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People-first PPPs should be women first

A critical challenge to overcome in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is the lack of women - top to bottom - in business: this is well documented (according to a FTSE 100 report on UK public companies, the number of male CEOs named ‘David’ is larger than the number of women CEOs altogether) but it is even more prevalent in the critically important construction and social services sectors. The solution is actions that impact top to bottom gender inequalities and a dynamic action plan for people-first Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs).

A group of top level CEOs and heads of agencies discussed the challenges and solutions in an emotionally charged debate at the UNECE International PPP Forum in Geneva, going to the heart of the SDGs.

Speaking at the debate, Ms Arancha González, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre, pledged to connect 3 million women to the market by 2030. She added that “my dream would be that I can move from 3 to 30 million by 2030”.

On her part, Ms Anne Hornung-Soukup, Chair of the Board of TPG Geneva took a commitment to “double the number of women in senior positions within her company and reach 20 percent within four years”.

Ms. Olga Algayerova, UNECE Executive Secretary, remarked that there was a need to improve the representation of women inside the companies undertaking PPPs. She also highlighted the importance of having targets and concluded by launching one: “let us look to recruit in the next three years 1000 companies meeting our goals and showing results on the ground, inspiring others to do more.”

The Forum advanced the work on the PPP standards under preparation, which would guide governments in undertaking international cross-border mega infrastructure projects in the UNECE region and beyond, such as those part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Speaking on the initiative, Mr Yuqun Su, Counsellor at the Chinese Mission to UN in Geneva remarked that “the BRI is a public good” and “a fast train to prosperity that is ready to take everybody along.” A number of UNECE countries along the Belt and Road initiative reiterated their support to the capacity building programme for Belt and Road countries jointly promoted by the UNECE and China.

Reflecting the growing importance governments are attaching to the people-first PPP approach, the African countries attending the Forum came together and urged the UNECE to:

  • partner with the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) to develop closer cooperation on the people-first PPP agenda and share a common platform where experiences can be shared;
  • undertake joint missions of support in African countries involving the UNECE PPP Business Advisory Board; and
  • hold the next UNECE International people-first PPP Forum at the headquarters of the ECA in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The annual International PPP Forum, which was held in Geneva between 7 to 9 in May 2018, focused on scaling up the impact of people-first Public-Private Partnerships to achieve the SDGs. The Forum attracted more than 300 participants from 73 countries.