The Sustainable Development Agenda aims to transform the world, eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development by 2030 world-wide, ensuring that no one is left behind. Yet, as António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations said: ‘‘to deliver on the promise of a prosperous and peaceful future, development actors will have to find new ways of working together and leveraging genuine partnerships that make the most of expertise, technology and resources for sustainable and inclusive growth’’. This comprehensive and ‘‘boldest agenda for humanity’’ cannot be realized without increased and effective cooperation of all stakeholders at all levels.
The importance of partnerships
The importance of partnerships is recognized within the Sustainable Development Goals and the SDG 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development that acknowledges multi-stakeholder partnerships as major drivers of the SDGs in two targets:
17.16 Enhance the global partnership for sustainable development, complemented by multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources, to support the achievement of the sustainable development goals in all countries, in particular developing countries,
17.17 Encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships.
According to the UN, partnerships are voluntary and collaborative relationships between various parties, both public and non-public, in which all participants agree to work together to achieve a common purpose or undertake a specific task and, as mutually agreed, to share risks and responsibilities, resources and benefits.
Yet, establishing partnerships is not an easy task and requires the creation of nurturing and enabling environment for partnering that includes building up institutional capacities, convening and supporting infrastructure, and a policy environment that together can help mainstreaming collaboration.
The key enablers of partnerships
In its latest report Partnership Exchange 2018, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) shared the insights and findings following the 2018 Partnership Exchange that was held on July 2018 in the margins of the 2018 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development that featured two expert level parallel sessions, a plenary segment, and a Partnership Showcase.
The first expert session addressed the topic of building institutions and platforms that are fit for partnering. The key messages from this session point to the importance of the leadership of an organization to promote collaboration and partnerships and the establishment of a partnering strategy that either supports or is integrated into the organizational strategy. Also, the establishment of internal systems and processes to help partnerships through the whole partnership lifecycle, the enhancement of staff’ skills to partner more effectively, and the creation of outward-looking culture are recognized as the necessary tools for developing partnerships. The session also addressed the topic of building country level action platforms to catalyse partnerships for the SDGs. Recognizing the existence of different platforms such as platforms for dialogues around national development priorities, general platforms that support all SDGs and specific thematic platforms that are run by all sectors of society (business organizations, the UN, government, NGOs), the session participants laid out the success factors of national level platforms:
- Country ownership: important to have country actors take the lead and set priorities through a bottom-up approach;
- A neutral high-level convener who can bring everyone around the table;
- A common vision (such as the SDGs which are shared across societal sectors).
The second session apart from acknowledging the importance of building an effective monitoring framework system for partnerships, placed emphasis on building a conducive policy and funding environment for partnerships. The creation of conducive legal and policy environments enabled by committed governmental partners is recognized as an indispensable enabler of developing partnerships. Also, the session discussion has pointed out the need for processes of establishing and developing partnerships to be more inclusive and allow for a joint vision to be established. Since funding is depicted as a major challenge, the participants have called for demand of new ways of funding, including loans, equity, subsidies and bonds.
The cases of successful partnerships
Multi-stakeholder partnerships are designed to drive implementation of the SDGs and the report presents some of them:
E-waste Coalition (SDG 12) is the coalition composed of some of the key United Nations entities that work on e-waste. This informal and open Coalition has built a link with the private sector and is supported by the World Economic Forum and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. The Coalition supports stakeholders at the country level including electronics manufacturers and recyclers, in addressing e-waste-related issues right across the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Covenant of Mayors in Sub-Saharan Africa (CoM SSA) (SDG 7) is a partnership program launched by the European Commission in order to support African cities with the challenges of the growing urban population, by increasing their planning capacities and providing them with a platform to share knowledge and best practices. The CoM SSA has been inspired by the success of the “Covenant of Mayors Europe” (CoM Europe) that united more than 6700 municipalities in their fight against climate change.
The power of partnerships
The Sustainable Development Agenda has been adopted by the 193 Member States of the United Nations. This fact clearly indicates that the realization of the Agenda cannot be reached only with sole actions but asks for the creation and fostering of multi-stakeholder partnerships that will have a common vision and lead the implementation of the SDGs. The Partnership for SDGs online platform is designed to provide space for sharing knowledge and expertise among different actors that are engaged in multi-stakeholder SDG-related partnerships and voluntary commitments, and for providing periodic updates on their progress. It contains 4,962 partnerships and voluntary initiatives for SDGs, registered by different stakeholders, either directly through the website, or in connection with a specific conference or process.
The achievement of the SDGs will be defined by the existence of multi-level, multi-national partnerships that will drive their implementation with a joined vision.