Blog Mini Series on MSPs – 3

Blog Mini Series on Multi-stakeholder Partnerships for Sustainable Development

By Minu Hemmati & Felix Dodds, May 2017

This blog mini series is based on a paper we prepared for a workshop held by the Friends of Governance for Sustainable Development group in April this year: “Principles and Practices of Multi-stakeholder Partnerships for Sustainable Development – Guidance and Oversight from UN Decisions”.

Blog 1 Definitions of MSPs and Related Issues

Blog 2 Principles and Guidance Enshrined in Existing UN Decisions on MSPs


Blog 3 – Possible Additions to Enhance Guidance and Oversight for MSPs

Updating Existing Decisions

Much has happened since 2003, when ECOSOC passed the decision 61 on partnerships, and and we have gained a lot of experience with multi-stakeholder partnerships for sustainable development.

An approach to bringing this up to date could be:

Firstly, take note of existing guidance, and refer to the new relevant agreements that have been reached since 2003, e.g.:
the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and The Future We Want, the Samoa Pathway, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA), and the New Urban Agenda.

Secondly, add rules, mechanisms, and activities that help enhance oversight and support implementation and learning so as to maximize the contribution of partnerships to realizing the SDGs.

Some of these additional activities are already underway (like the traffic light system to highlight reporting from partnerships).

In particular, enhanced due diligence, intensified monitoring of implementation, and wider circulation of agreed principles would help increase the impact of resolutions and guidelines.

Enhancing oversight and supporting implementation

In the paper, we have tried to summarize some of these ideas that have arisen based on the experiences with partnerships.

Many of them are contained in academic studies and in the reports from UN DESA meetings.

In essence, the aspects listed below can help sharpen and strengthen the guidance provided, so that is more clarity on how previously agreed principles shall effectively be put into practice.

They can be grouped addressing the following issues:

 Reporting, supporting the present system:

  • All partnerships that the UN initiates to report annually by May 1st (or earlier) of each year to UNDESA relevant divisions
  • All partnerships that are not involving the UN to report annually (similar to requirements for the Global Compact membership and NGO accreditation).
  • All partnerships to include Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Resource-Based, With Time Based Deliverables (SMART) criteria in their registration and reporting.
  • An annual synthesis report to be prepared for possible comments in the HLPF Ministerial Declaration, summarizing main contributions by partnerships: which goals, which regions and countries, which sectors are engaged; main lessons learned; open questions.
  • All partnerships will be observed using the traffic lights reporting as has been undertaken by the SIDS Partnership Framework and now DSD: Green for reporting regularly; Yellow if they have not reported within two years; Red if they have not reported within 3 years; and delisted if they have not reported for over three years.

Registration, due diligence and inclusion in the SDGs online platform for partnerships

  • The UN should use effective ex-ante due diligence procedures before including any partnership on UN websites; in particular, this should include checking private sector companies involved (possibly a task for the UN Global Compact).
  • The UN should consider monitoring partnerships that are listed on the UN web site using an early warning mechanism to ensure they do not bring the UN into disrepute. Any partnership putting the UN at reputational risk should be delisted.
  • Within the UN web site there should be a clear differentiation between voluntary initiatives and multi-stakeholder partnerships while recognizing that both contribute to delivering the global agreements.
  • The UN as a whole could adopt criteria for registration / inclusion of partnerships in their individual work on MSPs to ensure coherence within the UN family/One UN.
  • Criteria should include the principles expressed in previous agreements as well as that when MSPs include private sector companies those companies must be members of the UN Global Compact and comply with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
  • ECOSOC could coordinate activities across the UN system, provide oversight of partnerships, setting the parameters for partnerships across the UN system coherently.
    The ECOSOC Charter mandate also gives it the authority to regulate interaction between the United Nations and Non-Governmental Organizations which covers a range of civil society organizations including the private sector, foundations, NGOs, academia, among others. The Council is also the body that coordinates the activities of the United Nations system and as such it is uniquely situated to provide oversight of partnership initiatives or commitments in which the UN system is involved. ECOSOC would therefore set the broad parameters for partnerships that apply to the whole of the UN system.

ECOSOC Partnerships Forum and other Spaces for Exchange and Learning

  • The High-level Political Forum, under the auspices of ECOSOC, should continue looking at thematic partnerships linked to the respective sustainable development goals.
    The UN Agencies and Programmes could consider hosting Partnership Forums where they have a lead interest in a particular goal linked to their meetings dealing with the SDGs.
  • The ECOSOC Partnership Forum could be utilized to advance the principles and guidelines for partnerships and review those partnerships involving the United Nations to ensure these principles and guidelines are being applied.
  • The HLPF could benefit from a “lessons learnt” review of partnerships by ECOSOC – e.g. an annual synthesis report.
  • The UN could provide additional spaces for open exchange about partnerships, MSPs and – in particular within the Finance for Development Forum – Public Private Partnerships (PPPs).
  • UN Agencies and programmes could consider helping to establish knowledge banks for each SDG based on the experience of MSPs and report to the HLPF on this.
    Partnerships working on the same goals should consider working together where possible in a knowledge network.

Stakeholders Engaging in and Supporting Partnerships:

  • Individual stakeholders and MSPs should continue sharing their experiences, lessons learned, and tools, models and templates of governance mechanisms, financing models, risk management, useful tools for learning, contracting, and reviewing. Identifying success factors like reflexive bottom-up learning loops within partnerships is very important to help steepen the learning curve for everyone and not repeat mistakes.
  • Governments and foundations should consider stronger support for developing and building partnerships, including where relevant supporting capacity development; brokering and facilitation; setting up of independent secretariats; and undertaking monitoring, evaluation and learning activities.
  • Researchers should consider supporting building knowledge on MSPs and sharing it widely, particularly with those engaged in sustainable development.
  • Professional associations relevant to MSPs should engage more in the SDG process to strengthen the implementation of the SDGs (e.g. facilitators; knowledge management specialists; experts of mixed financing models from the field of social entrepreneurship).