PARIS, France – At the Private Sector for Sustainable Development Week held last week, members of the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE) platform urged donors, duty-bearers, and other stakeholders to uphold the sector’s accountability and people’s rights in private sector engagement (PSE).
Led by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the event is an annual gathering of stakeholders from the public and private sector to tackle new approaches in using private finance to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
At the session on promoting effective partnerships to support the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, panel member and CPDE Co-Chair Beverly Longid shared an alternative to the increasingly prominent view that the private sector are “game-changers” or “the catalysts of development.”
“We have yet to see the impacts of private sector engagement in development, if indeed, their interventions reduce poverty and inequality. The narratives continue of the detrimental impacts of private sector activities and projects especially on the poor and marginalized sections of society such as we the indigenous peoples. Corporations and governments exploit our lands with little to no benefit to us,” she said.
Mistrust of the private sector did not happen overnight, but was built through decades or even centuries of experiences of people across the globe, Longid further explained.
“For the civil society, part of the mistrust stems from the lack of private sector accountability and the detrimental impacts of private sector engagement in development, for example, the displacement of communities, health hazards, and destruction of their livelihood and the environment.” Understanding the underlying reasons or the historical context for such mistrust, she adds, is key to improving the effectiveness of private sector engagement.
CPDE also advocated the promotion of genuinely inclusive partnerships, which considers the diversity of the private sector, and engenders respect of people’s rights, a common goal of development for the people, and inclusive and democratic processes. Moreover, it highlights the role of civil society and other stakeholders in ensuring that private sector activities or projects are in line with the SDGs and contribute to national development.
“The private sector will not necessarily undertake activities that are aimed at achieving the SDGs, so the development cooperation community should monitor that the private sector operates by the same development effectiveness principles that we and other development actors abide by. Accountability, transparency, and respect of peoples’ rights not only of the private sector but also the government are paramount for achieving the SDGs.”
CPDE argued that private sector engagement should not mean diminished duty of the government in development, and that donor countries should prioritize domestic SMEs in their partnerships, over multinational corporations or with their own private sector.
The Private Sector for Sustainable Development week provided CPDE an opportunity to reach out to CSOs and other stakeholders, to discuss developments regarding civic spaces and CSO work, and explore possible development partnerships.
Following the event, CPDE expressed its commitment to participating in more international social dialogues, and offering its critical voice for CSOs in the face of growing private sector engagement in development. It is set to conduct case studies on PSE, and release materials for communicating the platform’s key messages on PSE and development.#