UN seeks partnerships to achieve MDGs

How can the various UN agencies work better with private sector partners, foundations and NGOs to further the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)? This was the focus of a Roundtable on 24-25 October 2002 with the private sector focal points[1] from 29 UN agencies/departments. The meeting was hosted by the UN Fund for International Partnerships (UNFIP) and the Global Compact.

The goal of the roundtable, said Jane Nelson of the London-based International Business Leaders Forum and the moderator for the session, was ‘to increase the integration of partnership-building into all key aspects of UN operations’. According to UNFIP Executive Director Amir Dossal, the UN agencies are getting together so as to benefit from each other’s experiences and expertise and to find complementarities in working with the private sector. ‘The bottom line is, if we synergize our activities in house, we can present a single face to the outside world.’

Specific UN agencies were identified to take the lead in responding to the four major challenges identified at the meeting:

  • To make it easier for potential business and foundation partners to work with the UN. Many find it difficult to access, bureaucratic to deal with, and hard to understand. The MDGs are largely unknown to those in the business community. An improved partnership website could be part of the solution.
  • To make it easier for UN agencies, especially the smaller ones, to be effective in working with the private sector, for example through information-sharing and training.
  • To help UN agencies select appropriate private sector partners, possibly by creating a common database to improve the screening process.
  • To make it easier to channel funds from the private sector to the UN system, for example by encouraging the use of foundations such as the UN Foundation to serve as intermediaries. The national committees established by UNICEF, UNHCR and UNESCO, among others, also act as intermediary bodies.

This was the largest meeting to date of UN private sector focal points and helps pave the way for increased private sector collaboration with the UN system. The next meeting will be hosted by UNESCO in Paris, November 2003.

1 In 2000, the UN Secretary General requested UN organizations to appoint private sector focal points for liaison with companies and foundations. There are now private sector focal points in 29 UN organizations/departments.

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