42.The reinvigoration of a ‘Global Partnership’ is one of the central tenets of Agenda 2030. It is also the subject of targets 17.16 and 17.17, which focus on the development of multi-stakeholder partnerships to share knowledge, expertise, technology and finance and encourage civil society and the public and private sectors to work together to support the achievement of the SDGs. The ambitious and wide-ranging nature of the SDGs lend themselves to working in partnership in order to prevent duplication and encourage coordinated action. The Secretary of State emphasised the importance of collaboration and coordination when she told us:
“[…] development really is a team game now, more than it has ever been before. The most effective models for development are those that pull in the private sector, donor countries like the UK, countries themselves, civil society and philanthropists. Getting those corralled together is, as much as anything, the name of the game, which is why SDG 17 on partnership is very important to see delivered.”
DFID reinforced this in its evidence, stating:
“A comprehensive international response to the SDGs will be required to support country implementation of the agenda. The Agenda 2030] Outcome Document, alongside the AAAA, underpins the importance of a revitalised Global Partnership comprising all development actors including donors, multilateral organisations, and civil society organisations.”
43.The SDGs also provide an opportunity for new and innovative multi-stakeholder partnerships between groups that may not have traditionally worked together. As Ben Jackson from Bond told us: “if you can get the right strategic coalitions and those can be funded over long periods, bringing together small and large NGOs, business and others, when that works it is a really great model.” Similarly, Plan’s written evidence stated:
“Increasingly complex mechanisms of development cooperation and innovative partnerships between NGOs and the private sector offer exciting models for consideration to build gender equality, job-rich inclusive growth and achieve sustainable development.”
However, these new partnerships will undoubtedly present challenges, particularly where partners have different incentives for action. Penny Fowler of Oxfam cautioned that there must be mutual respect and understanding within such partnerships, and an alignment of objectives. She argued:
“You need to first of all have a clear shared understanding of what the problem is you are trying to address, and then to have a really clear understanding of the different roles and responsibilities of the different partners, and a mutual respect for what each partner brings to the table.”
Although these partnerships present challenges, they will be a valuable addition to efforts to implement the SDGs over the next fifteen years. Such partnerships need not involve governments but, where they do, alongside DFID and the UK Government’s more traditional bilateral partnerships, they will provide an additional opportunity to work towards the achievement of this ambitious agenda.
44.Each year DFID spends around two thirds of its budget through multilateral organisations. The UK is by far the largest contributor to the multilateral system, spending 50% more, in absolute terms, than the United States. These organisations will therefore be vital partners in supporting the achievement of the SDGs. The Department is currently completing its second full Multilateral Aid Review (MAR) to review and rate its multilateral partners on impact and value for money.
45.The SDGs intrinsically require effective multilateral cooperation to solve global problems such as protecting the environment and tackling corruption. Such cooperation can also provide practical advantages for DFID. It gives the Department greater reach, into countries where it does not have bilateral programmes or NGO networks, but where there is a desire or need to administer aid. As UNDP told us:
“we are present where bilaterals are not. We are present in Syria at this time, working where we can to help reconstruct and to build resilience in host communities, dealing with displacement, working through NGOs. We have very large networks.”
DFID’s bilateral programmes currently cover 28 countries, compared to UNDP’s network of 166 country offices. Working through multilateral organisations enables DFID to support SDG implementation far beyond its portfolio. As the Secretary of State told us, “If you look at some multilaterals, they would be able to operate in countries where we simply do not have country programmes.” Given the breadth of the agenda and the commitment to leave no one behind, utilising pooled multilateral resources and networks to reach the most fragile, conflict-affected states is an effective way of working.
46.Working through multilateral organisations can also be beneficial due to their perceived relative impartiality and political neutrality. They are able to work under the authority of their numerous member states, which gives them more credibility to negotiate in politically sensitive environments. As UNDP claims:
“their impartial status and universal networks allow them to engage in areas where bilateral donors may be less successful […] The high level of trust it enjoys among UN Member States is crucial to its success in developing programmes that have the potential to be politically sensitive. Impartiality also allows the UN(DP) to operate in a large number of fragile contexts.”
47.There are, however, disadvantages to working with multilateral organisations. A number of these were highlighted in an Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) report in 2015. ICAI criticised DFID for lacking clear country-level objectives in its engagement with multilaterals and having insufficient staff resources allocated to multilateral work. It also highlighted a lack of transparency on what multilaterals actually achieve (as opposed to the way they work). We also acknowledge the evidence to our recent inquiry into ‘UK Aid: Allocation of Resources’, which suggested that multilaterals were less focused on the poorest countries, that multilateral spending did not represent the same value for money as bilateral spend, and that DFID’s ability to tailor interventions to the context through multilateral programmes was limited.
48.ICAI did also emphasise, however, that where DFID is a substantial contributor to the core funding of an organisation, it is likely to have more influence over its operations and programming. In the case of UNDP we were told that, “We take very seriously the UK ask, in terms of value for money, reform”. The Government’s influence in the multilateral system, as a result of its substantial contributions, is also emphasised in the ICAI report. In his assessment of how DFID should approach implementation of the SDGs, Simon Maxwell argued that a greater emphasis on multilateral aid may be the best way forward:
“A personal view is that HMG/DFID will make the greatest possible contribution to the SDGs […] maintaining bilateral engagement in both the aid and non-aid spheres, but gradually increasing the profile, funding and staffing of multilateral aid and work on global public goods.”
49.Working through, and in partnership with, multilateral organisations seems logical and beneficial in the context of the SDGs. Achieving progress on global public goods such as environmental sustainability and financial stability will require strong multilateral collaboration. We encourage the Government to continue to work through and with multilaterals to achieve the SDGs as it encourages global cooperation, the sharing of ideas and innovation, an extension of influence for member states, and the ability to use their extensive networks to broaden the reach of development spending. We note that allocation of significant funds from DFID to multilaterals gives the UK a greater influence in their policies and programming.
50.At the same time, we recognise the concerns over DFID’s ability to ensure that multilateral programmes are targeted towards the poorest countries, tailored to the context and represent value for money equivalent to its bilateral expenditure. We welcome DFID’s continued close monitoring of expenditure through multilateral organisations, by performing the Multilateral Aid Review, to ensure continued value for money.
51.Following the forthcoming Multilateral Aid Review, DFID should lay out exactly how its engagement with multilaterals will help it support the achievement of the SDGs, either within the MAR document itself or an alternative strategy document.
52.The vast majority of the evidence we received for this inquiry came from civil society organisations (CSOs), which reflects their engagement and investment in the SDGs agenda. Through the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), CSOs from all over the world played a crucial role in the negotiation of the SDGs and they will serve a vital function in communicating, implementing and holding governments to account on the Goals, which should be recognised. As the final Agenda 2030 document states, “We acknowledge the role […] civil society organizations and philanthropic organizations in the implementation of the new Agenda.”
53.DFID is currently carrying out its first Civil Society Partnership Review which will look at its relationships with civil society and how these may need to change. Emphasising the importance of CSOs to their work, the Secretary of State told us:
“[…] the Civil Society Partnership Review is about saying how we want to keep evolving and improving our relationship with NGOs, which have been a key route through which we have often delivered on the ground. If you look at the work that, for example, Save the Children did with us in Sierra Leone on Ebola, it was critical, alongside many other actors.”
Ben Jackson at BOND told us, “[…] there is a lot that civil society wants and can help DFID to do, in terms of delivering the SDGs.” However, some areas of concern were raised on the capacity of civil society organisations to do this. Mr Jackson highlighted the need for greater flexibility in funding arrangements to enable:
(1)innovation and collaboration in the NGO sector;
(2)funding of NGOs in the Global South, perhaps through international and regional networks;
(3)NGOs to mobilise and engage public support for international development.
With regards to the funding of southern NGOs, BOND pointed to the Danish Government’s Civil Society Fund as an example of a mechanism to provide smaller amounts of funding than are currently accessible through DFID. ActionAid and Womankind Worldwide told us about a proposal they have made for DFID to create a new funding mechanism for women’s rights organisations.
54.To ensure progress, Nik Sekhran from UNDP told us, “We need a strong civil society voice to hold countries accountable for the SDGs.” However, evidence has highlighted the reduction in civil society space across the world as a key challenge. Citing the UN Secretary-General, CAFOD told us:
“Ban Ki Moon has stressed that the task of implementing and monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals is huge and will require the contribution of civil society as equal partners. However he also recognised that, at the same time, the freedom for civil society to operate is diminishing or even disappearing. Around the world increasing restrictions are limiting the ability of NGOs to work, receive funding or both.”
It highlighted the threat to NGO workers from violence, intimidation and harassment, telling us, “Partners in Sri Lanka, Latin America and parts of Africa have faced surveillance, threatening phone calls, searches and disruption of community events.” It also emphasised the “proliferation of restrictive legislation, with 60 countries passing legislation in the last 3 years”. Because of this, CAFOD has called for the UK Government to, “Provide a strong voice to ensure that any legislation passed in partner countries protects the freedom of association and assembly and enables civil society to effectively represent vulnerable groups on the issues that concern them”. When asked by us whether he has seen any impact of shrinking civil society space on the ability of NGOs to work in other countries, Dylan Winder, Head of Humanitarian Policy and Partnerships at DFID, responded: “Lots, particularly in Bangladesh and Pakistan”.
55.Civil society organisations will also be valuable partners in the UK’s domestic response. In the UK, a new civil society coalition has already formed to work on domestic implementation of the SDGs and sustainable development more broadly. UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD) held their first conference in April 2016, bringing together a large and growing membership to discuss implementation of the SDGs in the UK.
56.Civil society organisations—from the global north and global south—have a vital part to play in the achievement of the SDGs, through communicating and implementing the Goals, and holding governments to account on progress. We hope the crucial role of civil society in achieving the Goals will be recognised by the Government in the upcoming Civil Society Partnership Review, and that they will work closely with civil society organisations on the implementation of the Goals, both at home and overseas. It is also crucial for civil society organisations to be able to operate free from violence, intimidation and repressive legislative restrictions. We are concerned at the number of reports we have received of a reduction in the space for civil society to operate in a broad number of countries, including a number of countries in receipt of UK Aid. We urge the UK Government to use its links with governments across the world, (through DFID, FCO, MOD, BIS, Home Office and others) to communicate the importance of protecting and enhancing a vibrant civil society to ensure its vital role towards achieving the SDGs agenda.
a)small NGOs, particularly in the Global South, are not being discriminated against because of difficulties in disbursing and managing small amounts of money, and that they are not restricted due to levels of funding sources being external to the countries in which they operate;
58.The UN has made a concerted effort to engage the private sector in the negotiation, agreement and now in the implementation of the SDGs. It has done so through initiatives like the UN Global Compact, which supports companies to implement universal sustainability principles and achieve UN goals, and last year’s UN Private Sector Forum, which coincided with the agreement of the SDGs and addressed the private sector’s role in their implementation. The importance of involving the private sector in Agenda 2030 is reinforced on a number of occasions in the SDGs outcome document, and the UN Global Compact recently released the ‘SDG Compass’, a tool to help companies to align their strategies with the SDGs. In early 2016, the Business and Sustainable Development Commission was established “to articulate and quantify the compelling economic case for business to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030”.
59.The Secretary of State has placed the private sector at the centre of DFID’s approach to supporting the achievement of the SDGs. She expressed to us her optimism about the private sector’s role, although explained that there is some way to go:
“There was a time when the private sector did not really see where its role was in development. They saw it predominantly as almost a government-to-government relationship. Now that is changing. If I went back to innovation and the early adopter, the corporate sector is in that innovation. There are some early adopters, but what we have not seen is a mainstreaming of development through the corporate world, which we will need to if we are really going to get all of the innovation and the investment that the private sector can bring. That is the next stage.”
During our visit to New York, we heard the Secretary of State make a number of similar statements. At the Bond event ‘Business Unusual’ she spoke about the need for DFID to work with all sections of the private sector to achieve the SDGs, from big companies to smallholder farmers. She also discussed the need to move on from the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) model and work with the private sector in different ways. She used the example of working with business to facilitate human rights discussions, on issues such as LGBT or Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG), through interactions with workers. Penny Fowler from Oxfam welcomed DFID’s increased engagement with the private sector, but told us: “we need to go beyond business as usual and look to some new business models, which do not necessarily drive profit maximisation.”
60.Creating incentives for the private sector to implement new business models or ways of working to advance the SDGs is a challenge and, aside from those businesses who have explicitly pledged to work towards the Goals, there is no regulatory or formal incentive for companies to do so. However, Dr Steve Waygood of Aviva Investors argued that there was a business case for private sector engagement with the SDGs, but that a system of benchmarking for company performance against the Goals was needed, with a clear ranking system to show those that were falling short:
“I think that the business case is fourfold and that the solution is that we need benchmarks. On the business case side, first, there are some companies for which their very product or service will be a solution to an SDG. That is straightforward. The second less straightforward one is, where the issue will affect the cash flows of the company, then that company needs to manage the issue better. I would think of that as a business-relevant SDG. Third is where the company itself will impact on the issue in a significant way, but it does not come back to harm the company’s cash flows vice versa. That is the situation of market failure. Fourth, if it is just a benevolent business and it wants to donate money to the cause, then that should be welcomed.”
61.The private sector does not just include big business; Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) could also play an important role in contributing to the achievement of the SDGs. As Penny Fowler from Oxfam told us: “many of the poorest and most vulnerable people are themselves part of the private sector, if you want to broaden the definition that far, struggling to make a living through some form of production or selling their labour.” The SDGs are directly relevant to these smaller businesses, as they include targets on labour rights and worker safety (Goal 8), consumption and production (Goal 12), modern energy (Goal 7) and gender equality (Goal 5), to name just a few. In evidence, Dr Waygood suggested one way of creating a chain of accountability on such standards down to the SMEs would be for investors to keep a check on the businesses at the top of the supply chain:
“It is incumbent on us to check the likes of SAB, Diageo, Unilever and others are checking that the supply chain labour standards, for example, are well administered.”
Penny Fowler highlighted the need for DFID to ensure such standards within its own supply chains:
“One of the things it DFID] needs to do and ensure it is doing well is holding business, where it is receiving development aid, to the same principles and to account alongside other development actors, ensuring that it is able to account for and report the outcomes of that investment, in terms of poverty reduction.”
62.We welcome DFID’s commitment to engaging the private sector in the SDGs agenda, from large corporations all the way down to SMEs, as the Goals are relevant to them all. However, there is still a long way to go to get a wide range of companies engaged, and the agenda is not just relevant to those businesses engaging in developing countries, but to all businesses. A very strong business case needs to be developed to encourage the private sector to take the Goals on board and incorporate them into their usual business practices.
63.The UK Government should take a leading role in communicating the SDGs to a wide private sector audience in the UK, including through leading business organisations such as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Federation of Small Business (FSB). It should use the expertise housed within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) to support the newly formed Business and Sustainable Development Commission in devising a comprehensive business case for private sector engagement with the Goals. As a part of this, the Government should support the development of international benchmarks against the SDGs to enable companies to monitor and report on their progress against relevant targets.
64.We recommend that DFID ensure a clear line of accountability through its own procurement chains, to ensure that its private sector partners are being held to a clear set of standards on mainstreaming the SDGs into their working practices, and maintaining the same high levels of transparency in the use of public funds that are required of civil society and multilateral organisations.
65.Local authorities feature prominently in the Agenda 2030 outcome document, particularly in relation to Goal 11 on sustainable and inclusive cities. Melissa Leach of the Institute for Development told us:
“if the UK is to take on the universality of the Sustainable Development Goals and begin to think about questions of leaving no one behind in our own back yard […] then the connection between national policy and local government and devolved administration will be really important”.
The Global Network of Cities, Local and Regional Governments (UCLG) has produced a useful resource for all local governments, showing how each of the Goals relates to local government in practice, and showing how authorities might practically work towards them. The UK Local Government Association (LGA) and Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CGLF) highlighted the role that UK local government could play in communicating the goals to other local authorities around the world:
“Raising awareness of the SDGs and the role of local government in their implementation will be key to their success. International local government organisations such as CLGF and UCLG, as well as the national LGA, are well placed to work with UK central government to help develop a model of aid which better utilises public service practitioners.”
66.The Local Government Association’s engagement with the SDGs is very welcome, as local implementation of the Goals will be crucial to ensure that no one is left behind. We welcome their offer to work with DFID—alongside the Commonwealth Local Government Forum—to help communicate the Goals to local authorities around the world and assist with important capacity building work. We hope the LGA will also encourage all UK local authorities to engage with the SDGs and incorporate them into their work, to support domestic achievement of the Goals.
67 Target 17.16 Enhance the global partnership for sustainable development, complemented by multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources, to support the achievement of the sustainable development goals in all countries, in particular developing countries; Target 17.17 Encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships UN, (September 2015)
69 DFID () para 14
71 Plan UK () para 20
73 ICAI, (June 2015)
74 Owen Barder, , 12 December 2015
75 An update to the first MAR was also conducted by DFID in 2013
77 As at 6th May 2016, in advance of the release of DFID’s Bilateral Aid Review 2016
79 UNDP () p. 3
80 ICAI, 2015,
81 International Development Committee, Third Report of the Session 2015–16, para 24
83 ICAI, , June 2015
84 Simon Maxwell () para 31
85 UN, , September 2015, para 41
88 Bond ()
89 ActionAid ()
91 CAFOD () para 3
92 CAFOD (), para 9
93 CAFOD (), para 11
94 CAFOD (), para 20
95 Oral evidence taken on 8 March 2016, , Q30 [Dylan Winder]
96 CAFOD (SDG0096) para 12
97 For example see UN, (September 2015) paras 41, 43, 52, 60, 62, 67 and target 17.17
98 UN Global Compact, (2015)
99 Business and Sustainable Development Commission, , accessed 26 May 2016
107 UCLG, (2015)
108 Local Government Association () para 3.6
2 June 2016