Comments by Felix Dodds for the event Overturning the Credibility Gap in Traditional PPP: the ‘People-First’ approach for national and local governments

Thank you, Geoffrey I'm, happy to contribute to this panel on People-first PPPs (full video of side event available here).

In 2015 and 2016 the multi-stakeholder Communitas Coalition which had worked on securing SDG 11 on Sustainable Cities and Communities followed up that work in a number of areas to input to Habitat III,

One of those under my colleague James Goldstein, who worked with stakeholders to produce a set of draft Principles of Public-Private Partnerships. This was recognizing that PPPs would play a role in implementing the SDGs and New Urban Agenda and that in the past they had a very bad record, particularly at the sub-national level.

AS we know there is both tremendous enthusiasm for and skepticism about the role and impact of PPPs for sustainable development.

The challenges of our urban areas are where we may win or fail in delivering the SDGs.  There are huge urban infrastructure investment requirements in developing countries over the coming years.

Let’s put on the table a number of potential risks/challenges for governments for PPPs:  PPPs can distort 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 local legal/regulatory frameworks and the need for institutional capacity-building; lack of transparency and accountability, including hidden or “off-book” accounting treatment of PPP-related debt; the need for improved monitoring and evaluation; inadequate investment in maintenance; and displacement of public employees.

I have five points I want to make:
  • Global or Regional or Both? 
The People’s First for PPPs initiative by UNECE which I have engaged in because of the work Commuitas had done but also because of the lack of any interest at the global level for either principles for PPPs or principles for Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships.

You can take a position that we should oppose all PPPs because there hasn’t been a global agreement on principles or perhaps take a different route which might actually get a better set of principles and that is the regional approach.

We have seen this work in the area of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration access to information, public participation and environmental justice. We have two regional commissions having taken this forward now Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean and now there has started a discussion in Africa about a possible P10 convention.

The advantages of a regional approach are it will be a bottom-up approach engaging local and national stakeholders in that region and looking at regional experiences of PPPs to build a set of principles from.

It also has in many cases countries at similar levels of development and therefore similar problems that need to be addressed.

It can ultimately be brought together into a global agreement based on these regional agreements.
  • Which companies should engage with this? 
I have been arguing that companies that engage in People First PPPs for SDGs need to be a member of the Global Compact. We can’t afford green wash. The UN Global Compact should be about quality. We are waiting for the Secretary General’s Report for the operational activities for development segment of ECOSOC which should give an indication on how to address due diligence in the UN as far as companies and direction to the UNGC.

Being a member of the UNGC cannot be without responsibilities.

I will give you a couple of examples on human rights - one of the key principles for the UNGC.

The Corporate Human Rights Benchmark organization have produced reports in 2017 and 2018.

I am just finishing a blog on comparing the results but to give you a flavor.

The Benchmark is grounded in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. I the 2018 Report some UNGC companies are scoring less than 10% these include Grupo Azor Mexico and China Petroleum and Chemical compared to in the same sector Rio Tinto scoring 76.3%.

You have companies such as PepsiCo at 43% which is a significant improvement from last year but still terrible. But amazing compared to Starbucks at 8.5%. Then leaders in the sector such as Unilever at 67.3%.

If the UNGC is to be in part the due diligence for People First PPPs for SDGs then it needs to be robust and companies need to take the UNGC Principles serious.

After all its nearly 20 years that some companies have been members how is it they are getting such low scores?

Benchmarking can play at important role in helping the UNGC to monitor a small number of its members but it also needs to engage in spot-checking the over 10,000 members as well.
  • There needs to be pilots
We need pilots or champions…. examples that show this works. Projects that can be put under the multi-stakeholder microscope which can then feed back into better guidance note and better capacity building.
  • Engagement with relevant stakeholders 
It cannot be about just about public and private working together better It has to have meaningful and sustained consultation with and participation of end-users and other (local) stakeholders in decision making through a deliberative process, from design to implementation and evaluation, including prior to infrastructure project initiation.
  • Value for Money, People, and the Planet
PPPs should result in improved outcomes for end users and citizens, through improved service quality, accessibility, and affordability.  PPPs should be consistent with and support the long-range sustainable development plans of the public sector. The area of infrastructure offers the best area for this work. Are there areas that PPPs should not be engaged in – I would say yes and that we should keep away from PPPs in the health and water sectors in particular.

Thank you.


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