Partnerships are at the heart of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Taking part in the “How to make SDGs Europe’s Business conference, Seamus Jeffreson, CONCORD director, has elaborated below some key recommendations for the successful implementation of Agenda 2030 which depends on a new way of perceiving partnerships.

“How to make SDGs Europe’s Business” conference, organised by the Dutch presidency of the EU, the European Economic and Social Committee, the SDG Charter and Jeffrey Sach’s UN Sustainable Development Solution Network, took place on 30 and 31 May in Brussels. The conference was about the new forms of collaboration between business, civil society, government and science across Europe that are going to be needed to lead to the success of the adoption of the Agenda 2030. I was one of the speaker and gave a brief presentation about SDGs as a driver for change.

Why are partnerships going to be so important for the successful implementation of the Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals? And what then makes a successful partnership – particularly one involving very different types of actors, like governments, businesses, civil society organisations, trade unions and academia? What’s a ‘multi stakeholder approach’ when we talk about Europe?

This event was a major coming together of government and business, NGOs and think tanks addressed by EC Vice President Frans Timmermans, Dutch Trade and Development Minister Lilianne Ploumen and Unilever boss Paul Polman.

Many thanks to Evert-Jan Brouwer who co-chairs CONCORD ‘Sustainable Development’ thematic Hub for his input. I highly recommend the recent publication “Ready for Change? Global Goals at home and abroad” for more on why coherent EU policies beyond the development sector (trade, tax, migration, health, Agriculture..) are going to make the difference in meeting our Goals.

Agenda 2030 event May 2016

Jeremy Wates, Director of the European Environment and Rudy de Leeuw, President of the European Trades Union Confederation

What kind of partnership do we need to achieve the goals we have set ourselves?

Partnerships are mentioned in the preamble of Agenda 2030. It states: ‘We are determined to mobilise the means required to implement this Agenda through a revitalised Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, based on a spirit of strengthened global solidarity, focused in particular on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable and with the participation of all countries, all stakeholders and all people.’

  • The Role of Governments in partnerships: everyone needs to pull together and be involved in implementing and monitoring the Agenda. But States are the primary duty bearers for the implementation. Governments should play a role in brokering and facilitating Multi Stakeholder Partnerships (MSPs), but take care that it remains finally responsible for legislation, standard setting and checking compliance with standards.
  • Solid and lasting partnerships are based on Transparency: clear ‘terms of reference’ for what is expected of all parties is a good start.
  • Accountability: each participating actor must be held fully accountable for their part against international standards and guidelines on human rights, decent work and environmental sustainability.
  • Partnerships need to fit into an overarching framework or strategy to achieve the SDGs: wherever the partnerships “happen”, there will be national, regional or local level plans to which they relate – this is necessary for example to avoid duplication and contradicting existing plans.
  • Focus on the need and inclusion: what are needed are not so much ‘partnerships of the willing’ (or partnerships of the ‘able’) but rather ‘partnerships of the needed’. Extra effort is needed to make sure that partnerships are truly inclusive. If you are going to leave no one behind – do you have the partners you need in your partnership? What about those habitually left out? Women and girls perspectives, the disabled? The elderly? Other socially excluded groups and communities? Partnerships need to go and seek the ‘needed’.
  • Monitoring: Finally, partnerships need to be reviewed to see if they are working, who is missing, have the circumstances change. Above all, partnerships are dynamic, so they needed to be reviewed and revised.