What's In Blue

Open Debate on “Advancing Public-Private Humanitarian Partnership”

Tomorrow (14 September), the Security Council will convene for an open debate on “Advancing public-private humanitarian partnership” under the “Maintenance of international peace and security” agenda item. The meeting, which is one of the signature events of Albania’s September Council presidency, will be chaired by Albanian Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Igli Hasani. The expected briefers are Cindy H. McCain, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP); Michael Miebach, CEO of the payment-processing corporation Mastercard; and Jared Cohen, Co-Head of the Office of Applied Innovation and President of Global Affairs at the investment bank Goldman Sachs. No outcome is anticipated in connection with tomorrow’s meeting.

Albania has prepared a concept note ahead of tomorrow’s meeting, which says that the open debate seeks to identify and advance public-private partnership solutions to promote international peace and security by addressing current and future humanitarian needs. The concept note highlights the unprecedented levels of humanitarian needs around the word—which are driven by conflict, climate change, and the enduring effects of the COVID-19 pandemic—noting that if these are left unchecked, they threaten to further destabilise vulnerable regions and exacerbate conflict over scare resources. The UN’s 2023 Global Humanitarian Overview (GHO) July update said that $55.2 billion was required to assist 248 million people in need, while the gap between financial requirements and resources was evaluated at $41 billion.

Against this backdrop, the concept note says that local, regional, and multinational private sector enterprises have become increasingly important actors in humanitarian response operations since the 2005 reform of the UN humanitarian architecture. This trend accelerated following the adoption of the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include SDG 17 on “partnerships for the goals”, aiming to revitalise global partnerships for sustainable development. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda, which was adopted in 2015 and outlines a comprehensive set of policy actions aimed at supporting the achievement of the SDGs, underlines the importance of diversifying funding and unlocking the “transformative potential of people and the private sector”.

The concept note outlines several areas of potential contributions by the private sector to addressing pressing humanitarian needs. It notes that the adaptation of financing instruments to prepare for and respond to growing humanitarian crises in conflict zones has proven to be an important tool in making communities more resilient. Technology is highlighted in the concept note as an important area of cooperation between the private sector and UN humanitarian agencies. For instance, technology sector platforms inform multilateral policy through such tools as disease outbreak data collection, climate change forecasting, and early warning systems. Additionally, private logistics and freight-forwarding companies are integrated into UN-led operations and routinely expedite delivery of aid in conflict settings.

The concept note poses several questions to help guide the discussion at tomorrow’s meeting:

While tomorrow’s open debate appears to be the first Council meeting on public-private partnerships in the context of humanitarian action, in March 2022, the Council convened a ministerial-level open debate on such partnerships in relation to the women, peace and security agenda. The debate, which was convened by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was titled “Advancing the Women, Peace and Security agenda through partnerships: Women’s economic inclusion and participation as a key to building peace”. (For more information, see our 7 March 2022 What’s in Blue story).

At tomorrow’s meeting, the briefers are expected to provide examples of public-private partnerships and describe the private sector’s potential contributions to humanitarian action. McCain may describe the WFP’s efforts to expand cooperation with the private sector to close its funding gaps. The WFP’s “Private-sector partnerships and fundraising strategy” for 2020-2025, sets forth a new approach that looks to private businesses primarily for technical partnerships that utilise their expertise, capability, and advocacy support, while looking to individuals for funds.

Cohen and Miebach are likely to highlight their respective companies’ current and future efforts to support humanitarian action through their cooperation with international humanitarian organisations. For example, Goldman Sachs has provided more than $2.2 billion in grants and has partnered with about 9,400 non-profits around the world. In cooperation with the WFP, since 2012, Mastercard has delivered the equivalent value of 140 million school meals in such countries as Burundi, Congo, Guinea, and Liberia.

Several Council members are likely to welcome the private sector’s participation in humanitarian action and reference positive examples of public-private partnerships. Some members may highlight the need to harness the power of the private sector, including in the areas of technology and expertise, to create more opportunities for better anticipatory and preventive humanitarian action. They might stress that private actors engaging in humanitarian aid must respect the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence as well as participate under the coordination of the UN and humanitarian organisations and comply with international humanitarian law.

Albania is expected to present at tomorrow’s meeting a concept to advance the public-private humanitarian partnership by designing a new platform that would create a “Private Sector Humanitarian Alliance”. It seems that Albania wishes to use this opportunity to discuss further the idea of building such a platform, intended to mobilise resources more efficiently within the first few days of a crisis by linking the private sector, philanthropy, and international organisations to facilitate immediate coordination, in compliance with the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence.

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