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Senior UN Representatives Take Steps to Enhance UN-Business Collaboration

(Geneva, 6 July 2007) - Heads of UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes along with senior-level staff from 17 other UN Organizations gathered for a breakfast meeting on the sidelines of the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit to discuss strategies, challenges and opportunities for improved collaboration with the private sector.  While all UN entities have various approaches to private sector engagement, there was widespread agreement that the UN System should undertake additional efforts to clarify the Organization’s objectives regarding UN-business partnerships and how to improve the UN’s capacity to implement more effective partnerships.  Participants agreed that the outcomes of the meeting should be put forward to the UN System Chief Executives Board of Coordination (CEB), the central body of coordination among UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes.

Participants recognized the important role of the private sector in advancing UN goals and acknowledged that although the purposes of the UN and the private sector differ - both share common objectives. 

However, it was noted that collaboration with business is not an end in and of itself. Mr. Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP and Chair of the meeting stressed the need for a balanced approach to partnership.  For each UN organization and each engagement opportunity, the benefits of working with external partners need to be weighed against the costs, and more effective systems should be developed that will assist the UN in establishing and managing partnerships - such that they result in the greatest positive impact.  Finding the right balance between productive collaboration and maintaining the Organization’s credibility and reputation will remain a challenge for the UN System.

Twenty-two UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes contributed to an outcome document which summarizes their activities and commitments with regard to collaboration with business. These contributions showcase the considerable progress that has been made by the UN System over the last few years. A few trends are particularly encouraging. First, there is clearly a strong high-level commitment across the UN System to engage the private sector. Second, all UN entities who contributed to the document have established partnership projects - from fundraising to cooperation that involves the sharing of skills, know-how, human resources, business processes, networks and resources. Third, many have developed infrastructure to support the establishment and management of UN-business partnerships. This includes interface structures, guidelines and policies as well as tools and processes for private sector engagement.

Mr. Steiner concluded the round-table discussions with a view to the future: UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes should continue the dialogue and dedicate leadership attention to defining a common outlook on the value and methods of private sector engagement.

Click here for the full meeting report.

Click here for the participant list.

Click here for the strategies, activities and commitments of 22 UN entities toward enhancing collaboration with the private sector.


Melissa Powell