A year ago, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called upon Unilever CEO Paul Polman to collaborate with the UN Global Compact in the formation of a Task Force to review past private sector UN partnerships and to recommend a model which would support the rapid development of solution-based responses to help solve some of the world's toughest problems. With the global expansion of the private sector, many of the challenges it faces are the same as those preoccupying the UN. It only made sense for the two to collaborate. The UN advantage comes from its longstanding in-country presence through multiple UN organizations, enabling it to identify the overarching challenges of a country or group of countries and perspective on what needs to be done to correct any imbalance. The private sector, on the other hand, has the advantage of having a fresh perspective, ingenuity, capacity for innovation and the resources to follow through.
Last month, the UN Global Compact released the report of its findings and recommendations prepared by the Task Force to formalize the collaboration and direction forward.
Buoyed by CEOs of multinational corporations which included, in addition to Unilever, Accenture, Acciona, BASF, GlaxoSmithKline, Intel, KPMG, NovoNordisk, Shell, Telefonica, the Coca-Cola Company and TNT, the Task Force described four possible UN-private sector partnership types that have existed over the years:
The Philanthropic partnership, with its emphasis on PR and the financial contribution;
The opportunistic partnership which often leverages core competencies to contribute to short term gain;
The strategic partnership which relies upon corporate technical skills to develop and deliver something specific; and finally,
The transformational partnership which engages multiple stakeholders in a systemic approach to the challenges of a marketplace that involve creating an enabling environment for goals to be achieved holistically."
While acknowledging value in all partnership types, the Task Force is placing its bets on the transformational partnership as the one to characterize the UN-Private Sector relationship going forward. Characteristically, the transformational partnership:
Addresses a systemic issue such as health delivery, water availability, food security or gender equality;
Involves the participation of all stakeholders;
Recognizes and leverages core competencies of all stakeholders; and
Has the ability to take to scale and to sustain performance over the long term.
All well and good, but I'd be remiss if I did not let on to the challenges that exist for the private sector working with the UN in partnership ventures. The Task Force tabled its concerns relating to past experience and made the following 3 recommendations to advance the transformational partnership. Beginning with the need for an advisory facility to build skills and capacity for effective partnership management under a private sector CEO-equivalent to lead the facility, the UN is also encouraged to improve its cross-agency coherence, designating a single focal point in each country through whom all communications would be channelled, to involve the private sector at the ideation stage of efforts and to ensure solutions to joint priorities are pursued together. Finally, the Task Force recommended increased transparency about performance with a focus on accountability for outcomes and to share the results widely.
The Task force has generated some important recommendations for the future of partnerships. Did it miss anything? I would have liked to have seen an emphasis on the opportunity to strengthen private sector human rights capacity. From where you stand, where could there be greater emphasis?
What are the results you expect from the newly identified transformational partnership? How would you like to see the partnership function? What do you think ought to be the priority systemic issues pursued?