SDGs and PPPs: What's the connection?


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Photo: World Bank Group

By committing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), countries pledge to pursue progress on economic, social, and environmental targets, in a balanced and integrated manner. The SDGs are cross-cutting and ambitious, and require a shift in how we work in partnership. They also push us to significantly change the level of both public and private investment in all countries.

We need creative solutions to leverage each partner’s comparative advantage. We also need to mobilize private sector investment and innovation in support of the SDGs.

A good example of a cross-cutting goal is SDG 9: “Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.” It is both an explicit and implicit component of the SDGs. Progress on Target 9.1 (“Develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure…to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all”) would enable progress in access to quality education, healthcare, water, and sanitation, among other targets and indicators. It would also focus on those hardest to reach.

However, the gap between the investment need and the actual investment is substantial and growing. To help fill this gap, public-private partnerships (PPPs) will be critical. They increase access to capital, allow off-balance sheet borrowing, increase innovation, and help transfer risks.

When well-designed and implemented in a balanced regulatory environment, PPPs can bring greater efficiency and sustainability to the provision of public services.  But PPPs also need to be tailored to the local context; our job is to work with governments and development partners to help find the right solution that works for the country and its future. The World Bank Group released its Procuring Infrastructure PPPs 2018 report last week that surveys 135 countries’ performance on PPP procurement and management—and makes recommendations on improvements.

This is important because involving the private sector—well—can not only help increase the stock of infrastructure assets, but it can also strengthen their resilience, create more sustainable solutions, and improve access to infrastructure services.  Incorporating sustainability considerations into procurement processes -- for example through project specifications and award criteria -- can also enhance the impact of infrastructure investments. Importantly, the SDGs can help mobilize high-level political action behind an infrastructure project. 

Given their integrated nature, SDG targets address a specific goal while also reaching across others. For instance, when considering a potential water PPP, the alignment with a government strategy to achieve SDG 6 will strengthen the project. At the same time, the project may contribute to reducing the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous water pollution (Target 3.9), and the proportion of untreated wastewater (Target 6.3). Upgrading existing wastewater infrastructure should contribute to resource-use efficiency and adoption of environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes (Target 9.4). Demonstrating infrastructure policy alignment with the SDGs may also help governments attract attention and financing from multilateral development banks and funds.

Back in January, I was pleased to give a keynote speech addressing a (then) new report on Mobilizing Islamic Finance for Infrastructure Public-Private Partnerships. At the event, I underlined that Islamic finance is inherently compatible with what the SDGs stand for: responsible governance, inclusive and equitable growth, and sustainable management of our resources and environment.

Similarly, PPPs are rooted in the same integrated approach as the SDGs: each component must be pursued as an integral part of the whole, without which the outcome is not possible.  Our goal is to help countries deliver reliable services to all those who need them. It is not about who the provider is, but how to best ensure people have access to quality, affordable public services.

Related Posts:

Public-private partnerships and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Financing sustainable development: Innovative ideas for action

The localization of the Sustainable Development Goals: Implementing the SDGs in Colombia, Indonesia, and Kenya

Coming together is the way forward: Maximizing Finance for Development


Mahmoud Mohieldin

Senior Vice President for the 2030 Development Agenda, United Nations Relations, and Partnerships

Akanji, Ajibola Anthony
April 12, 2018

At a paper presentation earlier this year,I delivered a study on the viability of the use of Cooperatives as mechanism to achieve the SDGsSDGs,my aim was to profer an alternative to government.Mohamoud's PPP/SDGs strikes a balance.However, PPP in Africa should be treated with very careful optimism. Question will always arise as to the truest character of the partnership. How open to scrutiny are their operations? Who are those behind the private partners?What are the terms of the agreement? Etc Importantly, how well are the people positioned to play the role of the private sector etc.
Akanji Ajibola
Lead City University, Ibadan, Nigeria

shurie mohamed
April 12, 2018

it,s true so i would like member please

April 13, 2018

The Connect between SDGs and PPPs is at the heart of attracting Private Investments in an equitable, efficient and innovative way to procure Public Infrastructure (via PPPs) . This article enunciates this connection clearly and is an interesting read!

Kate Donovan
April 17, 2018

Interesting article, covers a lot of points that are also shared in the recently published Inter-agency Task Force on Financing for Development report: "Financing for Development: Progress and Prospects 2018". Noting this report contains contributions from the World Bank, IMF, UNCTAD, WTO and UNDP, and other agencies.

Dr Satya P, Bindra
April 17, 2018

The SDGs and PPPs is models designed and developed in developed countries although good at the heart of attracting Private Investments needs careful attention in developing countries scenario. We need to focus on creating an enabling environment for securing an equitable, efficient and innovative way to procure Public Infrastructure (via PPPs)

Kate Donovan
April 19, 2018

Finance for development 2018 UN report: "Financing for Development: Progress and Prospects 2018" for more on taxation and domestic revenue; PPPs; innovative finance tools; infrastructure investments; debt and debt sustainability; trade as an engine for development among other topics.

Dr. Mohamed Taher Abdelrazik Hamada, Ph.D
April 27, 2018

All SDGs of projects should be performed in full partnership to guarantee full benefit , the World Bank
is always making a follow up of such goals to make sure of getting a substantial share of private sectors in
PPPS projects of infrastructure.
Yours Very Respectfully,
Dr. Mohamed Taher Abdelrazik Hamada, Ph.D
Senior American Citizen
Retired Professor at Strayer University, USA

Sadiq Ibrahim
April 29, 2018

The resources to achieve SDGs in Africa is far beyond any government but the opportunities available both in the private and public space can surpass it if well harness. PPP can provide this opportunities if well understood and manage. Every effort should be made to build capacities for effective use of this tool for development. Governments across the continent should support this through legislation and regulations that will popularize this tool as it is capable of promoting good governance. Efficiency is the bedrock of PPP which Africa and other EMDEs needs in infrastructure provision to spur economic gowth that will lead to much needed development.

October 12, 2021

I'm a JICA Scholar with Toyo University Graduate school of Economics, Course of PPP currently on a 4 day networking seminar on the role of Government Officials in the Age of the SDGs.
Here I m able to use my PPP experience to dignose best way to procure Infrastructure in tandem with SDG goal 9.
People first PPP is key as we look indeptly into value for money so we should focus too on value for people too.

Justin Mukalazi
April 19, 2022

I have found this article informative especially expounding on the need to include sustainability dimensions in the procurement of PPPs. In addition is the aspect of tailoring the PPPs to the local context of a particular country. it is important though to understand how sustainability indicators/elements included in the procurement specifications are measured and on the other hand the balance between value for money to the private investors and people first (as major stakeholders) needs to be explained and quantified. Literately, It is important to note that there are contradictions between the sustainability indicators for a example a project e.g an engine powered railway or a road construction meant to economically empower the people may be environmentally disastrous due to fumes as a result of burnt fuels and clearing of earth ie trees and wetlands to pave way for the road. Am currently doing my Doctoral research to ascertain whether PPPs can better serve if they incorporate SDGs.