The semantics of partnership

Partnerships for Sustainable Development – inclusive and accountable or laissez-faire marketplace?

Current conventional wisdom has it that partnerships are crucial for the success of the of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

However, the UN approach to engaging in stakeholder partnerships is rooted in pre-2030 Agenda practices and perspectives. It has been shepherded by UN offices mainly concerned with resource mobilization and often amounts to fitting UN development activities into a pipeline of bankable projects.

The concept of public-private partnership engagement has been pursued on a one-way track, designed to adjust the public sphere to leverage the private interests and neglecting the public responsibilities of private sector partners.

Accountability to the 2030 Agenda and UN reform proposals must include a two-way re-orientation – from focusing primarily on making the UN business-ready to that of enabling the UN to engage with an SDG-ready business community.