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Assessing ILO Initiatives on Public-Private Partnerships: Internal Online Survey on Collaboration with Non-state Actors

Summary

In May 2010, the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Department of Partnerships and Development Cooperation (PARDEV) launched an internal on-line survey designed to assess ILO initiatives on Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) with a view to establishing a knowledge base, to identify PPPs with scale-up potential and to share lessons learned within the Office. Open to all ILO staff members who are working with non-state actors, it was available online in English, French, Spanish and Chinese…

After a period of 10 days, 52 persons replied to the survey (one out of every four persons contacted). In terms of ILO offices, one out three departments or field offices contacted responded to the survey. The majority of responses were sent from the field offices (59%), with Asian offices taking first place.

The analysis of the results revealed that ILO officers collaborate the most with NGOs and private companies in the development and implementation of projects. Most of the time, this collaboration is the continuation of an existing one or the result of a contact initiated by non-state actors (NSAs). Furthermore, these partnerships are not necessarily in line with an office’s strategy of collaboration with NSAs: more than half of the respondents claimed that their office had not established a strategy on this issue.

It also appeared that ILO colleagues have not faced as many obstacles in their relations with NSAs as expected: more than half of the respondents stated that they had not faced any obstacles when building relationships with private companies, NGOs, foundations or public institutions. The obstacles mentioned by the respondents were mainly linked with the following eight issues: risks in terms of image, political sensitiveness of the area, slowness of the procedure, problems of funding, rigidities within the ILO, the vagueness of criteria for determining what is an ILO-acceptable non-state actor, lack of institutional strategy and “memory”, and the low level of understanding of business needs.

Within this context, UN reform is perceived as neither facilitating nor enhancing partnerships with NSAs. Indeed, 60 percent of respondents stated that, in their case, the fact of working as “One UN” had not opened new possibilities for collaborating with NSAs, when in theory it should have developed stronger partnerships with civil society and private actors. One possible explanation is that the reform is too recent to show its effects. On the other hand, some respondents see the UN Reform process as an opportunity to have access to a wider group of NSAs, to benefit from the experience and flexibility of other UN agencies, and as a possibility for greater harmonization of the partnerships established by these agencies.

Given these potential obstacles, the help of the Partnerships and Development Cooperation Department (PARDEV) at the ILO was particularly sought regarding information sharing. Respondents stated that they wanted the department to provide more information about PPPs and about the ILO’s current work with NSAs. This necessary improvement of information sharing could also be found in the suggestions given by respondents to enhance cooperation with NSAs, as well as internal education on PPPs, the simplification of the process of collaborating with NSAs, the development by the ILO of events involving NSAs, the establishment of standard agreements to be used with little adaptation, advocacy on the ILO’s role, and the enlargement of conditions for local resource mobilization, among others.

The diverse responses given here by the respondents were a true compendium of ideas providing a good framework for action. Most of the suggestions formulated actually coincided with the PPP Resource Mobilization strategy drawn up by PARDEV at the end of last year, which confirms that the ILO is on the right track to further expand and develop PPPs within the Organization.

Following the survey and the analysis of its result, PARDEV is currently in the process of preparing a report on good practices of PPPs that will be published by the end of 2010. All these documents are shared within the ILO in a perspective of knowledge sharing and with a view to enhancing PPPs within the Organization.

For more information, please contact Gerardina Gonzalez or Casper Edmonds, ILO.