As political, civil society and business leaders from around the world gather on Tuesday in Mexico City for the first high-level meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, one of the key focus areas will be private sector engagement in development.
If the 2011 Busan meeting on aid effectiveness put the private sector on the map, advocates for a growing private sector role in development are looking to this year’s event as the opportunity to push that agenda even further.
The 2014 high-level meeting may be partly taking stock of progress since Busan, but several representatives who will take part in the discussions in Mexico City also hope to see concrete plans for action, as well as greater awareness of how to do partnerships and engage with the private sector more effectively.
The GPEDC — led by co-chairs Indonesian Minister for National Development Planning Armida Alisjahbana, U.K Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening and Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala — is no longer about making the case for the private sector in development because that was already done in Busan, according to
Albena Melin, manager of the International Finance Corp.’s Partnerships for Prosperity, which aims to bring together a variety of actors and create linkages between business leaders and development partners.
“The development paradigm is shifting, and basically it’s a fundamentally different way of doing development if you have the private sector with you at the table as an equal partner participating in, deciding jointly with you,” Melin told Devex.
There certainly seems to be a call for practical examples or tangible case studies where partnerships worked — or didn’t — so that others can learn from the experiences.
Darian Stibbe, executive director of The Partnering Initiative, said that expectations are tough for a meeting like this one.
“I think [GPEDC] has not yet cracked how to engage the private sector because at this level it is a lot about sort of talk and process, and there is limited engagement for individual companies to be involved,” he explained to Devex. “What’s going to happen is there will be sort of another level down at one point that will be much more specific and action-oriented — something for them to actively get engaged in.”
What to expect
The private sector discussions will broadly focus on three key themes: catalytic partnerships to create shared value, public-private platforms for development and innovative financing partnerships.
A large plenary session along with other smaller sessions are expected to tackle several topics, including:
• Partnering with private investors for development impacts.
• Unleashing the power of business.
• Proving prosperity in public-private sector cooperation.
• Partnerships for shared prosperity in conflict-afflicted countries.
• Delivering effective cooperation through public-private cooperation.
In the discussions on private sector engagement, Greening, who has been a champion on this issue in U.K. aid, is expected to announce a new plan for encouraging businesses to invest in social good.
She will detail a partnership roadmap created by TPI for the GPEDC to help guide countries in how to “partner better.” The roadmap’s five key action areas are: building trust and understanding across sectors, ensuring open and inclusive planning of development priorities, creating in-country platforms for partnership, maintaining partnership effectiveness internally and measuring results, and building institutional capacity for partnering.
The roadmap’s recommendations include creating an action group or a coalition of government, business associations, donors and civil society to help drive the agenda forward and help map the existing landscape. Other suggestions are the creation of a “one-stop-shop” platform that will make it easier for companies and other actors to engage, and for the GPEDC to become the organization that holds all countries accountable on their progress on private sector engagement.
While TPI doesn’t expect governments to immediately endorse the roadmap, Stibbe said he welcomes the above tips and hopes that the conversation gets started, and that countries share what they are already doing and commit to the first stage outlined, which is to establish a multi-sectoral action group to identify how the roadmap should be modified to fit each country’s needs.
U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah will also be attending the meeting, and he is expected to discuss the agency’s policy reforms and private sector engagement strategies, including the recent launch of the U.S. Global Development Lab. He is also going to announce a new partnership with the head of Mexico’s International Development Cooperation Agency to support the cocoa industry in El Salvador.
Unlike similar meetings in the past, a negotiated document is not part of the plan for this week’s meeting, though a communiqué is expected, and a draft has already been released by the partnership.
The draft communiqué recognizes the private sector as an important actor, and encourages governments to create a legislative framework for development cooperation, including a set of rules that would facilitate private sector investments. It also supports efforts to strengthen and establish platforms and hubs for multi-stakeholder dialogue, partnerships and cross-sector cooperation; the development of innovative finance mechanisms; calls for an increase of private financing for development; and the role that SMEs play in achieving inclusive economic growth.
TPI, which already helps run three business and development hubs through the Business in Development Facility, is likewise expected to announce plans to open several more hubs in new countries.
Modibo Makalou, the head of Mali’s Development and Cooperation Initiative, said he hopes that the meetings lead to countries having more examples of good implementation and results when it comes to private sector engagement.
“We believe having all the actors together helps us at least know what the objectives are and how we are going to tackle them together, and also how the implementation of the commitments will be made on a very objective basis,” he told Devex.
Makalou has been working extensively on public-private partnerships and finding ways to strengthen the public and private sectors in Mali and Africa.
All indications are that the GPEDC high-level meeting will not result in a negotiated outcome document with clear commitments, as other somewhat similar gatherings have done in the past, but perhaps that’s not a bad thing — especially if it means an expanded focus on results.
“This is what we will reiterate: we want results; we want to focus on development outcomes, not inputs,” Makalou said.
If this event achieves what many hope, it may lay the groundwork for how the post-2015 agenda can be financed and implemented – a complementary and necessary function to the formal process of establishing the future Sustainable Development Goals.
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