Three years after adoption of the sustainable development goals, it is important to delve further into details of some key challenges, including the focus on the role of the private sector in achieving Agenda 2030. Europe’s public and private sectors are eager to step up collaboration. Examples of great partnerships abound, especially for new infrastructure projects in Africa. But are these partnerships always benign and how can the best ones be accelerated?
Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) are one solution to channel more money into sustainable development. However they must be set up carefully and guided by international standards on procurement, the environment and society. This was the main conclusion of a Friends of Europe debate in Brussels on 20 November 2018, assessing how the private sector can facilitate the United Nations’ Agenda 2030.
“PPPs are ideal if well-structured, bankable, competitively tendered, and risk is shared,” said Paloma Perez de Vega, of the European Investment Bank. She explained how PPPs behind two new African solar energy plants will dramatically cut electricity costs.
The private sector is often a major partner for our development and humanitarian projects, noted Sean Maguire, an executive director at Plan International. But before joining such a partnership, these companies must sign up to the UN Global Compact’s 10 universal sustainability principles. He pointed to the wide variety of PPPs available, while acknowledging the difficulty of scaling up those for education and soft skills.
Trust is an essential ingredient for our Africa PPPs, but it takes time to build, explained Wouter Vermeulen, from The Coca-Cola Company. “We want to grow the right way, not the easy way, so our long-term growth strategy includes sustainability goals for water, waste, and women’s empowerment.”
Governments increasingly turn to private companies and civil society for development projects, concluded the debate’s moderator, Shada Islam. So perhaps both these sectors should be viewed as ‘angels in the details’ – and not ‘devils’ – in these sometimes tricky-to-run partnerships.
Should you not be able to view the gallery, please click here.