Subscribe here to receive future issues of Linkages Update.

Editor's Note: Public Private Partnerships 

Issue #215 | 21 October 2013

Like Share on Facebook  IISD Reporting Services on Twitter  Share on Google Plus

By: Lynn Wagner, Ph.D., Group Director, SDG Knowledge, IISD <>

This issue of Linkages Update highlights a number of key developments during the last few weeks, including the opening for signature of the first multilateral environmental agreement in a decade (the Minamata Convention on Mercury), the approval of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Summary for Policy Makers on the physical science basis of climate change, efforts to influence the ongoing processes to define sustainable development goals and the post-2015 development agenda, and increased attention to the possibilities involved with public-private partnerships.

The negotiation of the Minamata Convention followed the February 2009 decision by the Governing Council of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to develop a global legally-binding instrument on mercury pollution, although UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum consideration of this issue stretched back to 2001. At the conclusion of the 12+ years on intergovernmental discussions, during the first two days that governments could do so, the Minamata Convention on Mercury was signed by 91 countries and the European Union. The focus for many following this process has now shifted to the goal of “50 by 2015,” to ensure that the requisite number of ratifications is achieved quickly so that the Minamata Convention will enter into force.

Meanwhile, last week the 37th session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 37) considered and adopted two methodology reports and established a task group on the future of the IPCC, which will meet in conjunction with IPCC sessions, report on progress at IPCC 39 and IPCC 40, and make recommendations to IPCC 41. A few weeks earlier, the 12th session of Working Group I of the IPCC and the 36th session of the IPCC had convened and adopted the Summary for Policymakers on the physical science basis of climate change, as the first of four reports, with: the WGII assessment on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability scheduled for finalization in March 2014; the WGIII contribution on options for mitigating climate change to be finalized in April 2014; and the fifth Assessment Report (AR5) Synthesis Report to be completed in October 2014. The AR5 will provide the scientific basis for future global climate policy, including the new agreement that is supposed to be adopted by parties to the UNFCCC in 2015.

Many other recent events have focused on another key focus for 2015: the intergovernmental process on sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the UN-led consultations on the post-2015 development agenda. For example, parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification discussed the possibilities for a goal on a land degradation neutral world. And participants at the Budapest Water Summit called for a water-related SDG and the establishment of an intergovernmental mechanism on water.

Along with the long list of possible goals and targets to be considered by the international community to advance sustainable development and the post-2015 development agenda has come a focus on the amount of work that must be undertaken to achieve them. A number of recent events have focused in particular on the needs for financing and partnerships with the private sector.

Released prior to the opening of the UN General Assembly session, the UN Secretary-General's report on UN-private sector partnerships highlights that “the United Nations is uniquely positioned to act as a bridge-builder to various sectors, in particular the private sector, and to challenge them to participate in the achievement of development goals.” The report also notes the Secretary-General's proposal to establish a UN partnership facility to create a partnership focal point network, provide partnership support services and deliver at global and country scales. This focus is needed because, as the World Bank highlights in its recent report, titled ‘Financing for Development Post-2015,' the aid landscape is changing, including the rise of upper middle-income countries as donors and philanthropic foundations, while aid from developed countries, including through contributions to multilateral agencies, has become a less important source of development finance at the global level. Reflecting this change, during the UN General Assembly's Second Committee discussions on financing for development, many delegations lamented the decrease in ODA and called on countries to fulfill their previous commitments to financing, while some States called for the creation of a new financing strategy that takes new global financial realities into account.

A number of other events and activities included in this issue of Linkages Update identify issue areas in which the private sector and partnerships could be involved in implementing the intergovernmental agreements that we report on. The UNFCCC recently gathered 40 ministers and their representatives, the Co-chairs of Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and, for the first time, representatives of the business sector, in Warsaw ahead of the 19th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC. Our report of this meeting indicates that “business sector representatives emphasized the need for a simple and stable regulatory framework that would limit investment risk and provide clarity and a long-term perspective for investments and initiatives.” In other issue areas, a recent report by the five UN Regional Commissions, titled 'Partnerships for Universal Access to Modern Energy Services,' explores public-private partnerships (PPPs) as investment catalysts for achieving the goals of the UN Secretary-General's Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative. And the Global Partnership for Oceans Blue Ribbon Panel report calls for investment through public-private partnerships.

As always, we will continue to follow the negotiations on intergovernmental agreements and goals, the expanding agenda for 2015, and the proposals for how all of these efforts can be implemented, in our own partnership to assist you in keeping abreast of sustainable development policy and practice.