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Edited by Graeme A. Hodge, Carsten Greve and Anthony E. Boardman
Chapter 20: Public–Private Partnerships: The United Nations Experience
Benedicte Bull The UN’s interest in forming partnerships with the private sector started in the 1990s and was strengthened during the first years of the new millennium. This signified both a new practice and a new ideological approach to the relationship between public authority and the private sector in the UN system. The public–private partnership (PPP) approach of the UN invoked severe criticism from scholars as well as NGOs (non-governmental organizations) for jeopardizing the legitimacy of the UN (Martens, 2007; Zammit, 2003). The weight of this argument depends in part on how we define legitimacy (Bull, 2010). However, it also depends on the exact roles that the private actors play in the PPPs and the impact the PPPs have had on the UN organizations. This chapter discusses the forms of PPPs that the UN has entered into and how they distribute roles and responsibilities between public and private actors. It shows that the term PPP covers a great variety of arrangements in the UN system, but in general they involve relatively little transfer of responsibility towards private businesses: business contributes with technology and know-how, but generally with relatively little in terms of investments or direct financial contributions, and business is generally reluctant to deviate from its regular strategies in order to accommodate the goals of the UN organizations. However, the move towards PPPs has involved significant contributions from foundations often closely related to private business, and the involvement of these foundations has been an important factor behind the rising...
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