Sustainable Development Partnerships

© Johanna Sarre

For more than 20 years, the UN and its agencies have been working by means of partnerships with actors from both civil society and the private sector. In the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, member states renewed their commitment to partnerships. SDG 17 on “Partnerships for the Goals” posits effective partnerships as a central means of implementation. Despite their abundance and presence, partnerships continue to receive critique for their lack of clarity regarding actual contributions to sustainable development. For this reason, the UN aims to provide better guidance for partnerships and to increase their transparency and accountability. To this effect, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) established an online platform and registry for “Partnerships for SDGs” and organizes annually the ECOSOC Partnership Forum and the HLPF Partnership Exchange.

From 2006 to 2017, a research project in the context of the collaborative research center SFB700, “Governance in Areas of Limited Statehood,” funded by the German Research Foundation, explored multistakeholder partnerships in greater depth. During the first two funding phases, this research focused on the success conditions for – and the effectiveness of – partnerships for sustainable development. In 2006–2009, the team conducted research on 21 transnational partnerships operating in the areas of the environment, health, and social policy. In 2010–2013, the research team delved deeper into selected partnerships by conducting field research on their operations in fragile areas in South Asia and East Africa. In the third phase of the project, 2014–2017, the SWP team researched if, and to what extent, different actors – from the UN to donors, funders, governments, and private initiatives – draw upon previous partnership experiences when designing and implementing the framework conditions for new partnerships related to the SDGs, referred to as “meta-governance.” You will find the publications and information on further activities in this dossier and on the project’s website.

Further readings

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Marianne Beisheim, Anne Ellersiek

Towards Quality Partnerships for the SDG

in: Annual Review of Social Partnerships, Issue 13, December 2018, 70-73
Marianne Beisheim, Nils Simon

Multistakeholder Partnerships for the SDGs: Actors’ Views on UN Metagovernance

In: Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations, 24:4, 2018


Anne Ellersiek

Donors and Funders’ Meta-Governance of Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships

Working Paper FG8, 2018/02, September 2018, 26 Pages
Marianne Beisheim, Anne Ellersiek, Jasmin Lorch

INGOs and Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships

In: Risse, Thomas /Börzel, Tanja / Draude, Anke (Hrsg.), 2018, The Oxford Handbook of Governance and Limited Statehood. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 211-230.
Marianne Beisheim, Anne Ellersiek

Partnerships for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Transformative, Inclusive and Accountable?

SWP Research Paper 2017/RP 14, December 2017, 28 Pages
Lili Mundle, Marianne Beisheim, Lars Berger

How Private Meta-Governance Helps Standard-Setting Partnerships Deliver

in: Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 8 No. 5, pp. 525-546.
Marianne Beisheim, Anne Ellersiek, Lukas Goltermann, Pauline Kiamba

Meta-Governance of Partnerships for Sustainable Development: Actors' Perspectives from Kenya

in: Pauline Public Administration and Development, September 2017
Anne Ellersiek

SDG 17: Transformative Partnerships?

In: The Transformation Conversation: Blogs on the UNRISD Flagship Report 2016 and Agenda 2030, 21.09.2017, (online)
Marianne Beisheim

Multi-stakeholder Partnerships for the 2030 Agenda. How to improve and review their contributions

Präsentation im Rahmen der „Partnership Exchange“ beim Hochrangigen Politischen Forum der Vereinten Nationen zu nachhaltiger Entwicklung (HLPF), New York. In: UN Web TV, 18.07.2016 (online)
Marianne Beisheim

Follow-up and Review

Working Paper Research Division Global Issues, 2016/02, May 2016, 13 Pages
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SWP Comments

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The Air and Space Operations Centre As a Gateway to Multi-domain Operations

Sinem Adar, Nicola Bilotta, Aurélien Denizeau, Sinan Ekim, Dorothée Schmid, Günter Seufert, Ilke Toygür, Karol Wasilewski
Customs Union: Old Instrument, New Function in EU-Turkey Relations

SWP Research Papers