Public–Private Partnerships for Sustainable Development
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Public–Private Partnerships for Sustainable Development

Emergence, Influence and Legitimacy

Edited by Philipp Pattberg, Frank Biermann, Sander Chan and Ayşem Mert

The 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg is remembered mainly for the promotion of a novel form of global governance: the so-called ‘partnerships for sustainable development’. This book provides a first authoritative assessment of partnerships for sustainable development, ten years after the Johannesburg Summit.
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Chapter 9: Partnerships for Sustainable Development in the Water Sector: Privatization, Participation and Legitimacy

Eleni Dellas


Eleni Dellas Public–private partnerships, along with private regulatory initiatives, market-based governance and similar mechanisms, have been presented as an opportunity to address the pressing problems of global environmental change (Benner, Reinicke and Witte 2004: 194–5). First, they are seen as an opportunity to increase the legitimacy of global environmental governance by involving more stakeholders in decision-making and implementation, thus increasing ownership and empowerment. Second, they are promoted as tools to effectively implement solutions, for example with respect to Agenda 21 and the Millennium Development Goals (United Nations 2002). Public–private partnerships were encouraged by intergovernmental agreement at the WSSD in 2002. However, like other novel governance mechanisms in this field, partnerships for sustainable development prompt new questions regarding their ability to live up to these expectations: they have also been criticized as a second-best solution that governments and intergovernmental organizations encourage merely because they do not want to or cannot agree on binding agreements, an opportunity for companies to green- or blue-wash their image, and a tool that continues to exclude many marginalized groups rather than including them in the partnership process (on these points, see for example Hale and Mauzerall 2004; Bäckstrand 2006b; Biermann et al. 2007b). This highlights the need for inquiries into the effectiveness and legitimacy of partnerships. One area where the discussion about whether or not partnerships are able to address such issues has been most intense, is the sector that prompted the greatest number of partnership initiations around the Johannesburg Summit: water....

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