UN ECE Forum on PPPs

a Ralph Steadman cartoon originally done for Rio'92
I had the pleasure to present my views on the opening panel at the UNECE International Forum on people-first PPPs for the Sustainable Development Goals on the Guiding Principles on the People-First Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) Part I & II. 

the moderator was Geoffrey Hamilton Chief of the PPP Programme at UNECE, asked a number of question. My comments were as follows:

1. Do the 8 Guiding Principles on People-First PPPs reflect the new model that is needed for the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

One of my colleagues on the panel here did make a comment about regulation. I would remind everyone that the lack of regulation around the banks saw them privatize the profits and socialized the losses. We cant see the same with PPPs. I would comment on what Geoffrey said  in his opening about someone from the EU commenting that too many rules might frighten away some in the private sector. Well I say so be it. If they don't want to be reviewed in line with the SDGs then they shouldn't be bidding for these kinds of contracts. 

As the document mentions companies should be inline with the UN Global Compact. Infact what it says is;
"Many UN agencies work with the private sector in support of the SDGs. UNEP and UNDP
have prominent programme with undivided companies. The signing up to the UN Global
Compact 10 Principles should be mandatory for companies engaging in PPPs. Delisting of
any company should be then flagged to ensure they are not a SDG supporting company."

I did reflect on the way here about the meaning of ‘Principles’ and if the present phrasing is right –
I’ve tended to take the term Principles as a proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of beliefs or behaviour.
So if we apply his to the Principles I think perhaps we need a little more tweaking. An example would be
Principle 1: Projects and Action Plans - that isn’t a principle I think we need to perhaps go back to what it was before which I think was ‘People First’ Projects and Action Plans are the strategy or activity to help deliver a Principle.
Principle 2: Another example would be Capacity Building – I would have as the Principle Empowerment the action is through Capacity building
Principle 7: Resilience and Climate Change could this be better expressed as just Building Resilience and could
Principle 8: Innovative Financing: Impact Investing could this be responsible investment and Innovative Finance and Impact investment tools to achieve this?

I was the Political Advisor to the Communitas Coalition for Habitat III and we made some suggestions on principles and Guidelines for PPPs. The Communitas paper highlighted that PPPs had of a number of potential risks/challenges for governments such as:

  • The distortion of the public agenda, 
  • Loss of local control over critical infrastructure and services, and co-option of government or civil society partners, 
  • Commoditization of commons, 
  • Lack of strong legal/regulatory frameworks and 
  • The need for institutional capacity-building, 
  • Lack of transparency and accountability - including hidden or off the books accounting treatment of PPP debt the need for improved monitoring and evaluation, inadequate investment in maintenance and the displacement of public employees.”
  • Engagement with stakeholders throughout.

I also made the suggestion in November that the guidelines should not only promote local jobs but unionized jobs….why because trade unions will protect the health and welfare of their members and act as a balance to ensure that workers role as a key stakeholder in the PPP is enabled.

2. Are these 8 Principles the ones that should be voluntarily adopted by governments or are there others that should be emphasized?

“A People First Public Private Partnership is a long term contractual relationship between the public and private sector, where delivering value for people is the core objective, there is a commitment to serving and protecting the community, and the project is developed with the real interests of people in mind.”
What is missing is in the definition is any real reference to sustainable development.
I would add ‘while helping to deliver sustainable development’
“A People First Public Private Partnership is a long term contractual relationship between the public and private sector, where delivering value for people and delivering sustainable development is the core objective, there is a commitment to serving and protecting the community, and the project is developed with the real interests of people in mind.”
I suggest this because the core definition will I am sure be interpreted in different ways even with the wider explanation in the definition that follows for Value for People.
The UN Committee of Public Administration in New York just agreed some Principles of Responsive and Effective Governance for Sustainable Development. Their principles have some overlap with the ones being discussed here today but some different ones and its worth looking at that…they have 11 Principles
1. Competence
2. Sound policy making
3. Collaboration
4. Integrity
5. Transparency
6. Independent oversight
7. Leave no one behind
8. Non-discrimination
9. Participation
10. Subsidiarity
11. And Inter-generational equity

They then also identify the commonly used strategies to deliver these principles. For example. Leave no one behind identifies as strategies:

  • Promotion of equitable fiscal and monetary policy
  • Promotion of social equity
  • Data discrimination
  • Systematic follow up and review 

As the PPP process in UNECE moves forward I would suggest a strong relation be built with the CEPA.
3. How do we get broad support, not only from governments but also from civil society organizations and the private sector for these principles?

I think their big problem on two fronts
1. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda clearly wanted a global process to set global This means in my mind that the Finance for Development Forum should set up a process for global policy-setting, which should include the involvement of all relevant stakeholders in a participatory process to advance much-needed definitions of international standards and guidelines on PPPs.
But another way of doing this is also bottom up and to have each UN region developing their own principles with their own stakeholders. Thus recognizing the different levels of development in the different regions  and by doing this having the engagement of region based stakeholders as opposed to what is often global stakeholders.
2. Many people do not believe that PPPs are the way forward. This has been underlined by the recent report EU's independent external auditor, the European Court of Auditors (ECA).  I would remind people that perhaps don't know the body that the ECA looks after the interests of EU taxpayers and the report is sobering reading on PPPs
It looked to see if EU-funded Public Private Partnerships (PPP) projects had been effectively managed and provided adequate value for money.
The auditors make a range of recommendations, to both the Commission and the Member States, in
particular, they should not promote more intensive and widespread use of PPPs until the issues identified have been addressed:

  • Mitigate the financial impact of delays and re-negotiations on the cost of PPPs borne by the public partner;
  • Base PPP selection on sound comparative analyses of the best procurement option;
  • Ensure the necessary administrative capability and establish clear PPP policies and strategies to
  • Implement successful EU-supported PPPs;
  • Improve the EU framework for better PPP project effectiveness, so that the choice of the PPP option is justified by value-for-money considerations.

Much is still to be done to give confidence in PPPs.

On stakeholders:
I am very happy the definition of ‘engaging all stakeholders’ in the document when it says: "that are either directly involved in the PPP project or directly or indirectly affected in the short and/or long run, including in particular women and minorities." The 2030 Agenda doesn’t use minorities but in particular the poor and the vulnerable. You may want to consider that.

In the document it mixes the civil society and stakeholder discourse. Its not the same.
I would argue that you should not use civil society as a term as it excludes some of the key stakeholders that you might want to engage with. This includes Indigenous Peoples, academics and local government.  It also doesn't lend itself to ensure their is a gender perspective or an inter generational perspective as the other 'stakeholders' are grouped into one group called civil society.


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