Practical Guide: Maximizing the Impact of Partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals

The Partnering Initiative and United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) is taking a critical role in providing information, analysis and guidance to member states and to partners in the private sector and civil society. It is using its convening power to bring together a wide range of stakeholders through international conferences, summits and joint consultations.

The purpose of this guidebook is to support organisations and partnerships to maximise the value created by collaboration towards the Sustainable Development Goals. It deconstructs what “value” means and the types of value that partnerships can create. It also explores the range of partnerships that can be established and how the nature of the partnership influences the type of value created for the partners and for beneficiaries.

The UN system defines partnerships for the SDGs as follows: Partnerships for sustainable development are multi-stakeholder initiatives voluntarily undertaken by Governments, intergovernmental organizations, major groups and other stakeholders, which efforts are contributing to the implementation of inter-governmentally, agreed development goals and commitments. The importance of partnership has been recognized fully by the UN, by business and by all leading institutions in international development.

The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent a fundamental shift in thinking, explicitly acknowledging the interconnectedness of prosperous business, a thriving society and a healthy environment. The fundamental core of good partnerships is their ability to bring together diverse resources in ways that can together achieve more: more impact, greater sustainability, increased value to all.

The UN currently lists 3,782 “voluntary commitments and multi-stakeholder partnerships” addressing 167 targets across the 17 SDGs. These initiatives range from large-scale global commitments to joint action through to small-scale collaborative projects for specific local impact. The active partners include every size and nature of organization from the agencies of member states to community NGOs and from global corporations through to local co-operatives. The diversity of the SDG partnerships is one of their strengths and accurately reflects the level of global engagement with sustainable development. But it also presents a challenge to the UN in terms of monitoring and supporting these partnerships.

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