Guest blog: Multi-stakeholder partnerships: why they matter and how to get them right
If humanity is to implement theand reach the , many stakeholders have to take action. It is widely agreed that national governments as well as businesses and civil society organizations (CSOs) are important actors in making the necessary transformative change happen. That creates a large, heterogeneous group with great potential for impact based on diverse resources, skills and experiences. Yet there is little attention, clarity or consensus on the roles of the different stakeholders or about how they can best work together.
What can different stakeholders contribute to the SDGs and why would they do it?
National governments continue to carry the primary responsibility for the welfare of the citizens, the economy and the planet. Therefore, it is clear that national governments will continue to be central actors in working towards the SDGs.
Business is increasingly realizing that their long-term success no longer depends solely on economic success, but also on their performance in social and environmental aspects. Frontrunners, business networks and movement towards ideas such as theare making headway in promoting the fact that business can be good for profit as well as for people and planet.
Civil society is organized locally, nationally and globally and fulfills key functions in all thematic SDG areas. Civil society holds expertise and experience crucial for SDG implementation as well as being a driver of change.
Additional important stakeholders include academia, local governments and international organizations.
All these stakeholders are making decisions on a daily basis, which influence the course of the world and humanity’s ability to reach the SDGs – or not to reach them. By cooperating effectively, synergetic effects will enable maximum impact and thus make achieving the SDGs more likely. In addition, multi-stakeholder cooperation is an opportunity to convince further stakeholders from all backgrounds of the need to take the 2030 Agenda into account.
What is a multi-stakeholder partnership?
Although the term multi-stakeholder partnership (MSP) is used in the 2030 Agenda, no commonly agreed definition or quality control exists. The current effort of theaims to help fill that gap.
The German platform Partnerships2030 defines multi-stakeholder partnerships as a form of collaboration with the following four characteristics:
- Stakeholders from at least three different sectors (public sector, private sector, civil society, academia), …
- … work together as equals…
- …through an organized and long-term engagement…
- …in order to contribute to the common good.
The GISCO has added value by dialogue and joint action resulting in an impact on the sector.(GISCO) is a joint initiative of the German Federal Government, represented by the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), the German sweets and confectionary industry, the German retail grocery trade, and civil society. Jointly, the multi-stakeholder partnership aims to improve the livelihood of cocoa farmers and their families as well as to increase the proportion of sustainably produced cocoa. To achieve these objectives, the members of GISCO closely liaise with the governments of cocoa producing countries. The initiative started in 2012 based on impetus from business and currently has about 70 members. Activities and results include that 57 % of cocoa in sweets and confectionery produced by GISCO members in Germany in 2016 is sustainably produced and 91 projects are being implemented in 32 producing countries.
The which can only be tackled by the cooperation of different stakeholders.is a business-driven, multi-stakeholder initiative seeking to promote transparency and integrity in the economic system. To achieve this goal, it fosters collective action of all relevant actors from the private sector, the public sector and civil society. It offers peer-to-peer learning, public-private dialogue, awareness raising and exchange of knowledge as well as compliance training and a train-the-trainers program. Corruption is clearly an important issue and equally obviously one
These and many more examples illustrate the kinds of issues for which multi-stakeholder-partnerships promise better progress than unilateral actions.
However, such partnerships tend to be time- and resource-intensive due to the inherent coordination among stakeholders. Therefore, it is worthwhile only when different stakeholders have an interest in the issue, which they can better reach by cooperating.
From a governmental and societal perspective, multi-stakeholder partnerships need to be considered alongside and in comparison to regulation. There is no comprehensive study yet on this comparison in different thematic and geographical contexts.
In the pertinentthere are 3970 partnerships/commitments (as of 22 October 2018). It is a safe bet that of the 3970, not that many are active let alone truly succeeding. The aims to articulate some key principles around MSPs as one step towards more success and impact.
From analyzing over , Partnerships2030 has distilled six for MSPs:
· Context: understanding the global context and being aware of the meta-governance as a common framework;
· Common strategy & future planning: jointly developing clear objectives, developing common leadership and responsibility and ensuring high-level support;
· Cooperation management: involving relevant partners, establishing a common ‘language’ and a respectful communication style;
· Process management: focusing on implementation and results, ascribing clear roles and setting a transparent communication strategy;
· Steering & Resources: establishing a neutral project secretariat, developing inclusive and transparent decision-making and steering structures and ensuring sustainable resource mobilization;
· Monitoring, evaluation and learning: introducing process and results-orientated monitoring, evaluation and reporting as well as learning processes and capacity development.
Hopefully, such efforts and existing will help MSPs to reach their full potential.
This angle on multi-stakeholder partnerships is focused on implementation rather than policymaking. There is a related debate about more fully including non-state stakeholders in policy debates at global level. Theby the Global Challenges Foundation sought innovative ideas for global governance. In many entries to the competition, the issue of better inclusion of non-state actors figured prominently. Yet of the 5 million USD prize money, in the end only 1.8 million were awarded, which shows how difficult it is to design effective multi-stakeholder global governance. Perhaps experiences with multi-stakeholder partnerships focused on implementation will have the additional benefit of providing experiences and shifting mindsets. This would also be beneficial for developing effective multi-stakeholder global governance models.
Partnerships are crucial for reaching the SDGs, because the global community needs to act coherently and create synergies. But let’s not start inactive or “which aren’t actually alive with action and joint purpose. Let’s not start partnerships because the term and idea is currently fashionable in some circles. Let’s create and work in multi-stakeholder partnerships only in those cases where it actually makes sense to do so: when diverse stakeholders have an interest in the issue and can only tackle it together. In these cases, let us indeed use multi-stakeholder partnerships to make strides towards the SDGs – because only together do we stand a chance of achieving them.