Harnessing private finance and UN expertise to “Build back better” through “People-first” Public-Private Partnerships
07 September 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic continues its deadly march around the world. How will countries be able to “build back better” from this calamity? We know, in this respect, that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are key.
One critical way to achieve them is to deliver infrastructure that provides better and equitable access to water and sanitation, food, healthcare, education, energy, roads, rail, bridges, waste management, among other services.
But such infrastructure comes at a high cost.
Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), which SDG 17 calls for, are one way of closing the infrastructure funding gap. However, because PPPs are not necessarily fit for the SDGs, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) has pioneered a “People-first” approach that ensures that infrastructure projects financed through PPP advance the SDGs and leave no one behind. This innovative approach is based on five core project outcomes and 10 Guiding Principles that put people’s interest and the planet at the core, above all other considerations.
“People first”: Not just a slogan…
To turn this concept into reality, the UNECE has led a global initiative to develop an assessment tool that evaluates the extent to which infrastructure projects delivered through PPP contribute to the SDGs. This unique rating tool is currently in a testing phase, but several projects have already used it.
The UNECE held a competition to showcase PPP projects aligned with the indicators of its tool.
Of the five projects described below, the first won the top award, the next two were runners-up, and the last two were finalists. All five projects were found by the jury to comply with the tool’s criteria*.
1. Brazil: The Nova Ceasa Fruit and Vegetable Market, Piauí State
“This model has an absolute chance of becoming successful in any part of the world,” said James Andrade, the head of the facility.
A strong community spirit is felt throughout the marketplace. “I have been in need, and I had to eat the type of food that now I can donate,” says Luzinette, a merchant. “I hand over the food with much love, because hunger hurts.”
2. The Philippines: Regional Development Programme in Caraga
This programme consists of several PPP projects that provide easy and affordable access to water supply and renewable energy, improve food security, promote low carbon industrial parks and women’s employment, and reduce regional poverty.
“The development of renewable energies within the region is not only for the affordability, accessibility, and equitability of electricity, but also for making the region sustainable, resilient, competitive and independent,” said Jett Tommy P. Tolentino, from the Chodai consulting firm, at the 2021 International PPP Forum.
3. Spain: The Metrotenerife Light Rail Train Line 1
This project delivers an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable and accessible transport mode that reactivates low-income neighborhoods, boosts local employment, and improves air quality.
“The line […] is giving service to quite low-income suburbs or neighborhoods […]. It has given [people] better accessibility to jobs", said Andrés Muñoz de Dios, CEO MetroTenerife.
“The transformation has been absolute. We talked about a city with massive mobility problems. [It has become] a friendly city that is accessible for people with disabilities”, said Andres Guillen, President of ONCE, Spanish National Organization of the Blind.
4. Bermuda: L.F Wade International Airport Redevelopment
This project was designed to redevelop the aging Bermuda International Airport terminal, address its obsolescence issues and vulnerability to climate change, build resilience to hurricanes, and strengthen energy efficiency and water saving and recycling.
“The airport is vital to Bermuda and plays a critical role in the growth and economic development of the country,” said Gabriela Moreno, Environmental Engineer, at the 2021 International PPP Forum.
The project also engages with the community, promotes local artists and women’s empowerment, and supports environmental education programmes and the restoration of historic sites.
Zhenjiang City, China, experiences extremely heavy rainstorms. This project uses green facilities to retain, purify, and drain rainwater. It allows the city to avoid floods and rain pollution. It has also rejuvenated buildings and upgraded public spaces. In doing so, it has enhanced the cityscape and improved residents’ quality of life.
“After all these renovations and upgrading works to the city, it has become much more convenient for us in life”, says an elderly resident of the city.
UNECE’s new evaluation tool is specifically designed to advance a much-needed shift towards a more sustainable future for our world. To maximize the “People-first” value of PPPs, Governments are urged to focus only on those projects that align with its tool’s indicators.
"We must look to a better future and recovery, learning from the experience of COVID-19 to identify and implement the projects”, said UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova, “so that resilient and more sustainable societies will emerge - leaving absolutely unambiguously no one behind”.
To increase its tool’s effectiveness and applicability, the UNECE has conducted extensive consultations with governments, UN entities, multilateral development banks, private sector, NGOs, and academia. UNECE has worked closely with UNECA and DESA. In addition, ESCAP, ESCWA, ECLAC, UNOPS, UNCDF, UNCTAD, UNIDO, the Global Compact, and the World Bank have also been consulted and invited to contribute.