and opportunities; provide concrete ideas for creating an enabling and transparent environment, as well as for accountability mechanisms; and enhance collaboration in addressing food and nutritional security and sustainable infrastructure.

Acknowledging that designing a post-2015 development agenda – universal and shared by all – is not an easy task, GA President John Ashe urged participants to partner with and reach out to all stakeholders (including academia, business and civil society) at all levels (global, national, regional, local), noting that “great and difficult tasks become much less daunting and more effective when addressed in a concerted, coherent and collaborative manner.” A strengthened global partnership will require vision, clarity of thought, and creativity, as well as mutual respect and trust, the GA President continued.

ECOSOC President Martin Sajdik welcomed the fact that it was the first time in the history of the United Nations that the GA and ECOSOC were joining hands in promoting action-oriented solutions to advance the post-2015 agenda. The ECOSOC President reflected on past efforts made by the Council during its Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) and bi-annual Development Cooperation Forum (DCF) to bring together a wide range of stakeholders to promote partnerships that can leverage the implementation of international development goals, including the MDGs. It was now time to “maximize the potential” of such partnerships, Mr. Sajdik stressed. Considering the experience of the Council – through the AMR and DCF, as well as the ongoing process to strengthen this UN body, the ECOSOC President expects the Council to play a major role in the preparations and implementation of the post-2015 agenda. In his view, the latter should ensure a rights-based approach, encompassing all human rights, and give special attention to the needs of countries that are still behind on the MDGs, including Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs), African and post-conflict countries.

UN Secretary-General (SG) Ban Ki-moon drew attention to the relevance of current efforts to shape the post-2015 agenda, as well as its implementation: “What we do in the coming months can help save lives and improve well-being for generations to come,” he spoke. He underscored the importance given by the United Nations to create partnerships for development, but also cautioned that the UN itself needed strengthening to do “partnership at scale.” The SG explained that demands on the UN are much greater than its resources to meet these demands. A Partnership Facility, proposed by the SG and awaiting approval of Member States, could help ensure that the Organization will have the capacity to harness the strengths of external partners, and the ability to warrant a coherent and accountable approach. “If we agree on an ambitious framework without preparing the United Nations itself to implement it, we will marginalize our institution at precisely the moment it should be leading the charge,” Ban Ki-moon concluded.

Alessandra Cabral dos Santos Nilo, Co-founder and Executive Director of GESTOS, also tackled the resource issue in her keynote presentation. Her organization, together with the National Brazilian Association of NGOs, proposes the implementation of a global financial transaction tax as a bold regulatory measure and sustainable revenue generator for sustainable development. “Equally important,” she said, “those additional resources could strengthen the implementation capacity of multilateral institutions, such as the UN.” Ms. Cabral also emphasized that it was time to realize that the planet and the lives within it are not for sale, meaning that partnerships should not be driven by corporate interests. Instead, it was time for governments to claim back the driving seats of the Global Partnership for Development. “States must be the protector and main sponsors of human rights, rather than an mere enabler of private sector enrichment,” she voiced.

Ms. Cabral continued by advocating for accountability mechanisms and an enabling environment for civil society engagement. In particular, she called for a global partnership goal which reforms the financing and trade architecture, but also includes a target that promotes partnerships between the UN, governments and civil society at all levels. Additionally, indicators must measure the existence of an enabling legal environment for civil society work and account for the implementation of resources, especially for advocacy work.

Ms. Cabral concluded by handing over a “red flag” from almost 760 civil society organizations across the globe, voicing their concerns that (i) the debates at the UN are too much driven by economic considerations rather than human rights and justice; and (ii) that a conservative force is growing within the Organisation, making controversial issues, such as sexual rights, gender identity, and safe abortion, “untouchable.” As a result, “people that have historically been left behind, will continue to do so because at this point in the UN history,” Ms. Cabral explained.

The second keynote speaker, Tony Elumelu, Chairman of Heirs Holdings and Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, drew attention to what he considered three development priorities for the post-2015 framework: tackle unemployment and stimulate job creation; increase access to electricity; and engage the private sector as key stakeholders in implementing the post-2015 development goals.

“The global agenda cannot bring success if it does not fully involve the sector in society that controls most capital, employs most people and fosters most innovation,” Mr. Elumelu said, while referring to the role of the private sector. He further acknowledged that private sector finances can only complement, not replace official development assistance (ODA) and that it is unrealistic to assume that the market can solve all problems. Government investment remains needed to stimulate and incentivize private sector financing. In a public capital constraint environment, however, serious consideration must be given to leveraging private capital to meet development needs outside of the most urgent humanitarian situations, Mr. Elumelu added.

To make private sector involvement effective, the private sector will need to reform itself, especially in terms of corporate social responsibility (CSR). “No longer can CSR be considered as small corporate donations to good causes in our communities of operations. We must launch CSR 2.0 and apply the principles of African capitalism [...]. The value we intend to create and multiply in the societies in which we source, supply and operate, must be viewed into our corporate governance; daily operations; our project development; and into our profit calculation along our value chain. No longer must we wait for governments to compel us to do the right thing,” Mr. Elumelu underscored.

Finally, in the posit of a sustainable post-2015 development agenda, Mr. Elumelu reiterated that it was time to “harness the best of the political will, resources, incentivizing and convening power of the governmental sector and combine this with the compassion, selflessness and dedication of the non-profit sector; the innovation, the expertise and financial capital of the private sector; and the drive, creativity and entrepreneur spirit of the very people we seek to help.”

Panel discussion on “Realizing the MDGs: Building on Key Partnership Opportunities and the Way Forward”

The first panel discussion, moderated by Robert Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Planning, Executive Office of the Secretary-General, looked at lessons learned from MDG implementation in building partnerships for progress. Panellist John Whitehead, Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) and former Secretary of the New Zealand Treasury, as well as former Asia-Pacific Executive Director at the World Bank, identified five of such lessons, indicating that it is time:
1. to adapt to the emerging and changing landscape of development cooperation and the new stakeholders that have been joining the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development (including South-South and triangular regulation);
2. to transform words and commitments into action;
3. to play to our strengths and avoid being drawn into areas where we do not have a lot to offer;
4. to be open for learning from the experiences of other actors and apply lessons learned; and 
5. to take the hard political decisions required to make the new Global Partnership for Sustainable Development achieve its goals.

Mr. Whitehead acknowledged that the private sector has played a leading role in development; yet, the sector should not be given control of the development agenda. Appropriate regulation and oversight will remain essential, he said. Mr. Whitehead further encouraged participants to be “much more serious about unlocking the potential of trade,” noting that the biggest gains for LDCs/SIDs and primary producing countries would come from an open, rule-based and non-discriminatory trading system.

The second panellist, Michael O’Neill, Assistant Aministrator and Director of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), confirmed that accountability, transparency, national ownership and coordinated action are key requirements for development efforts to succeed. He also reiterated the growing importance of South-South and triangular cooperation – former net recipients of development aid have turned into active contributors supporting other developing countries to meet their development objectives. He called it “one of the most striking developments” in international cooperation. In relation to successful implementation of the post-2015 framework, and referring to a high-level of dissatisfaction among civil society organizations in the current MDG process, the UNDP Director called for a more central role for civil society in future partnerships. He added that the UN needs to accelerate its own efforts, including adjusting to new cultures and operating models, and how it engages with other actors.

Representing the private sector – Betty Maina, CEO, Kenya Association of Manufactures (KAM) and Miguel Pestana, Vice-President Global External Affairs, Unilever – made statements that were in line with keynote speaker Tony Elumelu, highlighting the role of the private sector in implementing the new agenda. Ms. Maina voiced that the business sector is increasingly focussing on “doing good”; expanding beyond do no harm approaches; and embracing and integrating principles towards achieving and delivering value in economic, environmental and social terms. Mr. Pestana urged the business sector to raise its standards of corporate governance and transparency, noting that “if we want to be a partner, we need to be trusted.” He also drew attention to the economic advantages of “doing good” and behaving in a sustainable and responsible manner. “Businesses that are taking sustainability seriously are starting to outperform their counterparts,” Mr. Pestana said.

“While the cost-benefit mark-up can be defended as pragmatic business sense, it begs the question of how to finance development and rights-based efforts that do not offer a good investment return,” Bhumika Muchhala, Third World Network (TWN) voiced in her presentation. In particular, Ms. Muchhala raised concern about the role of big corporations and their ability to undermine partnerships for development (e.g. dominance over SMEs; potential threats from bilateral investment treaties; ongoing international malpractices, such as transfer mispricing, tax evasion and avoidance; and the controversy of intellectual property rights). “Without a development-oriented regulatory framework and sustainable development national policies, the role of big corporations, whether in or out of partnerships, will not be a positive one,” she said. Accordingly, Ms. Muchhala called for a binding international agreement enshrining human rights to hold corporations accountable. She recommended Member States to be at the helm of formulating a criterion-based accountability and governance framework that conducts oversight, regulation, independent third-party evaluation, and transparent monitoring and reporting. Building on a proposal from the Righting Finance Initiative, the criteria, applied ex ante, should help determine whether a specific private sector actor is fit for a partnership within the post-2015 framework, and examine:

1. whether the private actor has an evidence-based history or current status of abusing human rights or the environment, including in their cross-border activities;
2. whether the private actor has a proven track record (or the potential to) deliver on sustainable development, as articulated by the UN outcome by 2015;
3. whether the private actor has previous involvement in acts of corruption with government officials;
4. whether the private actor is fully transparent in its financial reporting and ensures that it is respecting existing tax responsibilities in all countries it operates, and not undermining sustainable development through tax avoidance; and,
5. any conflicts of interest in order to eliminate potential private donors whose activities are antithetical or contradictory to the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and the sustainable development goals (SDG) framework.

In the ensuing discussion, representatives of Member States that took the floor reflected on the panel’s statements and shared their views and concerns for future partnerships. Civil society discussant Roberto Bissio from Social Watch reiterated the call for more accountability and shared Ms. Muchhala’s concerns around the role of big corporations in partnerships for development. Increasingly, ODA is going to corporations and not to the governments of the recipient countries, Mr. Bissio said. Consequently, these resources are being used for plans elaborated by corporations; often not in consultation with the countries that should benefit from them. Of particular concern, however, was the fact that many multilateral institutions are reforming their information disclosure policies in order to accommodate the demands of the corporate sector and the new partnerships, in a way that makes the following of the money by independent monitoring even more difficult. Mr. Bissio called for clear policies about conflict of interests, and added: “We don’t want this house of human rights being transformed into a house of cards.”

Panel Discussion on “Collaborating with businesses, foundations, civil society and other actors in support of the Post-2015 Development Agenda”

The second panel discussion, moderated by Christine Bader, Visiting Scholar and Lecturer at Columbia University, looked at the key requirements for effective multi-stakeholder collaboration. The first panellist, Anthony Smith, was actually wearing two hats. He was joining the discussion as the Director of International Relations at theDepartment for International Development (DFID), yet also as part of a team that was helping to organize the first meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (Mexico, 15-16 April 2014). As a result, his remarks mainly focussed on this event, which according to Mr. Smith had three unique selling points: it is inclusive (all different actors are represented around the discussion table, including within the steering committee); it takes a developing country perspective; and it is centred around partnerships. He added that the key motivation behind this meeting was “to leave no one behind!”

Lise Kingo, Executive Vice President of Novo Nordisk A/S, identified three areas where partnerships could become more efficient. First, she said, it was time to become more specific about what partnerships can accomplish and what it takes to make them successful. “Partnerships require full commitment and hard work,” she emphasized. Secondly, partnerships should achieve sustainable positive impact, which can only be achieved when partnerships are formed around a shared goal that is aligned around social needs. Thirdly, it was necessary to rethink what drives value creation. “Partnerships can be a way to renew social contracts of business and develop a new common language around prosperity and well-being,” she concluded. Following a question from the moderator, Ms. Kingo also said that the partners within a partnership are defined by those who want to solve a particular problem through collaborative action.

Panellist Benedict Cheong, CEO of Temasek Foundation, shared practical experience from his foundation, as well as five essential elements for building successful partnerships. These include: 1) to have the right partner (host community partner); 2) showing leadership and ownership by the host community; 3) appreciation of culture and customs; 4) gaining trust among partners not only in terms of communications but also in engagement; and 5) mutual learning and co-ownership. He emphasized “Never go to the host community telling them what to do!”

Yaya Winarno Junardy, President Commission of PT Rajawali Corporation and President of the Global Compact Network Indonesia, explained how and why his corporation was supporting Global Compact principles. One of the reasons was the recognition that balanced growth and poverty issues were no longer the sole burden of the State, but required the involvement of multiple actors. Consequently, his corporation engaged into collaborative community-based sanitation programmes, and clean-water projects, among other initiatives.

Finally, Alice Albright, CEO of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), underscored that success and progress were depending on partners working together as well as on effectively aligned resources. She spoke about GPE, the only global partnership in the basic education space, and its challenges to not only get children in school, but also to make them stay in school beyond age four. As education is highly interdependent, GPE encompasses all actors, including developing country partners, donors, civil society, teacher unions, the private sector, the private foundation and commercial sector, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Responding to a question from the moderator on the decreasing ODA in the education sector, Ms. Albright noted that there was no replacement for ODA as education has to be financed by public money (ODA and/or domestic resources). She welcomed that more actors were providing education such as faith-based organizations, but this could never be a replacement for public finances.

In the ensuing discussion, one delegate from the European Union made a strong case for greater civil society involvement, noting that the post-2015 agenda would be enriched by the participation of civil society organizations. Other delegates voiced that partnerships for sustainable and equitable development should incorporate the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and embrace a people-centred approach. In addition, they were of the opinion that ODA, private investment and technology transfer were vital for post-2015 implementation. The delegate from Morocco, however, cautioned that private investment should operate within a framework of national ownership by partner countries.

Civil society discussant Akhteruzzaman Sano, from Save the Earth – Bangladesh, called upon the participants to ask critical questions when establishing partnerships. As inequality in participation and influence exist, it was important to ask who sits at the table and who is excluded. Networks should be fully participatory and democratic in order to bring everyone to table to address sustainable development. Fragmented participation was not an option.

Secondly, it was vital to ask how we define actors and stakeholders beyond e.g. organized groups in civil society, business, foundations and decision-makers. “We must see deeply into our communities to bring the ideas of all those concerned, including marginalized and very poor and excluded communities,” Mr. Sano stressed.

Panel Discussion “Towards a more effective framework for monitoring the implementation of global development goals”

The third panel, moderated by Jane Wales, Vice-President of the Aspen Institute and President/CEO of the Global Philanthropy Forum, featured Brenda Killen, Head of the Global Partnership and Policy Division at theDevelopment Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD-DAC); Joy Phumaphi, Co-Chair of theindependent Expert Review Group (iERG) and Executive Secretary of theAfrican Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA); Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC); and Jorge Soto, Director Sustainable Development at Braskemand President of the Global Compact Network Brazil.

Ms. Killen told the audience that OECD’s business model is based on robust and well-functioning monitoring and accountability frameworks (through lesson learning, benchmarking, and standard setting across a wide variety of countries and across a wide range of policy areas) – essential and fundamental to ensure that the gains in development are sustained and deepened. She referred to a paper prepared by Antonio Ocampo and Natalie Gómez Santiago, ahead of the recently held High-level Symposium on “Accountable and effective development cooperation in a post-2015 era,” (Berlin, 20-21 March 2014). The paper identifies three essential imperatives for accountability frameworks: answerability, enforcement and a clear delineation of responsibility. Ms. Killen explained that most accountability frameworks in development fail this test, especially those on enforcement at the international level. “The overarching message was clear,” she said, “We can and must do better in terms of monitoring and accountability.”

Building on lessons learned from the OECD, Ms. Killen said that the willingness to be held to account is very important as it builds trust – internationally and locally. The (MDG) approach was often too top-down, not flexible enough to reflect local realities and relative progress. In particular, MDG8 was to fuzzy to pin down. Nevertheless concrete improvements in aid effectiveness have occurred, Ms. Killen continued, welcoming initiatives taken by different groups of partners to set up their own commitments to which they will be held to account.

Finally, Ms. Killen explained that OECD-DAC will reform and modernize its statistical systems; update its peer review process; promote the Agency of the Future (the type of development support that is needed through aid in the future); create incentives to leverage and catalyze additional resources, especially through partnerships; identify emerging best practices in partnerships; and develop new and forward looking development finance measures to support monitoring of the financing strategy for post-2015.

Ms. Beinecke proposed a new architecture in the form of a dome structure with at the top a globally negotiated goal; in the middle the national plans and objectives; and at the base the thousands of commitments to action. The new architecture should support the full range of actors in each goal. On accountability, she said that it was vital to first identify the results that needed to be achieved and then to do the actual measurement. The next set of goals needed to be SMART (specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and time-bound).

Ms. Phumaphi shared experiences from the independent Expert Review Group (iERG), which monitors and reviews countries’ efforts and provides recommendation to advance the implementation of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health. Among the biggest challenges the Group faces is the issue of enforcement, although peer reviews seem to trigger results in this area. In terms of a post-2015 accountability mechanism, Ms. Phumaphi said it needed to be robust, independent, comprehensive, and inclusive. It should compose of all the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and hold every single stakeholder to account. It must demonstrate strong leadership and governance; promote full integration; and be rights-based. Finally, Ms. Phumaphi advocated for enhanced national accountability, as this remains a weakness at this moment.

Representing the chemical industry in Brazil, Mr. Soto affirmed that sustainability should be embedded in business and that good partnerships can bring results. For example, his company engaged in collaborative action and was now using treated waste water for their operations, rather than fresh water. However, he cautioned that partnerships alone were not enough. “It is good to discuss partnerships and monitoring, but what we really need is to bring more people on board for sustainability,” he voiced.

The interactive discussion that followed highlighted the need for national accountability mechanisms that involve local people – from the government level to the grassroots; as well as for better data. For example, guidelines and cooperation with civil society organizations would help differentiate companies on the basis of their records so that consumers could decide for themselves. The discussion also drew attention to the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all reporting method and that some of those that do exist require simplification.

Civil society discussant Nicole Bidegain, Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), recognized that many internationally agreed development commitments, including those addressing systemic issues in areas of trade, investment, technology and finance; have not been fully implemented due to unequal power relations between multilateral organisations of the global governance and between transnational corporations and States, and between States from the North and South. She urged Member States and other actors to address this accountability gap and governance deficit. She especially voiced concern on the domination of corporate interests. “We cannot allow the UN to shift from a ‘one country, one vote’ type of governance to a ‘one dollar, one vote,’” Ms. Bidegain underscored.

“Rather than new partnerships, we should focus on a new accountability framework,” Ms. Bridegain continued, while presenting two proposals: First, governments should complement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and develop a binding multilateral instrument for transnational corporations that prevent and protect people against human rights abuses perpetrated by the private sector. Where people in communities are affected, they should have a right to effective remedy. Secondly, to establish an open, transparent, participatory intergovernmental space for oversight, monitoring and review of any partnership developed in the UN on sustainable development. It should include a reporting mechanism, applied ex ante and ex post, that sets criteria for eligibility as well as the dismissal of any partnership relationship. Furthermore, the mechanism should be supported by policies on public disclosure and conflict of interest. Ms. Bidegain concluded by suggesting that the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development could become a body that can take on this mandate.

Day 2: Partnership Opportunities for building productive capacity

The second day of the meeting featured two panel discussions that aimed to shed light on ways to enhance partnerships in food and nutritional security and marine resources as well as in sustainable infrastructure. Opening the morning panel, on “Scaling up partnership opportunities in food and nutritional security and marine resources,” moderator Amir Dossal and Chairman of the Global Partnerships Forum, invited the panellists and audience not to focus on problems and solutions, but on results and bold recommendations.

Almost all panellists drew attention to the daunting agricultural challenge to feed the growing population. Marie Haga, Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, called it the "biggest challenge ever," as less land, water, energy had become available for food production. Moreover, weather conditions had become unpredictable. Árni M. Mathiesen, Assistant Director-General of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), said almost one billion people across the globe were hungry, one billion were undernourished and one billion were obese. Marc Van Ameringen, Executive Director of the Global Alliance on Improved Nutrition (GAIN), shared even more grim statistics and highlighted the contradictions in food consumption around the world, noting that the obese were outnumbering the hungry. He also emphasized that the stunting of children, which is the chronic malnutrition of children, was a huge challenge to address in the post-2015 agenda.

To tackle the food security challenges in Trinidad and Tobago and in neighbouring Guyana, both countries had signed a memorandum of understanding in 2013, aimed at establishing a food security facility. Devant Maharaj, Minister of Food Production, Land and Marine Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago told the audience that results had been good. Both countries were able to realize and sustain food security within their borders and experience agricultural growth; trim down the costs of food production/import, as well as inflation in food prices; generate long-term employment; and create incentives for public-private partnerships and private investments that helped e.g. in scaling up the countries’ infrastructure.

Ms. Haga, on her turn, welcomed initiatives aimed at diversifying agricultural crops, such as the International Rice Research Institute’s initiative to breed a new, more tolerant variety of rice. She also welcomed theInternational Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, ratified by 132 countries, which had brought enhanced access to and exchange of germplasm – relevant for crop diversification. Diversification, she said, was essential for building resilient agricultural systems.

Mr. Mathiesen shared FAO’s experience with formal partnerships to meet the Secretary-General’s Zero Hunger Challenge, including the Global Blue Economy/Blue Growth initiative aimed at increasing food security, improving nutrition, reducing poverty among coastal and riparian communities and supporting the sustainable management of aquatic resources at all levels; and its Global AquaCulture Advancement Partnership (GAAP) Programme, an initiative with the World Wildlife Fund and the global salmon industry to improve the sustainability of salmon farming.

It was important to give sufficient weight to the role of the private sector in partnerships that aim to scale up food security, Mr. Van Ameringen told participants. After all, the private sector is the main supplier of food and therefore in the best position to have the answers. Mr. van Ameringen also outlined for types of partnerships that had been successful for GAIN, including:
1. “Long term projects that build alliance across sectors and deliver nutrition solutions at scale, such as Large-Scale Food Fortification.
2. Mutli-sectoral partnerships that unite partners around common objects, such as the Amsterdam Initiative Against Malnutrition.
3. Project specific partnerships that deliver targeted interventions to combat acute need, such as multi-nutrient supplements and GAIN’s partnerships with DSM and Herbalife.
4. Global movements involving recipients and donors working together to achieve a global nutrition principle, such as the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement and the Zero Hunger Challenge.”

Finally, panellist James Hamilton, Vice President, Human & Nutrition and Health – North America, DSM, shared DSM’s motto that “no business could succeed or call itself successful in a society that had failed.” Sustainable development was key and could only be achieved through collaboration among different stakeholders – governments, the private sector and civil society. Examples were Vitamin Angels, an NGO that has distributed more than 30 million doses of vitamin A worldwide, and Partners in Food Solutions, a non-profit organization that links the technical and business expertise of volunteer employees from General MillsCargill, DSM andBühler to small and growing food processors and millers in the developing world. It empowers small upstart food companies in rural Africa with a view to making them self-sustaining ecosystems that could purchase local grain and employ local people.

The discussion that followed the panel’s presentations, once more underscored the importance of transparency and accountability, as well as of ODA; technology transfer, including to smallholder farmers; pro-poor agricultural partnerships and research; and incentives for the business sector, in particular local green businesses. Civil society discussant Kanchan Lama, from Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (WOCAN) – Nepal, made a strong case for securing the gender dimension in partnerships. In many countries, women play a major role in forestry and agriculture, largely contributing to food security objectives. As such, women are among the right-holders that deserve a place at the decision-making table; they should be consulted when building partnerships. In addition, she noted that food security is not only dependant on the agricultural sector; there is also a correlation with e.g. water and health. This correlation will need to be taken into account for food security partnerships to succeed.

Panel discussion on “Scaling up partnerships opportunities in sustainable infrastructure”

As mentioned above, the final panel of the two-day event, moderated by Gyan Acharya, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS, aimed to explore ways to enhance partnership opportunities in sustainable infrastructure. The panel featured Chola Chabala, Director for National Planning at the Ministry of Finance of Zambia; Kandeh Yumkella, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and CEO of the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative; Cornie Huizenga, Secretary General of the Sustainable Low Carbon Transportation (SloCat) Partnership; Umberto de Pretto, Secretary General International Road Transport Union(IRU); and Shishir Priyadarshi, Director of the Development Division at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

In his introductory remarks, Mr. Acharya highlighted that sustainable infrastructure was not an end in itself. In his view, it was the “lifeblood of any activity we do,” and an enabler and multiplier of development efforts. The panellists seemed to agree with his point of view. Mr. Yumkella affirmed that there would be no education, health or food security without access to energy and promoted the SG’s “Sustainable Energy for All” initiative. Mr. Priyadarshi stressed that trade infrastructure was a generator of much-needed national income to sustain infrastructure as a whole. In his view, both hard and soft infrastructure were important.

Mr. Chabala shed light on the infrastructural challenges in Zambia. The country is in need of massive investments (both public and private) to address its massive infrastructure deficit. Mr. Yumkella confirmed that current levels of ODA were far from being sufficient; he called for scaling up partnerships for (1) sustainable infrastructure financing and (2) technology transfer.

Mr. Huizinga, concerned with the high costs incurred by improper road development, not only in economic terms, but also in terms of loss of life (e.g. road accidents), said that investments in infrastructure (such as roads) needed to be accompanied by services (logistics) in order to really make a positive contribution to development. According to Mr. de Preto, the solution does not necessarily lie in building new roads, but in maximizing the potential of already existing infrastructure. He encouraged countries to make their border control procedures more efficient to avoid wasting unnecessary time and money.

During the ensuing discussion, youth discussant Sikander Sabeer (Sri Lanka), called upon participants to engage in intergenerational meaningful partnerships by mainstreaming youth in future partnerships. On sustainable infrastructure, he said: “Sustainable infrastructure is not only about new infrastructure, it is also about rehabilitation, reuse, and optimizing of the existing resources. It is not about building new things, but using what we have sustainably, taking into account the local context.” He added that it was important to calculate the environmental, social and economic impacts when planning, designing, constructing and operationalizing sustainable infrastructure projects.

Closing session

At the conclusion of the thematic debate/forum, ECOSOC President Martin Sajdik reiterated the importance of mutual trust, as he had observed that “there is still a long way to go to develop trust between the business sector and diplomacy, specifically multilateral diplomacy.” Colin Back, Vice President of the GA, concluded the session on behalf of GA President John Ashe, highlighting the common messages that prevailed during the two-day event. Among them were:
• “Accelerating progress towards the MDGs as well as shaping the post-2015 development agenda will require the active participation of all stakeholders, including governments, civil society and the private sector;
• The intergovernmental nature of the UN Organization, UN charter principles and UN programme priorities should be fully respected in future partnerships;
• Public and private partnerships should be a complement and not a substitute to traditional ODA;
• ODA remains critical;
• Governments have an essential role in promoting enabling incentives for the private sector and in ensuring they are aligned with national and global development priorities;
• Public oversight should support the public good without stifling private initiative;
• The private sector ought to look beyond financial risk and also consider environmental and social risk; and
• Partnerships themselves must have built-in governance mechanisms to ensure monitoring, accountability and transparency.”

More information:

UN meeting reports: 
9 April
10 April

To read the UN News article, click here

For speakers bios, click here

To view the webcast of the two-day event, click here.

Photo credits:
• Photo 1: a wide view of the Trusteeship Council Chamber, United Nations New York – ©UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras
• Photo 2, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon – UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras
• Photo 3: Alessandra Cabral dos Santos Nilo, GESTOS – ©UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras
• Photo 4: John Whitehead, CNZM, New Zealand – ©UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras
• Photo 5: Bhumika Muchhala, TWN – ©UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras
• Photo 6: Christine Bader, Columbia University – ©Photo/JC McIlwaine
• Photo 7: Alice Albright, GPE – ©Photo/JC McIlwaine
• Photo 8: Panel 3 – ©Photo/JC McIlwaine
• Photo 9: Frances Beinecke, NRDC – ©Photo/JC McIlwaine
• Photo 10: Amir Dossal, Chairman of the Global Partnership Forum – ©UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz
• Photo 11: Marc van Ameringen, GAIN – ©UNHQ
• Photo 12: Colin Back, Vice President of the UN General Assembly – ©UNHQ

The UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS) is an inter-agency programme of the United Nations mandated to develop constructive relations between the UN and civil society organizations.


YouTube Channel

Visit https://www.youtube.com/unngls for many more!


Featured UN-NGLS Reports

UNDS review NGLS civil society consultation summary website cover


Regional Recommendations 217px


UN NGLS Decent Work Fair Globalization Guide featured



OHCHR Report: Safe & Enabling Environment for Civil Society

OHCHR Civil society report2