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Partnerships: Time to Move From Talk to Action

Written by Amir Dossal - Former Executive Director, UN Office for Partnerships and Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union for Global Parternships.

drAmirDossal1.3 billion people globally live on less than $1.25 per day, almost 1 billion people are malnourished and over 1 million Sub-Saharan Africans die annually of AIDS .It is clear that the current approach to development has its limitations. Aid does not create sustainable solutions, rather it provides short-term fixes; it fosters dependence rather empowerment. Looking at the work of the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, 10 years on, only about 4 of the 10 key recommendations have been achieved!

Most people – politicians, captains of industry and civil society leaders – know the problems and also know the solutions. What needs to happen now is concrete and collective action. However, action cannot simply take place in a vacuum. Working together through innovative partnerships, the international community can increase the chances of successful sustainable development. In the current climate, while aid budgets are key for social cohesion, they remain static (ODA is around US$130 billion, while FDI is running at around US$1.3 trillion); it is thus critical to leverage foreign direct investment as a way to Invest in People for Social Change. We should see the poor as a market.

By harnessing the expertise and supply chains of business, the capital of philanthropy, the leadership and local knowledge of governments, the grassroots networks of NGOs, the intellectual resources of academia and the rigor of the marketplace, multi-stakeholder partnerships can develop and deliver system-changing solutions.

While the concept of partnerships is not new, the last decade has seen an exponential increase in multi-stakeholder partnerships. Goal 8 of the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals, for example, calls for a global partnership for development. Companies are realizing that improving social welfare for people at the bottom of the ladder can be good for business. Multinationals such as Royal DSM, Dow Chemical, Microsoft, Nestle, and Coca-Cola have adopted business models, which serve to invest in people for social change. Their efforts are aimed at enhancing their bottom lines, but also at empowering people, which can lead to the creation of new markets and new customers. All the aforementioned companies (and there are many more good examples) have dynamic leaders who understand that profit is linked to social and economic prosperity on a global scale. They are looking not just a few years ahead, but thinking through ways whereby their investments can indeed lead to a better planet for future generations. They recognize the need to progress from traditional Corporate Social Responsibility to a culture of Personal Social Responsibility, which can only happen when there is leadership at the top.

By engaging all stakeholders, partnerships empower individuals to take personal responsibility for their own well-being and the well-being of others. However, partnerships are not straightforward, they involve give and take. The challenges are immense and include: enhancing complementarities, avoiding overlap, matching project time horizons, navigating bureaucracy, and delivering as one (COMBO). However, experience has shown that there is an effective way to address COMBO. Partners must always look at the situation from the other side and answer the question: "What is in it for them?"

While partnerships are not panacea for prosperity and have their shortcomings, by engaging all the stakeholders, they utilize comparative advantages from across sectors and move beyond aid to economic empowerment. Moreover, by collaborating to overcome silos and forge a collective goal, organizations more efficiently mobilize capital and expertise to advance high-impact change.

GHD Winter 2014 Digital Edition

GHD Contributors - Winter 2013

David B. Agus, MD, Shamsia Anwari, F.E. Baralle, MD, PhD, Dr. Seth Berkley, Vittorio Cammarota, The Honourable Gunilla Carlsson, Francis Collins, MD, PhD, Dr. Suraya Dalil, Ambassador Mark Dybul, Dr. Thomas Evans, The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Karl Hofmann, His Excellency Jakaya Kikwete, Gregory T. Lucier, Partha P. Majumder, PhD, Dr. Carole Presern, Scott C, Ratzan MD,MPA, Dr. David Reddy, Janet Hatcher Roberts, Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, Dr. Sima Samar, His Excellency Dr. Jorge Sampaio, Dr. Ataulhaq Sanaie, Dr. Khaled Seddiq, Dr. Richard Sezibera, Dr. Ahmed Shadoul, Jill Sheffield, Michel Sidibé, Prabhjot Singh, Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Kari Stoever, H.E Jakaya Kikwete, Hervé Verhoosel, Princess Sarah Zeid