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UNECE’s People-first approach to Public-Private Partnerships shapes efforts to build ‎resilience against climate change and disasters

Photo credit: Aerial view of a flooded neighbourhood in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. United Nations Office ‎for Disaster Risk Reduction

Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States of America, 3 - 6 March 2020, PPP experts from around the world identified concrete steps for integrating resilience into infrastructure and PPP projects.

The 10 PPP experts, representing the 8 Specialist Centres affiliated to UNECE (in China, France, Japan, Lebanon, Portugal, Spain and the United States), as well as representatives from two of the United Nations Regional Commissions, UNECE and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), met in Louisiana, one of the country’s most disaster-prone regions – due to its low lying, on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. As threats from climate change increase, resilience is key for local communities who can face a loss of their homes, jobs and livelihoods. Resilience is also high on policy makers’ attention as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) imposes fundamental changes to our interconnected economies.

UNECE’s People-first approach to PPPs, embodied in the organization’s Guiding Principles on People-first PPPs for the SDGs, and the UNECE People-first Project Impact Assessment Tool currently being developed can play a key role in building resilience and improving preparedness.

Experts’ discussions in Louisiana revealed key learnings, that are pertinent for countries globally, and that can translate into concrete steps for policy makers and the private sector to take, namely:

  • Building resilience is crucial at all levels of governance, as well as within communities and stakeholders, including the private sector. Beyond building resilient infrastructure, communities for example can play an important role in identifying the risks and the solutions to overcome them and raising the self-awareness of the population for example trough educational programmes, drills etc.
  • Public-Private Partnerships are important vehicles for meeting the challenges and threats at different stages – in preparing against disasters, the actual emergency and in the post disaster recovery. More can be done, in Louisiana and across the globe, to promote PPPs for resilience.  
  • To live up to these expectations, PPPs need to be innovative, taking forward a greener, more socially inclusive and more sustainable response to building resilience. As evidenced by the aftermath of the 2011 Tsunami in Japan, PPPs can assist in providing a continuity in service as many local communities lacked basic services such as electricity for several weeks, and a partnership between Miyako and a private company helped develop a resilient and smart city using renewable energy sources.

Louisiana can be the hub and a source of knowledge and expertise for other communities around the world. With a view to building resilience, different facilities in Baton Rouge, Lake Charles and Thibodaux committed to help communities around the world to learn from their experiences and apply them effectively.

As pointed out by Mr. Andy Kopplin, President and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation, “PPPs are very important and they have to focus on people first and foremost”. “New Orleans”, he said, “has learned from its occasional mistakes and how its communities – especially the poor and vulnerable – must be at the top of the list for the task to build resilience and preparedness against disasters”.

Along these lines, the UNECE approach to PPPs, namely, putting people first with sustainable development at the core of PPPs, was universally commended by experts, during their 5 days of discussions in Louisiana.

“At UNECE we stand ready to further put our expertise and convening power at the service of the people, including the poor and marginalized among them”, said Mr. Geoffrey Hamilton, Chief of the Cooperation and Partnerships Section at UNECE.

Next Steps

The UNECE International PPP Centre of Excellence, comprising the Specialist Centres using their experiences in Louisiana will further develop guidelines for governments on integrating resilience in infrastructure projects and PPPs and also on promoting resilient communities. The guidelines will be developed under the auspices of the Specialist Centre on PPPs in Sustainable Resilience based in New Orleans under the leadership of its CEO, Mr. David Dodd.

A full account of all of the meetings that were held during the events in Louisiana can be found on the following website: https://sustainableresiliencetv.com/resilience-2020