The International Road Federation was among the key stakeholders invited to attend the 2nd UN Working Party on Public-Private Partnerships (PPP), chaired by the United Nations Commission of Europe (UNECE), which took place at the UN Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on 20-21 November 2018. The primary focus was to continue the discussion surrounding how PPPs, and in particular the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), with its large infrastructure investments can best be used to promote the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Extensive discussions were held surrounding topics such as how best to establish an evaluation methodology which can effectively identify People-first PPPs that meet the UN SDGs. Whilst the economic and financial metrics to score projects exist, tools to measure social and environmental impact are lacking. The ten flagship People-first PPP projects, which will be selected from over 500 submissions, must showcase how PPPs can efficiently help to improve the quality of life of people when meeting the UN SDGs.
Further sessions centred on the need to encourage more inclusive multi-stakeholder models, which provide greater opportunities for local and foreign private sectors. This is particularly important since a large number of the PPP projects under consideration rely on resources of more than a single country, with many PPPs being drawn upon to overcome a lack of resources from aid agencies, governments and other public sectors. The debate reflected the importance of having a mechanism for different actors and stakeholders to meet regularly, such as the international BRI PPP dialogue, in order to establish clear objectives and to focus on concrete outcomes. In addition, it is crucial to involve those who are affected by the development of a project, including the future users. Projects coming out of BRI should be developed and implemented meeting international labour and environmental standards. It was agreed that it would be beneficial to develop guidelines or criteria of good conduct ensuring that all stakeholders and private sector entities benefit equally from the opportunities arising from the BRI.
Environmental sustainability, which is identified as one of the five outcomes of people-first PPPs, was another core discussion topic, as participants recognised that large-scale infrastructure projects oftentimes pose environmental challenges and that it must be ensured that projects are not undertaken at the expense of the environment. Participants agreed that environmental criteria should be monitored accordingly, using international environment-related standards, as these could play a strong role to limit the damage to the environment. The UNECE ESPOO Convention was mentioned as providing the most useful standard for the undertaking of environmental impact assessment including the transboundary dimension. This convention allows parties to require that a neighbouring country undertakes an Environmental Impact Assessment on projects with potential negative environmental impacts. Its influence extends beyond the signatories, providing important principles which countries can follow. Beyond the economic effectiveness, Environmental Impact Assessment tools should be widely implemented and further integrated into the people-first evaluation methodology.
As the Working Party came to a close, some potential topics for the next dialogue were identified. These include building operational level people-first PPP capability development in countries, fair and open procurement with zero tolerance to corruption, as well as women’s empowerment in people-first projects.
The IRF who is also a Board member of the Belt and Road Transport Alliance (BRITA) will keep bridging and lending its expertise to the different forums of discussion and coordination within and outside the UN.
For more information, please contact the IRF Secretariat at info[@]irfnet.ch