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 10: Assessing the Legitimacy of Technology Transfer through Partnerships for Sustainable Development in the Water Sector

Ayşem Mert and Eleni Dellas


Ayşem Mert and Eleni Dellas Since the early 1980s, multi-stakeholder partnerships have been promoted as a solution to problems of urban environmental management, such as waste management and water provision. Business partners would sign a binding contract with the governmental or municipal partners, thus ensuring their accountability. More recently, partnerships have become mechanisms of transnational governance, often with limited public authority overseeing their activities (see Chapter 8). Since their promotion as ‘type-2 outcomes’ of the WSSD, public–private cooperation for sustainable development has been institutionalized based on this loosely defined concept. Their legitimacy and effectiveness have been debated extensively in the discipline of IR, focusing on questions such as whether partnerships are sufficiently participatory, inclusive, transparent, accountable and deliberate to be considered legitimate, and contribute sufficiently to problem-solving to be effective. In this chapter, we argue that it is necessary to complement these considerations with a focus on the content and rationale of partnership projects. We are particularly interested in whether the changes initiated in the recipient communities can be identified as legitimate and desirable as opposed to interventionist and impoverishing. This judgement will depend on whether the technology transfer process does or does not create new dependencies in recipient communities, increase inequalities or limits future consideration of alternatives to the proposed technology. From this point of view, technology transfer lies at the heart of several questions regarding the legitimacy of novel global governance arrangements. In the run-up to the Johannesburg Summit, water was declared one of the five...

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