The U.N.’s post-2015 development agenda — the framework for which is expected to be ratified in September of this year — will rely heavily on the private sector.

According to Martin Sajdik, president of the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council, including non-state actors in the development agenda is a crucial step in making the post-2015 development goals more feasible. “Our economic life, our social life is not only determined by state actors, so if we want to have a development agenda that is for all countries of the world — both developed and developing—we cannot ignore the fact there are many more actors,” said Sajdik.

The new Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, place particular emphasis on the importance of building multistakeholder partnerships across sectors. While the U.N. has involved private sector partners to a greater extent than it did when crafting the MDGs, some believe that the private sector’s role in setting the post-2015 agenda could be expanded further.

“Ultimately, we in the [Community Service Organization] community and World Vision understand this is a governmental process, that the ultimate decision will be taken by member states of the U.N. but our role is to influence those member states,” said World Vision external relations director Chris Derksen-Hiebert.

In recent years, cross-sector relationships have become increasingly common. One advantage of such relationships is that they harness the valuable expertise, resources and distribution channels of private enterprises.

One example of this movement is ColaLife. In 2012, the U.K. based charity began sending medicine kits to Zambia in cases of Coca-Cola. Rohit Ramchandani, ColaLife’s principal investigator, explained the organization’s philosophy: “Our model looks specifically at how we can partner with and leverage private sector distribution channels, these companies that are able to get their product out to that last mile in the most remote parts of the world.”

More recently, President Barack Obama’s Power Africa initiative received over $20 billion in private sector commitments, which will create millions of jobs, and fast-track the development of sub-Saharan Africa.

Andrew Herscowitz, USAID’s coordinator for both the Power Africa and Trade Africa initiatives, believes that governments will need to draw on the vast resources of the private domain in order to establish the expansive infrastructure needed to power the African continent. “Energy is one of the key constraints to economic growth in Africa, and only the private sector has the sufficient resources to build the necessary infrastructure,” he wrote.

Herscowitz also believes that the partnerships being forged within the Power Africa initiative are representative of a changing paradigm in the development world. “Our African partners are now looking less for the high-priced expert, who comes into a country to opine on what reforms a country may need to drive development,” he explained. “Rather, they want the deals themselves to drive the development.”

He went on to connect the role of private sector partners and government organizations: “The role that development institutions play in driving infrastructure development is being redefined, and the Power Africa partners are excited to be driving this new model for development.”

As policymakers continue to forge the post-2015 development agenda, it appears they will begin relying more heavily on the private sector’s diverse and valuable resources.

Parker Carroll

Sources: The Brookings Institution, Businessweek, Devex 1, Devex 2
Photo: Wave Partnership