2015 was a momentous year for our world. The United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a universal and transformative development strategy. The 2030 Agenda commits the global community to “achieving sustainable development in its three dimensions—economic, social and environmental—in a balanced and integrated manner”.

Almost four years in, there is consensus among Member States that the ambition and scale of the 2030 Agenda simply cannot be met with the efforts of the UN alone. It would require a “whole of society” approach where every actor, whether they represent business, academia, civil society or governments, must play their part to ensure the vision of the 2030 Agenda is realised.

Multistakeholder partnerships are crucial to achieving such broad engagement from all actors and drawing on their relative strengths.  This places the UN in a unique position where, its convening power can help countries to build partnerships needed at the global, regional and country levels and to bring together the actors with the right skills, resources and networks to address global challenges at scale.

This means that the role of the UN too is evolving from that of an implementer of development projects to an enabler of partnerships where synergies between partners create a whole greater than the sum of its parts. To take the example of business: The 2030 Agenda offers the private sector numerous opportunities to access new markets and institutional investment, estimated at about $12 trillion by 2030 while adding 380 million new jobs. Of these, half of the value of the opportunities arise in developing countries. The majority of these jobs, almost 90%, will be created in developing countries. This in itself is a compelling argument for the private sector and governments to work together to make the 2030 Agenda a reality.

Becoming an enabler of partnerships entails changing old mind-sets about the UN’s position in the development landscape as well as acquiring the right skills and knowledge of frameworks to effectively manage new collaborations. It also requires access  to the tools and polices in place to manage reputational risk, while not stifling innovation.

What is also needed is a bold move away from traditionally transaction or funding arrangements, towards synergistic partnerships built on shared values and common purpose.

As outlined in the UN Secretary-General’s recommendations for Repositioning the United Nations development system to deliver on the 2030 Agenda, “the UN experience in engaging in partnerships varies greatly. While some entities have developed advanced policies and practices for engaging external actors, others pursue a more conservative approach, often due to limited capacities and skillsets”. Through the Building Partnerships for Sustainable Development training programme we endeavour to address this imbalance  by making participants understand the imperatives to  build multistakeholder partnerships, learning about the Partnering Cycle Framework, diving into a masterclass on partnerships and due diligence and looking at examples of partnerships across sectors to understand what works and what doesn’t.



The opinions expressed in our blog posts are solely those of the authors. They do not reflect the opinions or views of UNSSC, the United Nations or its members.