Offers Gif

Promoting Public-Private Partnerships

Government/Military, Thought Leadership


July 5, 2018, 1:34 pm

On the sidelines of the World Government Summit here in Dubai, I had the opportunity to catch up with the recently appointed Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Achim Steiner. Steiner succeeded Helen Clark, former UNDP Administrator, but also the former New Zealand Prime Minister. UNDP released amazing initiatives under her administration but as new leadership settles in, a new set of ambitious targets must be conceptualised. What better scenario than seeking Dubai-borne World Green Economy Organization (WGEO) to partner with, under the backdrop of the WGS?

The former Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and I had a quick brainstorming session about programmes and sustainability ideas before Steiner met a high-level delegation from WGEO, and the surprise was his opening statement in which he advocated public-private partnerships.

The world of United Nations has always kept the private sector at arm’s length. Personally, I could never understand the reasons for such a taboo. If it wasn’t for the private sector, there would be little work done if everything had to be done internally. The private sector is fast and efficient. The UN should facilitate disruptive forces in the private sector, and my discussion with the UNDP was along the lines of involving the private sector more actively in the realms of sustainability and development.

The public sector, just like many large private sector companies tends to become cumbersome in its decision-making process, and effectively loses the ability to increase efficiency through innovation. The concept of ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’ prevails more frequently than it should, based on the complexities of the UN’s own operating theatres. However, the UN, and UNDP, do not wish to make themselves obsolete and both need to identify fresh streams of relevance. A partnership with the private sector is thematically relevant and acceptable. However, how to actually implement it may very well be the make or break.

When solar opportunities were contemplated a few years back, Dubai could have commissioned and purchased the solar plants by itself. However, it decided to invest its time and efforts towards the development of an Independent Power Producer (IPP) policy. Dubai’s IPP policy was, from my point of view, one of its greatest successes and something the UNDP should benchmark as an example of partnerships with private sector. Under the IPP, the private sector had a chance to shine, and having distributed the risks and rewards across the programme value chain, strong results quickly followed. The Mohammed Bin Rashid Solar Park currently boasts the leading solar energy tariff at a global level.

Bill Gates often looked at the innovation from a couple of programmers working out of a garage rather than the big conglomerates. Why can’t we create the enabling environment for sustainability to benefit from a similar innovation scheme?

(Extra cut out: The World Government Summit has the power to attract brilliant minds around a rather unconventional topic, excellence in the public sector. I have been always fascinated at how the UAE has leveraged the best notions of behavioural economics models to streamline its public sector service. The Summit is a marketplace of ideas where government representatives from around the globe can share best practices, and challenges in a dynamic and result driven platform.

The concept of profitability should be kept aside from commercial greed, but under an economic profile, supply and demand are independent forces that operate regardless of the United Nations presence.)

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