High-quality MSPs for the SDGs

High-quality Multi-stakeholder Partnerships for Implementing the SDGs

By Minu Hemmati, MSP Institute, and Felix Dodds, Global Research Institute – August 2016

On the margins of HLPF 2016 in New York, Global Research Institute (University of North Carolina) and CatalySD (now the MSP Institute) held a workshop on “Multi-stakeholder partnerships for implementing the 2030 Agenda”.

We wanted to create an informal, safe space for dialogue among colleagues from the UN, governments, NGOs, multi-stakeholder partnership (MSP) initiatives, and partnership experts.
We looked at the history of the UN’s involvement with MSPs, and considered options of future engagement in the context of delivering the SDGs. We also discussed factors, forces and developments that may support, or hinder, effective contributions from MSPs. And we talked about next steps.

Much has been learned about engaging with partnerships since the first explicit inclusion of the Major Groups in Agenda21 in Rio, 1992, and hailing partnerships for implementation at WSSD in 2002. However, if we don’t carefully optimize the ways that the UN and UN processes engage with MSPs in the future, contributions will always remain side-lined and below the potential.

There’s a lot of praise, and a lot of criticism about MSPs – yet they are neither a panacea for solving all problems of sustainability, nor should they be generally equalled to privatizing development and abdicating government responsibility to profit-making business.

Many people are confusing Multi-stakeholder Partnerships and Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs). PPPs are contracts that a level of government takes out with usually a company to deliver. MSPs are voluntary agreements between different stakeholders.

They can help synergizing actions and moving away from silo operation, establishing clear inter-linkages of functions and mandates, thus achieving greater efficiency. In addition, political action across regularly forgotten dimensions (such as regional, local, sub-national governments, and urban & rural linkages), can foster greater cooperation among capacities at different levels.

In terms of next steps, safe spaces for developing thinking and strategy will be key because we need more and clearer guidelines and criteria to deal with MSPs.

Accountability and transparency are crucial to ensure due diligence, and that genuine contributions to the 2030 Agenda are being made while only those who deserve it benefit from engagement with the UN and the SDG processes.

In turn, MSPs should report about their successes and failures in efficient and cost-effective ways, delivering to their own controlling, learning, and communication needs at the same time. ‘Incentives’ was a key word in this discussion.

We see two possible ways by which a new set of guidelines and criteria could be agreed: The first way could be an ECOSOC agreement on Guidelines and Partnerships that could be agreed this year. The second is through the bi-annual Partnership Resolution in the UN General Assembly, which will come up for discussion in October 2017.

A summary of the workshop discussions can be found here. 

As we will continue to host conversations about these topics, we very much welcome your comments and suggestions. Please email us at minu.hemmati(at)msp-institute.org and felix(at)felixdodds.net.