As world leaders brainstormed in New York, United States at the just concluded United Nations (UN) General Assembly, the question on the lips of many was how to make the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) work. A key component of the goals calls for robust partnership with stakeholders across board. According to officials, the role of the private sector in formulating a workable framework for the SDGs is crucial for the attainment of the goals.
The clamour for a more definitive role for the private sector in ensuring that SDGs work is as a result of the near absence of the private sector in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The new move by the UN and stakeholders therefore intends to push a stop further and make the SDGs inclusive. The inclusion of the private sector is therefore seen as a step to broaden the scope of how to achieve better outcomes with the goals.
The MDGs were carried in such a manner that most stakeholders were sort of excluded. It was from a top-down approach-from the UN to national governments. The global masses and the private sector were not considered in the formulation process. Thus, the Nigerian private sector was part of the initial think – tank that streamlined the current SDGs. For instance, Chairman of Heirs Holdings, Tony Elumelu, was part of the African and global private sector key players that participated in driving the process. Again, at the launch in New York, Elumelu was among the 11 key private sector players, including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg invited to the launch of the SDGs.
The inclusion of goal 7, ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all; goal 8, promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all; goal 9, building resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation are all tied to the private sector inputs. The goals will be capped and cemented by goal 17, calling for; strengthening the means of implementation and revitalising the global partnership for sustainable development. This partnership is at very the core of the role of the private sector.
To that effect, Elumelu believes that the commitment of the private sector in ensuring that the SDGs are implementable is very crucial. He is of the opinion that at the very least, both the success or failure of the goals resolve around what role the private sector plays. He told journalists at the launch of the SDGs in New York that the private sector “must be at the forefront in driving the success of the goals.”
According to Elumelu, given the broad scope of SDGs where power, electricity and infrastructure are key components, the private sector will create the platform and tools required to ensure that the SDGS agenda works. Elumelu who was very instrumental to formulating the African inputs to the SDGs contended that the composition of the goals lays “a workable foundation that will practically tackle poverty, unemployment and inequality.”
As an Africapitalist organization, Heirs Holding under Elumelu, believes that goals 7 and 8 speak directly to providing sustainable energy sources and inclusive economic growth and employment to all. He argued that it will become increasingly important to catalyse private sector support if the African continent wants to meet global targets required for the SDGS to work and allow the developing world thrive. It is in that light that Africa’s business leaders are compelled to purposefully advance the SDGs.
Also speaking at the UN general assembly, former Minister of State for Health, Dr Muhammed Pate, said by ensuring that the private sector plays a critical role in the implementation of the SDGs, the need for an ‘inclusive mechanism’ is necessary for the achievements of the goals. Pate contended that “you need a coalition and movement that include the private sector. The SDGs focus on inequality can help government, civil society and private sector to take action, to make the world much more inclusive and prosperous.”
Pate said the launch of the SDGs and the clamour for private sector involvement highlights new commitment for progress. He stressed that “it’s a great moment given the success of the MDGs. Importantly, by focusing the attention of the world and making it possible to make progress, the SDGs will build on that success. Focusing explicitly on inequality is something that is huge investment compare to MDGs,” Pate said.
Already, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, had in his opening remarks at the launch harped on the need for the private sector to be at the forefront in driving the SDGs to success. According to him, the “commitments announced are expected to grow significantly in the coming years, and include new policies and groundbreaking partnerships from 40 countries and over 100 international organizations, philanthropic foundations, UN agencies, civil society and the private sector.
“The Global Strategy and commitments to it build on 15 years of progress under the Millennium Development Goals and the Every Woman Every Child movement, an unprecedented partnership launched in 2010 to mobilize and intensify international and national action by governments, multilaterals, the private sector and civil society to address the major health challenges facing women and children,” Ki-Moon said.
That stated, many of the SDGs are areas where the world and Africa in particular is in dire need of a pragmatic intervention beyond rhetorics. Ending poverty, providing better healthcare and education have all been top in the radar of the UN what to do list and that of the rest of the world. Notwithstanding that there have been some success, the inability of the global body to address those gaps squarely, cut deep at the disenchantment with formulating or initiating lofty ideas or policies like the SDGs.
The question then is, how do Nigeria, Africa and the world make the SDGs work? With the inclusion of all stakeholders; governments, private sectors, masses and youths, including serving members of the Nigerian National Youth Service Corps, the blame game of exclusion ceases to exist. What stands now is the search for practical solutions. How to put job creation as a front burner issue; get job seekers back to work, create, innovate, fix infrastructure, education, healthcare – that’s the way to go. Instructively, the private sector believed that a more inclusive role in SDGs implementation hold the keys.
The world in turn waits and watches to see if the private sector template is more about profiteering or a concrete step towards redeeming it from the current quagmire of taming poverty.