Nowadays, forming strategic alliances across sectors has become the new operating norm. But the blurring of sectoral boundaries among governments, businesses and NGOs makes it increasingly difficult to assess functions traditionally performed by a certain sector, since conventional boundaries have dissolved, and power and influence are distributed in networks. One sub-set of such collaborations – business-NGO interactions – has attracted much attention, as NGOs begin to move away from their informal, social roles and venture into economic and political territories.
Business-NGO collaborations may come in many forms: NGOs could partner with firms to function as “civil regulators”, primarily by addressing market and government failures through the development of soft laws, social standards, certification schemes, and operating norms; leverage social capital to transfer localized institutional knowledge to firms; mobilize collective action between governments and firms; and serve as information brokers to connect otherwise disparate groups.
How do we assess business-NGO dynamics? Why are they are established? And in what forms are they governed? I source a few inspirations from business, political science, and public administration theories and offer three theoretical lenses through which we can examine business-NGO partnerships.
A brilliant analysis by Michael Jacobs of the success factors behind last year’s Paris Climate Agreement appeared in Juncture, IPPR’s quarterly journal recently. Jacobs unpacks the role of civil society (broadly defined) and political leadership. Alas, it’s over 4,000 words long, so as a service to my attention deficit colleagues in aid and development, here’s an abbreviated version (about a third the length, but if you have time, do please read the original).
The international climate change agreement reached in Paris in December 2015 was an extraordinary diplomatic achievement. It was also a remarkable display of the political power of civil society.
Following the failed Copenhagen conference in 2009, an informal global coalition of NGOs, businesses, academics and others came together to define an acceptable outcome to the Paris conference and then applied huge pressure on governments to agree to it. Civil society effectively identified the landing ground for the agreement, then encircled and squeezed the world’s governments until, by the end of the Paris conference, they were standing on it. Four key forces made up this effective alliance.
The scientific community: Five years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was in trouble. Relentless attacks from climate sceptics and a number of apparent scandals – the ‘climategate’ emails, dodgy data on melting Himalayan glaciers, allegations surrounding its chairman – had undermined its credibility. But the scientists fought back, subjecting their work to even more rigorous peer-review and hiring professional communications expertise for the first time. The result was the IPCC’s landmark Fifth Assessment Report, which contained two powerful central insights.
First, the IPCC report introduced the concept of a ‘carbon budget’: the total amount of carbon dioxide the earth’s atmosphere can absorb before the 2°C temperature goal is breached. At present emission rates, that would be used up in less than 30 years. So cutting emissions cannot wait.
The other insight was that these emissions have to be reduced until they reach zero. The IPCC’s models are clear: the physics of global warming means that to halt the world’s temperature rise, the world will have to stop producing greenhouse gas emissions altogether.
The economic community: But it was a second set of forces that really changed the argument. Since the financial crash in 2008–2009, cutting emissions had fallen down the priority lists of the world’s finance ministries. The old orthodoxy that environmental policy was an unaffordable cost to the economy reasserted itself. A new argument was required.
Fourth most deadly year on record for journalists
Committee to Protect Journalists
In 2015, 71 journalists were killed in direct relation to their work, making it the fourth deadliest year since the Committee to Protect Journalists began keeping records in 1992, the organization said today. Thirty of the journalists killed, or 42 percent, died at the hands of extremist groups such as Islamic State. Those killings came as more than half of the 199 journalists imprisoned in 2015 were jailed on anti-state charges, showing how the press is caught between perpetrators of terrorism and governments purporting to fight terrorists. CPJ reported in December that 69 journalists were killed around the world from January 1 through December 23, 2015.
What next for poor countries fighting to trade in an unfair world?
The setting was a lakeside in Geneva and the cast was as international as it gets, but the Doha round of world trade talks was scripted straight out of EastEnders, the UK’s long-running television soap opera: an endless recycling of worn-out story lines, interminable plots, and theatrical moments of hope punctured by comically predictable tragic outcomes. In case you missed the episode last week, the main character was bumped off in the corridors of a Nairobi conference centre by European and American trade diplomats. Launched in 2001 and intended to deliver a bold new world trade order, the Doha talks have stumbled from one deadlock to another. Last weekend, the World Trade Organisation’s 164 members ended their ministerial meeting in Nairobi with a communique that “declined to reaffirm” the Doha round – trade-speak for a death certificate.
- Weekly Wire
- Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises
- Small Business
- fragile and conflict affected states
- Digital Divide
- Global Goals
- sustainable development goals
- Global Inequality
- Doha declaration
- Doha Round
- World Trade Organization
- Attacks on Journalists
- Committee to Protect Journalists
- Private Sector Development
When one thinks of corruption in the private-sector, grand scenes of executives paying bribes, bidders lying to win contracts, and senior accountants setting up secret bank accounts are likely to come to mind. In reality, though, the most common form of corruption is small-scale bribery involving people at every step of a company ladder.
Small-scale bribery can take many forms, including non-disclosure of conflicts of interest, setting up deals that benefit particular people, or paying a little extra money to speed up a normally slow process. You might not think the everyday payments people make to building inspectors, customs officials, their friends across the street, or to themselves matter, but they can create a culture of corruption and set an expectation for future payments.
This was one of the main points of a panel discussion, “The Role of Integrity Compliance and Collective Action in Making the Private Sector a Partner in the Fight Against Corruption” at the International Corruption Hunters Alliance conference held at The World Bank Group December 8-10, 2014. The panelists were Dr. Andreas Pohlmann, Billy Jacobson, and Cecilia Müller Torbrand. Galina Mikhlin-Oliver of the Integrity Vice Presidency of The World Bank was the moderator.
Thanks to Urbanization, Tomorrow's Megalopolises Will Be in Africa and Asia
Tokyo will still be the world’s largest city in 2030, but it will have many more contenders on its heels. According to a fascinating new report from the United Nations, the globe will have 41 “mega-cities” -- defined as those with 10 million or more inhabitants -- up from 28 now. Although the world’s largest urban centers have historically been concentrated in the developed world, fast-paced urbanization in Africa and Asia means that the megalopolises of tomorrow will be found in the developing world. By 2030, Asia and Africa will host nine of the world’s 10 largest cities, according to the report.
Mobilizing Private Investment for Post-2015 Sustainable Development
The sustainable development goals are likely to have a more ambitious scope than the Millennium Development Goals. Accordingly, they will need a more ambitious financing for development strategy that can mobilize much more public, private, and “blended” finance. Very rough estimates indicate that at least $1 trillion of additional annual investment is required in developing and emerging economies. At first glance this might appear to be a large number, but it represents only approximately 10 percent of extra investment above current levels. It is clear that official development assistance, on its own, would be incapable of meeting financing needs, even if the target to provide 0.7 percent of gross national income were to be achieved by all developed countries. But official development assistance (ODA) could, through leverage and catalytic support, help mobilize substantially more private capital.
‘Over-generous tax exemptions awarded to multinational enterprises often deprive fragile states of potential revenues that could be used to fund their most pressing needs.’ Another broadside from rent-a-mob? Nope, it’s the ultra respectable OECD in its Fragile States 2014 report.
After years of growth, aid to fragile states started to fall in 2011, so the report centres around an urgent call for OECD member states to help their more fragile cousins find a post-aid arrangement that funds essential state functions and builds the ‘social contract’ with citizens.
The key is a shift from aid dependence to ‘domestic resource mobilization’ (taxes and natural resource royalties), currently averaging a feeble 14% of GDP across fragile states and far too dependent on royalties from oil, gas and mineral extraction. Foreign direct investment (factories, farms etc) is generally low in volume and volatile.
The posts are getting longer, so it’s probably a good time to call a halt, but at least you had the weekend to read Kevin Watkins‘ response to Justin Sandefur on private v public education provision. If you have even more time, it’s worth reading (and relishing) the whole exchange: Justin post 1; Kevin post 1; Justin post 2 and now this.
Thank you for the response. I’d also like to thank Duncan for setting up the discussion, along with the many people, on both sides of the debate, who have contributed their ideas and experiences. Whatever our differences, I think all of us share a conviction that decent quality education has the power to transform lives, expand opportunities, and break the cycle of poverty. There is no greater cause, or more important international development challenge, than delivering on the promise of decent quality education for all children.
Everyone enjoyed last week’s arm-wrestle on public v private education, so in a titanic struggle for the last word, Justin Sandefur (right, in the private corner) and Kevin Watkins (in the public one) are back for another go. Seconds out, round two…..
Thanks for your reply. You are of course quite right that I wear a Pearson corporation logo on a chain around my neck to ward off evil spirits, I can’t stand (or understand) solutions with multiple steps and regularly visit my local medium to have a chat with the sadly departed Milton Friedman. But despite all that, I want to contend that we agree on almost all the necessary ingredients for a constructive policy discussion. I’ll end with where I think our core disagreements are.
This weekend I drove by a Popularise sign and wondered what it meant. I learned later that a local commercial real-estate investor, Dan Miller of WestMill Capital, has been using Popularise to encourage communities to share their ideas about possible development ideas. This is a great way for “grassroots” brainstorming on commercial development.
In an article in The Washington Post about this phenomenon, Dan Miller states, “Most people…don’t get a say in how their neighborhoods take shape. Popularise is one solution to … a "broken community engagement" process…In [Advisory Neighborhood Commission] meetings, you have a vocal minority that dominates…You can have a much broader discussion with thousands of people and have it be dynamic. Popularise is the 21st-century version of a community meeting.”