RADU Mares


Collaborations – or partnerships – involving diverse private actors, and sometimes even public actors, to address social and environmental issues have multiplied since the 1990s. There have been hundreds of partnerships covering all kinds of social issues in numerous industries. The UN maintains an SDG database containing thousands of partnerships. The perhaps most high profile and likely most criticized partnership is the UN Global Compact (see chapter 2), which legitimized a closer cooperation between the UN and the business sector. Since the creation of the Global Compact, many UN resolutions have backed the idea of partnership. Today, the UN SDG database lists over 5000 examples of partnerships for development. There is also ample guidance available to civil society groups as well as organizations like the UN on how to partner with businesses. Surprisingly though, rather little is known about the impacts of partnerships and how effective they have been in achieving their stated goals. Indeed a closer look at the UN SDG database shows a large majority of partnerships are silent about their impacts and perhaps some are not moving forward as expected. At the same time, given the limited reach of the law in the globalized economy and the different forms of ineffectiveness of public governance, partnerships are increasingly seen as a necessary form of collaborative governance. Companies also recognize that even though collaborations increase complexity, partnering with other companies, stakeholders and even governments is the only way to make a systemic impact when dealing with complex issues (e.g. child labour, living wages) (see chapters 15-29). Increasingly also advocates find that joining forces with likeminded progressive actors within the corporate and governmental sectors can increase impact. Notably, some CSR partnerships have evolved towards higher standards (e.g. EITI), stricter requirements (e.g. Global Compact) and even binding arbitration for non-compliance (Bangladesh Accord). However, concerns remain about ‘privatizing’ public functions through partnerships and the real risk of critics and independent voices being coopted and neutralized by powerful corporations given the power differentials between business and stakeholders. Concerns have also been raised about the possible effect of preventing the adoption of much needed regulation, and the risk that partnership will ‘whitewash’ abusive corporations. Furthermore, partnerships are very resource intensive so approaching them with a realistic and fully informed mindset is indispensable.

Cambodia has experience with multistakeholder partnerships, especially due to its successful export-oriented garment industry. One of the most notable partnerships globally – Better Factories Cambodia – was created in Cambodia due to a unique trade agreement with the United States, adopted in the 1990s, which generated special benefits for Cambodian garment exports in return of setting up a labour protection system with the help of the ILO and World Bank/IFC. In recent years, Cambodia is also a pilot country for the innovative ACT partnership (Action, Collaboration, Transformation) dedicated to improving wages. The lessons learned in Cambodia inform other partnerships to protect worker rights, as proven by Better Factories Cambodia that has inspired the Better Work partnerships in several other countries.

Main Aspects

  • Types of partnerships
  • Tools for managing partnerships
  • Factors of success (what it takes to set up partnerships)
  • Contributions of businesses in partnerships (funds, knowledge, networks, access, reach)
  • Partnerships as means to achieve SDGs
  • Partnerships as a way of changing business conduct and entire industries
  • Risk to reputation and integrity (for NGOs entering partnerships)
  • Selection of partners (exclusionary criteria and due diligence)
  • Measuring and communicating impacts (of partnerships)
  • Partnerships and democratic governance
  • Legitimacy of partnerships (input and output legitimacy)
  • Learning in partnerships (single, double, and triple loop learning)
  • Partnerships and profitability and competitiveness of businesses
  • Competition law (potential concerns about partnerships)


Brouwer, How to Design and Facilitate Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships[1]

What are Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships (MSPs)?

There are many different ways for groups to work together to solve a large and complex problem, or exploit a promising new opportunity. And people use many different words to describe these types of partnerships and interactions and the processes involved, from coalitions, alliances, and platforms, to participatory governance, stakeholder engagement, and interactive policy-making. We use the term ‘multi-stakeholder partnership’ (MSP) as an overarching concept which highlights the idea that different groups can share a common problem or aspiration, while nonetheless having different interests or ‘stakes’.

We see MSPs as a form of governance – in other words, a way in which groups of people can make decisions and take action for the collective good, be it at local, national, or international scale. A central part of our vision is the role of MSPs as a platform where stakeholders can learn together in an interactive way, where people can speak and be heard, and where everybody’s ideas can be harnessed to drive innovation and find ways forward that are more likely to be in the interests of all.

Characteristics of an MSP

When we talk about multi-stakeholder partnerships, we don’t mean ‘one-off’ workshops or simple multi-actor gatherings. We mean a semistructured process that helps people to work together on a common problem over a shorter or longer time. (…) In practice, MSPs will be very diverse. But a well-functioning MSP is likely to have all or most of the following characteristics:

Shared and defined ‘problem situation’ or opportunity: The stakeholders need to share a tangible concern or focus that brings them together. All groups will need to have some sense of why it is worthwhile for them to invest time and energy in the MSP. However, although stakeholders need a common concern in order to start an MSP, the real nature and focus of their concerns and what the group sees as the real problems and opportunities will only fully emerge during the process of developing the MSP.

All the key stakeholders are engaged in the partnership: One of the key features of effective MSPs is that all those who have an influence on or are affected by the situation that sparked the process are involved from the start. Leaving out key groups or involving them too late can quickly undermine an MSP. But as the MSP evolves, the focus may change, meaning that new groups may need to be included and others may drop out. An effective MSP is gender aware, it ensures the voices of women and men, the young and the older are all being heard.

Works across different sectors and scales: For most MSPs, the underlying causes of problems and the opportunities for solutions will be found across different disciplines; across the workings of business, government, and civil society; and across different scales from local to national, and even global.

Follows an agreed but dynamic process and timeframe: Stakeholders need to have some understanding of the process that they are being invited to join and how long it is going to take, before they will commit themselves to take part. But the process needs to be flexible and respond to changing needs. The process and timeframe will evolve over the course of the MSP, but at any one point in time, stakeholders need to have full information about the expected process.

Involves stakeholders in establishing their expectations for a good partnership: Partnerships need to develop clear rules about how people will work together – for example, in terms of communication, decision making, leadership, and responsibilities. But these rules will only work if they are developed and agreed on by those involved. Too often in partnerships, the expectations are not discussed and agreed, which can lead to unnecessary misunderstanding and conflict.

Works with power differences and conflicts: Different stakeholder groups will come to a partnership with different levels of power related to their wealth, status, political connections, knowledge, and communication abilities. If those with most power dominate and those with less power feel excluded or overpowered, the partnership is unlikely to be constructive. Likewise, if conflicts are not recognised and are left ‘under the table’ to fester, they are likely to become a destructive influence on the partnership process.

Fosters stakeholder learning: The human capacity for innovation and creativity comes from our ability to learn. We can look back and analyse why things may have failed or succeeded, and we can imagine how things could be better. To learn, we have to question and challenge our beliefs and assumptions and think of alternatives. Good MSPs provide a supportive environment with interactive learning processes where people can move beyond their own fixed ideas and positions to see things differently and from the perspective of others.

Balances bottom-up and top-down approaches: Perhaps, in an ideal world, everybody would be involved in all decisions all of the time. But this is simply not feasible, and societies have evolved different mechanisms for delegating decision-making. MSPs need to find a balance between working with structures and decisions that come from the top and supporting input from a wide diversity of stakeholders that comes from the bottom.

Makes transformative and institutional change possible: Most of the issues and challenges we face in the world today are deep-seated. They lie in a mismatch between how the world is now and our past ideas, cultural attitudes, dominant technologies, decision-making mechanisms, and legal frameworks. ‘Business as usual’ will not help, and we need to focus on transformative change to remove underlying institutional blockages.

OECD, Successful Partnerships[2]

Hundreds of partnerships have been formed worldwide during the past two decades. Some of them lasted only a short period; others have been operating a long time. Some concentrate on narrow local targets while others ambitiously try to co-ordinate broad policy areas in large regions where millions of people live and work. There are partnerships primarily oriented towards business circles and others focused on labour market or social issues. “Bottom up” can be seen as a key principle here, but it is good to remember that a good number of partnerships have been created as part of a central government strategy to support the delivery of programmes at the local level. Many studies have been carried out on the subject, which demonstrate that a partnership is a valuable instrument or “organisational” model to overcome weaknesses of the policy and governance framework. Nonetheless, partnerships face several obstacles: they are difficult to set up and maintain, they require political will and resources, and results are not likely to come overnight.

A Partnership is likely to be ineffective if…

  • Partners do not share the same values and interests. This can make agreements on partnership goals difficult.
  • There is no sharing of risk, responsibility, accountability or benefits.
  • The inequalities in partners’ resources and expertise determine their relative influence in the partnership’s decision making.
  • One person or partner has all the power and/or drives the process.
  • There is a hidden motivation which is not declared to all partners.
  • The partnership was established just to “keep up appearances’’.
  • Partnership members do not have the training to identify issues or resolve internal conflicts.
  • Partners are not chosen carefully, particularly if it is difficult to “de-partner”.


UN, Sustainable Development Goals[3]

Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development

Multi-stakeholder partnerships

17.16 Enhance the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, complemented by multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources, to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in all countries, in particular developing countries

17.17 Encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships

Means of implementation and the Global Partnership

60. We reaffirm our strong commitment to the full implementation of this new Agenda. We recognize that we will not be able to achieve our ambitious Goals and targets without a revitalized and enhanced Global Partnership and comparably ambitious means of implementation. The revitalized Global Partnership will facilitate an intensive global engagement in support of implementation of all the Goals and targets, bringing together Governments, civil society, the private sector, the United Nations system and other actors and mobilizing all available resources.

62. This Agenda, including the Sustainable Development Goals, can be met within the framework of a revitalized Global Partnership for Sustainable Development (…) It relates to domestic public resources, domestic and international private business and finance, international development cooperation, international trade as an engine for development, debt and debt sustainability, addressing systemic issues and science, technology, innovation and capacity-building, and data, monitoring and follow-up.

UN, Partnerships for SDGs Platform[4]

The Partnership for SDGs platform is open to all stakeholders, including Member States, civil society, local authorities, private sector, scientific and technological community, academia, and others, to register a voluntary commitment or multi-stakeholder partnership which aims to drive the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to provide periodic updates on progress.

Criteria for Registration: The Partnership for SDGs online platform welcomes registration of partnerships and voluntary commitments [that meet] The SMART criteria:

  • Specific: Registered initiatives should aim for concrete deliverables, contributing to specific goals and targets under the 2030 Agenda. In the case of multi-stakeholder partnerships, each partner should have a clear role to play.
  • Measurable: To facilitate review of progress, registered initiatives should set measurable progress indicators.
  • Achievable: Registered initiatives should set attainable goals and strive to deliver results.
  • Resource-based: Initiatives should have a secured resource base, rather than merely project proposals,
  • Time-bound: Deliverables should be time-specific.

Registered initiatives are encouraged to maintain up-to-date information and periodically self-report progress once a year through the online platform, focusing on how the initiative has contributed to the achievement of specific goals and targets in the 2030 Agenda.

Number of partnerships (Status by 31.03.2020)[5]

Evolution of partnerships over time[6]

UN, Guidelines on Cooperation between UN and Business[7]

1. The Business Sector1 has played an active role in the work of the United Nations since its inception in 1945 and a number of organizations of the UN system have a successful history of co-operating with the Business Sector. Recent political and economic changes have fostered and intensified the search for collaborative arrangements. There is a recognition that many of the world’s most pressing problems are too complex for any one sector to face alone. (…)

3. The relationship with the Business Sector has become more important as the role of business in generating employment and wealth through trade, investment and finance for development has increasingly been recognized. UN Member States also stress the importance of private investment in development. The Business Sector can bring key resources to the fore – knowledge, expertise, access and reach – that are often critical to advance UN goals. (…)

5. Strategic engagement with the Business Sector and other stakeholders is proving to be an effective method for advancing United Nations goals. Collaboration has evolved based on an understanding that although the UN’s goals are quite distinct from those of the Business Sector, there are overlapping objectives including building markets, combating corruption, safeguarding the environment, increasing food security, and ensuring social inclusion.

6. (…) Partnership may be defined as a voluntary and collaborative agreement or arrangement between one or more parts of the United Nations system and the Business Sector, in which all participants agree to work together to achieve a common purpose or undertake a specific task and to share risks, responsibilities, resources, and benefits. (…)

18. From an operational standpoint, there are three broad categories of partnerships among others:

  1. Core business operations and value chains: This category involves mobilizing the innovative technologies, processes, financing mechanisms, products, services and skills of the Business Sector to create wealth and employment and develop and deliver affordable goods and services. The UN and a Business Sector partner may jointly support the development of integrated value chains in market sectors that offer the prospects of sustainable growth and transition to better remunerated forms of employment. Another type may include collaboration that aims to increase access to important goods and services that contribute to reducing poverty (i.e. ‘bottom of the pyramid’ investment opportunities).
  2. Social investments and philanthropy: This category involves different types of resource-mobilization support and utilizes a range of resources from the Business Sector including cash as well as core competencies. This may include financial support as well as pro-bono goods and services, corporate volunteers as well technical expertise and support.
  3. Advocacy and policy dialogue: This modality relates to initiatives that promote and advance a specific cause in support of the UN goals or promoting multistakeholder dialogue on issues related to the purposes and activities of the UN. These partnerships may include promoting a concept of corporate responsibility; working with companies to bring about change in their internal business practices to align with UN goals; and developing norms or guidelines to engage stakeholders in support of UN goals.

Choosing a partner

9. The United Nations Global Compact provides an overall value framework for cooperation with the Business Sector [principles on human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption]. UN entities should use them as a point of reference when developing their own guidelines, including guidelines for choosing a Business Sector partner. (…)

b) In considering such collaborations and partnerships, the UN will seek to engage with Business Sector entities that:

  1. demonstrate responsible citizenship by supporting the core values of the UN and its causes as reflected in the Charter and other relevant conventions and treaties;
  2. demonstrate a commitment to meeting or exceeding the principles of the UN Global Compact by translating them into operational corporate practice within their sphere of influence including and not limited to policies, codes of conduct, management, monitoring and reporting systems.

c) The UN will not engage with Business Sector entities that are complicit in human rights abuses, tolerate forced or compulsory labour or the use of child labour, are involved in the sale or manufacture of anti-personnel landmines or cluster bombs, or that otherwise do not meet relevant obligations or responsibilities required by the United Nations. (…)

e) The UN should not partner with Business Sector entities that systematically fail to demonstrate commitment to meeting the principles of the UN Global Compact. However, the UN may consider collaboration specifically intended to address this failure of commitment.

10. UN entities may establish additional eligibility and exclusionary criteria for screening companies appropriate to their specific mission and advocacy role.

UN, Enhanced Cooperation between UN and the Private Sector[8]

(…) With fewer than 5,000 days remaining to achieve the 2030 Agenda, the United Nations must urgently rise to the challenge of unlocking the full potential of collaboration with the private sector and other partners. While there is strong consensus across the United Nations system that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals requires a significant scale-up of alliances and partnerships, in particular with the private sector, there is also widespread acknowledgement that greater efforts are required to achieve that objective. Across the United Nations system, partnership approaches are evolving towards deeper and more strategic collaboration focusing on innovation, scalability and impact.

5. On the basis of information provided by the 37 United Nations entities that contributed data to the present report, there are over 1,500 business partnerships under way across the United Nations system. Bilateral partnerships dominate the landscape, with over half of reported partnerships involving only one company partner. Short-term collaboration also remains the norm: 79 per cent of all partnerships between the United Nations and businesses reportedly last fewer than five years. As that data suggests, more concerted efforts may be required to develop further scalable business partnership models, including models designed to better engage multiple partners over an extended period of time, more systematically measure impacts and more effectively advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

6. There is universal consensus among entities in the United Nations system that new alliances and partnerships will be critical to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and increasing recognition that the private sector is one of the most critical partners in boosting United Nations capacity to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals. A large majority of United Nations entities believe that achieving the Goals will not be possible without significant scaling up of partnerships between the United Nations and business. However, there is also widespread recognition that the United Nations is not yet adequately positioned to engage business for maximum impact: just a quarter of United Nations entities feel that the United Nations is doing enough to engage the private sector.

11. Looking to the future, the United Nations system sees five critical routes to accelerate the impact of partnerships with business. First, move away from donation-based partnerships, which the majority of United Nations entities feel will assume less importance over the next three to five years, and build more strategic business relationships. Second, shape more innovation-based partnerships that leverage core private sector competencies and technologies. Third, increase focus on multi-stakeholder partnerships, which agencies expect to more than double in number during the next three to five years. Fourth, connect and convene wider ecosystems of actors. Fifth, expand opportunities for engaging micro, small and medium-sized enterprises for greater local impact.

15. One example of a United Nations-driven multi-stakeholder partnership mobilizing action among governments, multilateral organizations, the private sector and civil society is the Every Woman, Every Child initiative. Since 2015, more than 60 government commitments and 150 multi-stakeholder commitments to improving the health of women, children and adolescents have been made by Every Woman, Every Child partners, representing over $27 billion in commitments. More than 7,000 individuals and organizations informed the drafting process for the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2016-2030).

Driving a strategic pivot towards transformational partnerships

19. As the United Nations enters an era of increasing resource constraints, there is a risk of regressing towards older models of collaboration. United Nations entities may feel pressure to direct what limited resources are available for private sector partnerships towards fundraising efforts, at the expense of building and scaling up transformational partnerships, which require greater staff time and resources to develop but have exponentially greater potential to drive progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. A majority of entities in the United Nations system that contributed to the present report acknowledged that their ability to engage in transformational and innovative partnerships was limited by resource constraints, and that there was a tension between the need to diversify funding sources in the current resource-constrained environment and the opportunity to build relationships, coalitions and other forms of collaboration designed to influence a broader range of actors and achieve greater and more long-lasting effects.

20. In spite of that tension, the United Nations is striving to be more strategic and agile in focusing limited resources on issues and opportunities where the Organization can be most relevant and effective. Agencies, funds and programmes are becoming more adept in communicating their strategic interests and refining their value propositions for partners. (…)

22. Achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development requires significant transformation in the Organization’s approach to financing. To secure the trillions of dollars of investment needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, greater effort is required to unlock new financial flows, especially from mainstream institutional investors. The United Nations system recognizes that the time is right for a strategic pivot towards approaches that go beyond mobilizing private sector funds for the Organization’s own work to instead facilitating financial innovations which can leverage public and private investment in the Goals while reinforcing responsible business growth. That was a key theme at the United Nations Private Sector Forum in 2017, where CEOs, investors and leaders from government, civil society and the United Nations system explored ways to increase collaboration and unlock prosperity by financing the 2030 Agenda.

Addressing partnership skill sets, integrity and coordination gaps

28. A third of the partnership professionals who shared insights for the present report indicated that a lack of coordination across the United Nations system was one of the most pressing challenges to effective partnership. The United Nations system recognizes the benefits of increasing inter-agency collaboration on partnerships; however, there are a variety of challenges to such cooperation, including inter-agency competition for partners, a lack of common tools and templates and confidentiality barriers to disclosing partner names and partnership details. The United Nations system recognizes an urgent need to embrace a more coordinated, and less internally competitive, approach to partnerships, in particular given the growing opportunities to engage companies in multiple partnerships across the Organization and the corresponding need to urgently combat the perception that unfortunately persists among many companies that the United Nations is a challenging partner to work with. (…)

Since 2013, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has actively pursued greater engagement with the private sector. The FAO Strategy for Partnerships with the Private Sector (2013) supported the organization’s transition from a historically risk-averse view of partnerships towards a risk-managed approach. To institutionalize partnership knowledge, seminars were held and enabling tools and training were created, including a handbook on private sector partnerships, an internal database of lessons learned and best practices and other capacity-building materials. At the same time, streamlined due diligence processes were introduced, which have led to improved efficiency for due diligence decisions (reducing the time taken for such decisions from several months to two to four weeks) and the generation of 120 new partnerships, 80 of which were with the private sector. FAO credits the success of the programme to the significant encouragement from the Director General and senior management, which created a positive environment for engaging in those efforts.

32. While the partnership opportunity space continues to expand, a diversity of United Nations approaches to partner selection and due diligence continue to undermine efforts to effectively safeguard the integrity of the Organization. Divergent approaches and standards for screening and engaging business partners can yield inconsistent decision-making on partner selection across different agencies, which may heighten integrity or reputational risks for the whole Organization.

33. Most United Nations entities conduct due diligence independently, and fewer than a third seek advice from colleagues in other agencies when gathering information on potential corporate partners. Due diligence exclusionary criteria also vary. For example, 61 per cent of United Nations entities exclude companies in the tobacco industry from partnership consideration as a policy measure; 19 per cent of United Nations entities view companies from that sector as high-risk prospective partners but do not exclude them from partnership consideration; and 20 per cent do not have specific policies in place that apply to the tobacco industry.

Measuring and communicating partnership outcomes

49. Taking action in the following four key areas can help address barriers to capturing and communicating partnership results and better tracking the contribution of partnerships towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. First, partnership metrics and goals should be clearly defined from the outset to provide clear benchmarks for measuring impact. Second, a common baseline is needed across the United Nations system to set principles and minimum expectations for partnership reporting. Third, performance management criteria for partnership practitioners should incorporate partnership metrics to reward and encourage best practices. Fourth, strong partnership advocates at all levels of the Organization must be cultivated and must continue to champion collaboration and best practices.

UN, Global Compact[9]

The world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative


Statistic collected on 1 June, 2020.


At the UN Global Compact, we aim to mobilize a global movement of sustainable companies and stakeholders to create the world we want. That’s our vision. To make this happen, the UN Global Compact supports companies to:

  • Do business responsibly by aligning their strategies and operations with Ten Principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption; and
  • Take strategic actions to advance broader societal goals, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals, with an emphasis on collaboration and innovation.

Ten Principles [human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption]

De-listing and re-joining Policy[10]

  • Failure to communicate on progress (…)
  • Failure to engage in dialogue (…)
  • Egregious or systematic abuse of the Ten Principles (…)
  • Failure to meet their annual financial commitment (…)

Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative[11]

The EITI Standard requires countries to publish timely and accurate information on key aspects of their natural resource management, including how licences are allocated, how much tax, royalties and social contributions companies are paying, and where this money ends up in the government at the national and local level. By doing so, the EITI seeks to strengthen public and corporate governance, promote understanding of natural resource management, and provide data to inform and drive reforms to curb corruption and improve accountability.

Oversight by the multi-stakeholder group[12]

The EITI requires effective multi-stakeholder oversight, including a functioning multi-stakeholder group that involves the government, companies, and the full, independent, active and effective participation of civil society.

The key requirements related to multi-stakeholder oversight include: (1.1) government engagement; (1.2) industry engagement; (1.3) civil society engagement; (1.4) the establishment and functioning of a multi-stakeholder group; and (1.5) an agreed work plan with clear objectives for EITI implementation, and a timetable that is aligned with the deadlines established by the EITI Board.

Better Work, Independent Assessment[13]

The Better Work programme, a joint initiative of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, has been working since 2007 to improve working conditions and promote competitiveness in global garment supply chains. As a result of their participation in Better Work, factories have steadily improved compliance with ILO core labour standards and national legislation covering compensation, contracts, occupational safety and health and working time. This has significantly improved working conditions while enhancing factory productivity and profitability.

To further understand the impact of its work, Better Work commissioned Tufts University to conduct an independent impact assessment. Since the programme’s inception, Tufts’ interdisciplinary research team has gathered and analysed nearly 15,000 survey responses from garment workers and 2,000 responses from factory managers in Haiti, Indonesia, Jordan, Nicaragua and Vietnam. (…) The Tufts University impact assessment research is unique in that it has established an unprecedented level of in-depth information for the garment industry on the link between labour conditions and profitability, including first-hand perceptions from workers and detailed business data from managers. (…)

The researchers used different evaluation strategies to measure the impact of the programme. These included a strategy to isolate the impact of the programme using randomized intervals of time – reflecting factories’ different periods of exposure to Better Work services – as well as a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the impact of training supervisors. (…) The research methods used are also helping to improve the effectiveness of other research on sustainable development issues. Collecting data through audio-assisted tablet surveys is innovative and ensures that all workers, including low literacy workers or those who might have been reluctant to share experiences with physical interviewers, can express their opinions in a structured way. New technologies of this kind, such as ACASI, have since become widely used in the development community to collect beneficiaries’ views on their experiences.


Better Work works: Factory-level evidence across all countries shows that the Better Work programme is having a significant and positive impact on working conditions. This includes reducing the prevalence of abusive workplace practices, increasing pay and reducing excessive working hours, and creating positive effects outside the factory for workers and their families. These effects occur while increasing the competitiveness of firms. The combination of services that Better Work provides to factories is critical in achieving its objectives. It is also clear that monitoring compliance matters. The researchers demonstrated that factories make improvements around the time of assessments, but these improvements may not increase indefinitely. Better Work’s regular monitoring of compliance with ILO standards and national legislation therefore plays a pivotal role. Furthermore, there is initial indication that social dialogue plays an important part in improving workers’ outcomes, provided that certain conditions are in place. In particular, having women representatives and fair elections for worker representatives are fundamental to ensuring effective social dialogue.

Empowering women is critical: Having female representatives on the PICCs [Performance Improvement Consultative Committees] and training female supervisors are key strategies for achieving better working conditions and improving productivity.

Improving working conditions is an investment, not a cost: There is strong evidence demonstrating that improving working conditions is not a financial burden for a factory; on the contrary, it is a critical component of its success. Factories where workers report better working conditions, where compliance is higher and where supervisors are well equipped for their jobs are more productive and more profitable. Abusive treatment such as verbal abuse or sexual harassment are not only morally deplorable but also associated with poor business performance.

A holistic approach is needed to address global supply chain pressures: Sourcing practices create inherent challenges in achieving decent work in supplier factories. They influence worker wellbeing directly by adversely affecting working hours and pay. They also influence supervisor stress and behaviour, by creating unpredictability in production schedules. When managers and supervisors are under pressure, they are unable to act upon the information and evidence they receive, including the observation that exploitative working conditions are bad for business. Establishing a ‘business case’ for high quality jobs therefore requires all stakeholders – brands, retailers, factories, policymakers, NGOs and workers and their representatives – to develop a holistic approach to finding solutions across the global supply chain.

Impact of advisory services and social dialogue: The available analysis sheds some light on the way PICCs work and the characteristics that drive their effectiveness. However, it is important to further explore the interplay between PICCs, trade unions, worker voice and representation and broader social dialogue. This area of work will be strengthened upon completion of the current data collection in Cambodia, which is designed to isolate the impact of the different core services provided by Better Work.

Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh

Achievements (by May 2018)[14]

After the Rana Plaza building collapse in April 2013, IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union, 8 IndustriALL affiliates and over 43 clothing companies set out to advance a safe RMG industry in Bangladesh by signing the five-year legally-binding Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (‘2013 Accord’). This agreement was ultimately signed by over 220 companies and by May 2018, it had contributed to significantly safer workplaces for millions of Bangladeshi garment workers.

2013 Accord in a nutshell:

  • Company signatories: 222
  • 1,600 RMG factories covered
  • 2 million workers covered
  • Initial fire, electrical and structural inspections at >2000 factories
  • Public disclosure of all initial inspection reports and Corrective Action Plans (CAPs)
  • 25,000 follow-up fire, building, electrical safety inspections
  • Safety Committee and Safety Training program at >1000 factories
  • 200 Health and Safety complaints resolved

Safety remediation

In February 2014, the Accord embarked on a large-scale fire, electrical and structural inspection program across all garment factories producing for its company signatories. Under the 2013 Accord, the Accord engineers inspected more than 2,000 RMG factories and identified over 150,000 safety hazards. As of 31 May 2018:

  • 85% of the safety hazards identified during initial inspections across all Accord factories, had been fixed.
  • 150 Accord factories completed the safety remediation.
  • 857 Accord factories had completed >90% of the remediation. (…)

Between 2013 – 2018, the Accord, required 50 factory buildings– to (temporarily) evacuate, as the structural inspections revealed a severe and imminent risk of structural failure. In such cases, the Accord Chief Safety Inspector submitted the inspection results to the Government of Bangladesh’ Review Panel* and required the responsible Accord company signatories to ensure the factory owner evacuates the building and stops Accord company production until it is determined the building is safe for re-occupancy. In over 200 factories, immediate load reduction measures were required such as removal of storage or emptying of water tanks to prevent the risk of a building collapse and continue (partial) production.

*The Review Panel was established through the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE) led National Plan of Action for inspections which lead to determinations that a building evacuation or suspension to operations is required.

Brand commitment to ensure remediation at supplier factories is financially feasible

When signing the Accord, companies commit to negotiating commercial terms with their suppliers which ensure that it is financially feasible for the factories to maintain safe workplaces and comply with the remediation requirements. Under the 2013 Accord, signatory companies used various types of financial assistance to make it financially feasible for their supplier factories to remediate including guaranteed order volumes for longer periods, higher volumes, order pre-payment to improve cash-flows, access to funding or direct cash assistance. (…)

2018 Transition Accord[15]

Key features:

  • Legally-binding agreement between brands & trade unions
  • Independent safety inspections & remediation program
  • Brand commitment to ensure safety remediation is completed & financially feasible
  • Disclosure of inspection reports & corrective action plans
  • Safety Committee and Safety Training Program
  • Safety and Health Complaints Mechanism
  • Protection of right to refuse unsafe work
  • Ongoing promotion of right to Freedom of Association to advance safety
  • Optional listing of home textiles and fabric & knit accessory suppliers
  • Transition of Accord functions to a national regulatory body

How the Accord works to make garment and textile factories in Bangladesh safe

Netherlands, Agreement on Sustainable Garment and Textile[16]

The aims of the arrangements in this Agreement are:

  • to achieve substantial progress towards improving the situation for groups experiencing adverse impacts in respect of specific risks in the garment and textile production or supply chain within 3-5 years;
  • to provide individual enterprises with guidelines for preventing their own operation or business relationships from having a (potential) adverse impact in the production or supply chain and for resisting it if it does arise;
  • to develop joint activities and projects to address problems that enterprises in the garment and textile sector cannot resolve completely and/or on their own.

The Parties have identified nine specific themes by mutual agreement and in discussion with stakeholders which currently merit the priority attention of enterprises in the garment and textile sector operating in the Netherlands in terms of international responsible business conduct (…):

  1. Discrimination and gender;
  2. Child labour;
  3. Forced labour;
  4. Freedom of association;
  5. Living wage;
  6. Safety and health in the workplace;
  7. Raw materials;
  8. Water pollution and use of chemicals, water and energy;
  9. Animal welfare.

Due diligence

The Parties agree that enterprises must conduct due diligence in order to put their social responsibility into practice. The Parties therefore expect individual enterprises that support the Agreement to sign a Declaration in which they state that:

  • they will conduct a due diligence process, which is consistent with their size and business circumstances, within one year after signing the Agreement;
  • they will present an annual action plan as part of their due diligence process to the secretariat of the Agreement on Sustainable Garment and Textile (hereinafter “AGT
  • Secretariat”) for assessment/approval and declare themselves to be in agreement with the process of assessment, possible improvement and approval by the AGT Secretariat;
  • in their annual action plan:
  • they will explicitly discuss:
  • the insight that they have gained into their production or supply chain through the due diligence process and the possible impacts in their supply chain in terms of the UNGPs and the OECD Guidelines;
  • how their own purchasing process (delivery times, pricing, duration of contracts, etc.) contributes to potential (risks of) adverse impacts and measures to be taken to mitigate them;
  • the policy and the measures they pursue with regard to the nine themes prioritised by the Parties and how they will participate in the collective projects formulated by the Parties for these themes which are consistent with the substantial risks found in these themes;
  • setting quantitative and qualitative objectives in terms of improvements for the duration of the Agreement, broken down into objectives after 3 and 5 years. (…)
  • they will agree to the procedure and rulings of the complaints and disputes mechanism (see below) which the Parties have established under this Agreement and to arbitration in the event that the quality of their action plan is still in dispute after the matter has been dealt with by the Complaints and Disputes Committee.

Policy coherence and the role of government

Agreements on international responsible business conduct are part of a wider government policy in the area of responsible business conduct, sustainable development and trade, and development cooperation.(…) By signing this Agreement, the Dutch government makes the following commitments:

  1. To place the subject of multi-stakeholder collaboration in the garment and textile sector firmly on the agenda within the EU and to promote it.(…)
  2. To make the maximum contribution to ensuring that it becomes clear to enterprises in practical terms what options they have or what constraints apply when entering into mutual agreements (…). This, and more, will be put into effect in the amended Policy Rule on Competition and Sustainability. (…)
  3. The Dutch government will during the term of the Agreement endeavour to make agreements with the relevant local and/or national government in countries in which textiles and garments are purchased by Dutch enterprises (…).
  4. Embassies will commit themselves to assisting the signatories of this Agreement to implement their policy on international responsible business conduct, mainly by providing information [and] putting Dutch enterprises in contact with local authorities and stakeholders (…).
  5. Where an enterprise submits an application for financial or other government support from existing instruments for international trade activities, the Dutch government acknowledges that it will be easier for participating enterprises to demonstrate that they satisfy the criteria on international responsible business conduct (…);
  6. (…) the Dutch government will encourage [public authorities] to do their purchasing in accordance with the OECD Guidelines (…). By setting a good example as a government and purchasing in a socially responsible way, the government will help to create a market for sustainable innovative products and production processes. (…)

Agreements on international responsible business conduct offer businesses the opportunity at sector level, together with the government and other parties to find solutions for these complex problems in a structured way, thereby increasing their influence (“leverage”). (…) The Agreement concerns the actions of Dutch enterprises or enterprises operating in the Dutch market. (…) By entering into this Agreement, the parties are not endeavouring to restrict the market or reduce competition. It is not their intention to restrict competition on the garment and textile market to the disadvantage of consumers.

At most two and a half years after signature of the Agreement, an independent evaluation (mid-term review) will be conducted to assess both the progress and the operation of the Agreement and ascertain whether it is possible or necessary to establish a supervisory board to oversee the Agreement. This will be followed, after five years, by a (final) review. If it is found on these occasions that the number of participating enterprises [35 in 2016, 100 in 2018, 200 in 2020] and/or the results do not meet expectations, additional measures can be taken. These can also be of a more binding nature, where it will be ascertained whether legislation and regulations would be an option.

Tewes-Gradl, Proving and Improving the Impact of Development Partnerships[17]

The number of development partnerships has grown significantly over the last decade. The partnership approach has been fuelled by global trends, including economic globalisation, the increased attention paid by companies to low-income markets in developing countries, increased scrutiny of companies’ business practices, stagnating official development assistance (ODA), and increasingly collaborative forms of governance. Consequently, we can expect even greater use of partnerships in the future.

Challenges to measuring results in partnerships

Challenges in defining a joint approach to the measurement of partnership results arise from differences in public- and private-sector partners’ objectives for results measurement. While donors and companies have a shared interest in demonstrating and improving the results of their partnerships, their interests diverge in terms of what and how to measure, and they have different expectations as to who should do what. Interests also differ with regard to the overarching goal, the focus in measurement, time horizons and communication preferences. Aligning these diverging interests and designing a measurement approach that works for all parties is critical to any effective partnership.

Partnerships are typically implemented under a fixed time frame – often three years – and with a fixed budget. Hence, there is often a perception that time and money are too limited to allow for proper results measurement. And project managers on both sides find it difficult to spend time on measurement.

Results measurement is often perceived as very resource-intensive. Indeed, some methods require significant time and funding. The confusing array of guidelines and information on results measurement can also absorb considerable time, as project managers feel they need weeks or months of study before they can even begin to understand the landscape. Practitioners tend to feel overwhelmed by the terminology and technicality of the subject matter. Few receive training or know where to find effective support.

The differences in objectives, mutual lack of capacities and the multiplicity of guidelines and information on results measurement result in 12 common challenges associated with results measurement. (…)

Challenges to measuring within partnerships, with corresponding good practices

MSI Integrity, Evaluation of Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives[18]

MSI Integrity[19] investigates whether, when, and how multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) protect and promote human rights and the environment. We have a particular interest in how MSIs include, empower, and impact affected communities.

Despite the proliferation of MSIs addressing business and human rights issues, there remains a limited understanding of the effectiveness of MSIs. Systematic evaluation of the institutional effectiveness of MSIs, or the factors that affect an MSI’s human rights impacts, is scarce and underdeveloped. Many MSIs themselves are unsure whether they have had any meaningful impact or how they can set up structures to better protect human rights. In addition, there has been little effort to consolidate evidence, lessons learned, or good practice across different MSIs regarding their institutional design and features.

The MSI Evaluation Tool and Evaluation Methodology provide a framework to evaluate multistakeholder initiatives (MSIs) and the effectiveness of their institutional design, structure, and operational procedures. They draw together current research and practical understandings about MSI structures and processes, recognizing that MSI design features — such as good governance and robust accountability mechanisms — influence an initiative’s effectiveness and potential to achieve positive impacts. (…)

The Tool was originally developed to assess whether global standard-setting MSIs have been designed in a manner to effectively protect and promote human rights. MSIs have become one of the most popular global instruments for addressing business and human rights issues, yet there is little research or understanding into whether these initiatives have actually been successful or effective as rights protection tools. (…)

The Tool is divided into seven sections, which reflect the seven core areas of MSI design that have been linked to effectiveness. The seven core areas are: (1) Scope and Mandate (2) Standards (3) Internal Governance (4) Implementation (5) Development and Review of the MSI (6) Affected Community Involvement (7) Transparency and Accessibility.

Each core area is made up of a comprehensive set of indicators related to the structures and processes that influence an MSI’s effectiveness. Users of the MSI Evaluation Tool can assess if the initiative includes these indicators by following the five-step Evaluation Methodology to consider whether the structures and frameworks of an initiative have been designed in a way that is capable of leading to positive outcomes and impacts.

The MSI Evaluation Tool is made up of a detailed set of questions that are tied to indicators related to the institutional design, structures, and processes that influence an MSI’s effectiveness. There are three categories of indicators, which differentiate the most critical design aspects from more innovative, experimental ones. The three categories of indicators are:

  • Essential Elements: these indicators are related to features that are necessary, but not sufficient, for an MSI to have the potential to be effective as a human rights instrument. Essential Elements are marked in bold typeface in the MSI Evaluation Tool.
  • Good Practices: these indicators relate to features that will enhance the effectiveness of the MSI and its potential to protect human rights.
  • Innovative Practices: these indicators reflect novel features of MSI design that have been employed by at least one MSI, or are based on expert theory, and are anticipated to improve or optimize an MSI’s capacity to protect human rights.

By focusing on the design features that influence an MSI’s effectiveness, the Tool enables users to evaluate an initiative’s potential to have an impact. Evaluations into the impacts, practices, outputs, or outcomes of MSIs are important and much-needed, but necessitate complex and extensive methodologies, as well as access to a level of resources and information that may be beyond the reach of many organizations and individuals. In future years, MSI Integrity plans to contribute to the development of workable methodologies for these types of impact evaluations. In the interim, the MSI Evaluation Tool should also assist those attempting to measure impact by first providing an understanding of how an MSI is structured and intended to operate.

Brouwer, How to Design and Facilitate Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships[20]

The theory behind MSPs

MSPs emerge because stakeholders find that they need to collaborate for change to happen. But there are deeper reasons behind the increasing need for them in the present day. These reasons become clear if you look at recent theories about governance, complex adaptive (human) systems, the human mind (cognition), and innovation. The insights from these theories are embedded throughout the guide, and especially in the principles in Section 4. (…)

Seven principles that make MSPs effective

Principle 1: Embrace systemic change

Principle 2: Transform institutions

Principle 3: Work with power

Principle 4: Deal with conflict

Principle 5: Communicate effectively

Principle 6: Promote collaborative leadership

Principle 7: Foster participatory learning

Ask yourself this: “How do I create learning processes which help people go one level deeper?”, “What is needed to make my MSP rationally, emotionally, and creatively engaging?”

Participatory learning lies at the very heart of any MSP. It is the process that enables different stakeholders to understand each other, to explore common concerns and ambitions, to generate new ideas, and to take joint action. Events and activities are needed throughout the lifetime of an MSP to bring stakeholders together to talk, share, analyse, make decisions, and reflect. The quality of these learning events can make the difference between a successful and a failed MSP.

Single, double, and triple loop learning

Choosing Tools

Methods and tools are what we use to transform our understanding and design of the MSP into practice. They will play an essential role in shaping your MSP, helping individuals to become part of a cohesive and productive group, and releasing creativity and innovation. We have included this section on tools partly because the most frequent questions we are asked are, “Do you know a good tool for situation X?” or “Can you share your toolbox with me?” But when you think about tools, remember that the tools themselves are less important than the spirit and context in which they are used. In the following, we introduce some general ideas about the tools and methodologies, followed by summaries of 60 different tools as an overview of what’s available.

Ruggie, The Global Compact as Learning Network[21]

Learning Forum

The [Global Compact] GC’s critics wish it were something that it is not: a regulatory arrangement, specifically a legally binding code of conduct with explicit performance criteria and independent monitoring and enforcement of company compliance. Just how does the GC propose to induce corporate change? Its core is a learning forum. Companies submit case studies of what they have done to translate their commitment to the GC principles into concrete corporate practices. This occasions a dialogue among GC participants from all sectors – the UN, labor, and civil society organizations.

The hope and expectation is that good practices will help drive out bad ones through the power of dialogue, transparency, advocacy, and competition. Why did the secretary-general choose this approach rather than pro pose a regulatory code, complete with monitoring and compliance mechanisms? (…)

            Thus, there are both pragmatic and principled reasons why the GC adopted a learning model rather than regulation to induce corporate change. Nevertheless, there are certain things that such an approach cannot achieve. The fact that the GC recognizes and promotes a company’s “good practice” provides no guarantee that the same company does not engage in “bad” ones elsewhere. Indeed, it may even invite a measure of strategic behavior. Nestle’s recent interest in the GC, for instance, undoubtedly reflects a desire to balance criticism on the breast milk substitute. Moreover, a learning model has no direct leverage over determined laggards. They require other means, ranging from legislation to direct social action.

In sum, the GC’s strengths and weaknesses both stem from its having adopted a model that promotes learning by recognizing and rein forcing leadership. It helps create and build momentum toward its universal principles, but it is unlikely to get there by itself.

Interorganizational Networks

The Global Compact exhibits many of the defining at tributes of interorganizational networks (IONs), which should be better understood by critics and advocates alike.

  • IONs are formed by autonomous organizations combining their efforts voluntarily to achieve goals they cannot reach as effectively or at all on their own. They rest on a bargain, not coercion. The GC’s under lying “bargain” is that the UN provides a degree of legitimacy and helps solve coordination problems, while the companies and other social ac tors provide the capacity to produce the desired changes.
  • IONs typically come into being to help their participants understand and deal with complex and ambiguous challenges. They are inherently experimental, not routine and standardized. Few challenges are more complex and ambiguous than internalizing the GC’s principles into corporate management practices.
  • IONs “operate” as shared conceptual systems within which the participating entities perceive, understand, and frame aspects of their behavior. But the existing actors do all the doing that needs to be done. The GC creates no new entities but is a framework for normatively coordinated behavior to produce a new collective outcome.
  • IONs must be guided by a shared vision and common purpose. In the Global Compact, the secretary-general is responsible for sustaining that vision and ensuring that network values and activities are compatible with it.
  • IONs are loosely coupled organizational forms, resting on non-directive horizontal organizing principles. Its participants meet when and in formats required to conduct their work.

The major advantage of the GC’s network approach is its capacity to respond to the complex and rapidly changing environments that the UN seeks to affect. (…) Again, the GC’s chief weakness is the same as its main strength. It is a network of autonomous actors, each with different interests and needs that intersect only partially. Criticism of the GC for partnering with business fails to appreciate the advantages of interorganizational networks. But by the same token, anyone who sees in the GC the cure for globalization’s many ills does not sufficiently grasp the fragile basis of all such networks.


Utting & Zammit, UN-Business Partnerships[22]

In recent years, the United Nations has taken a lead in advocating public–private partnerships (PPPs), and various UN entities actively seek partnerships and alliances with transnational corporations and other companies. Although there has been a rapid growth of PPPs, relatively little is known about their contribution to basic UN goals associated with inclusive, equitable and sustainable development. In response to this situation, there are increasing calls for impact assessments. This article argues that such assessments need to recognize the range of ideational, institutional, economic and political factors and forces underpinning the turn to PPPs, and the very different logics and agendas involved, some of which seem quite contradictory from the perspective of equitable development and democratic governance.

The article examines these different forces and logics, focusing on (a) the institutional turn towards ‘‘good governance’’, (b) economic contexts that relate to the very mixed ‘‘fortunes’’ of UN agencies and corporations, (c) structural determinants associated with ‘‘corporate globalisation’’ and (d) political drivers that relate to the struggle for hegemony and legitimisation. The article ends by reflecting critically on the tendency within mainstream development institutions and some strands of academic literature to highlight logics associated with good governance and pragmatism, and to disregard those associated with the strengthening of corporate interests and the neoliberal policy regime. It is argued that knowledge networks associated with the UN need to go beyond ‘‘best practice learning’’ and embrace ‘‘critical thinking’’, which has waned within UN circles since the 1980s.

            The issue of policy coherence in the context of partnerships is really a question of whether partnerships are part and parcel of a model of development that has positive or perverse effects from the perspective of equitable, rights-based and sustainable development. It is also about empowerment and the extent to which PPPs reinforce the control and influence of TNCs and, if so, how they do this.

Assessing such aspects and impacts ex ante or even ex post may be extremely difficult, given the complexity of factors involved and the difficulties of isolating the relationships of partnerships to broader societal processes (…).

Over the past decade, in particular, the UN has transformed its relations with corporate interests. PPPs have emerged as one of the principle instruments of rapprochement with big business. The analysis above suggests that the idealizing of the concept of partnership and its normative content, as well as the feel-good discourse that infuses much of the mainstream literature, risk diverting attention away from various tensions and contradictions that characterize UN-BPs and that raise questions about their contribution to equitable development and democratic governance. Both the theory and practice of partnerships suggest that thinking and policy need to go beyond evidence and assumptions about ‘‘good governance’’ and pragmatism.

            Some of the naivete that characterised the early phase of forging of closer relations has subsided, but institutions that might control for potential contradictions and tensions identified in this article are still quite weak. While bilateral and multilateral agencies, and entities like the UN Global Compact often identify themselves as knowledge agencies or learning forums, learning networks are often dominated by particular disciplines, institutions and individuals. The period of rapprochement between the UN and big business has coincided with the decline in ‘‘critical thinking’’. The purpose of critical thinking is not, of course, simply to criticize. Rather it facilitates a particular mode of analysis that reveals precisely the sorts of issues that are often ignored in best practice learning, namely the complexities of power relations and how these affect outcomes, and the ideologies, agendas, contradictions and trade-offs involved in partnerships. Critical thinking is useful for identifying ‘‘blind spots’’ and biases in analysis and policy agendas. (…) Such approaches, however, have waned during the contemporary era of rapprochement between the UN and big business. If the UN is to continue on its current course of forging closer relations with TNCs, the learning and institutional environment within the UN needs to evolve from one focused heavily of ‘‘best practice learning’’ to one that also embraces ‘‘critical thinking’’.

Background (Cambodia)

Sar et al, Public-Private Partnerships in Cambodia: Issues and Solution[23]

The projects via Public-Private Partnership (PPP) have been implemented in Cambodia  since  the  decade  1993  mostly  in  energy  sector  using  Build-Ope- rate-Transfer  (BOT)  and  Build-Own-Operate (BOO)  Models  where  the  pro-curement method followed an ad-hoc arrangement, absence of clear rule and regulation  as  well  as  unclear  institutional  responsibility  to  procure,  manage, and monitor  these  projects.  Lacking  rule  and  regulation  as  well  as  non-clear enabling  PPP  policy  caused  many  disadvantages  for  the  public  sector  in  im-plementing PPP projects. Nearly all the projects are unsolicited proposals and have  been  selected  by  using  an  ad-hoc  arrangement  and  direct  negotiation.  The ad-hoc procedure not only transfers many risks to the government espe-cially  in  term  of  financial  risk—unforeseen  contingent  liability—due  to  no  proper  reviewing  on  the  project  proposal  and  contract  term,  but  also  the  project  implementation  and  monitoring  mechanism  is  unclear,  and  no  effi-cient.  However,  Cambodia  still  considers  using  PPP  as  the  best  alternative option  of  financing  on  infrastructure  development.  This  is  because,  on  the  one hand, the demand of infrastructures has been gradually increased notably in road sector while the government budget is limited, and on the other hand, PPP  brings  the  innovation  and  increases  the  quality  of  infrastructure  or  ser-vice  and  provides  better  value-for-money.  That  is  why,  in  order  to  success-fully  prepare  and  manage  PPP  projects  in  the  current  context  of  economy  growth,  Cambodia  established  an  enabling  PPP  policy,  and standard  opera-tion procedure (SOP), and also proposed the PPP law to govern, promote and facilitate  in  the  manner  of  effectiveness,  efficiency,  transparency,  fairness  and  accountability  of  PPP  projects.  This  paper  aimed  at  raising  the  chal-lenges  of  implementing  PPP  projects  without  comprehensive  PPP  frame-work.

Instruments (Cambodia)

Better Factories Cambodia, Annual Report[24]

The Better Factories Cambodia programme (BFC) is a partnership between the International Labour Orga­nization (ILO) and the International Finance Corpora­tion (IFC). This comprehensive programme is bringing together stakeholders from all levels of the garment industry to improve working conditions and respect of labour rights, and boost the competitiveness of appar­el industries. Factories participating in Better Work are monitored and advised through factory assessments, advisory visits and training

Better Factories Cambodia is supported by the following donors:

  • Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC)
  • Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC)
  • United States Department of Labor (USDOL)
  • The Government of the Netherlands
  • The Government of Australia
  • The German Government

Objective 2: Strengthening institutional sustainability of the programme

A key component of each of the Better Work pro­grammes, including BFC, is to work with national stakeholders to support the creation of a culture of compliance in the entire sector. Under this broader and long term objective the current strategic phase focusses on increased engagement with national stakeholders, especially the Government, to ensur­ing that working conditions in Cambodian garment factories meet legal requirements. This particularly includes the formulation and implementation of an action plan between BFC and the MoLVT to gradu­ally strengthen the MoLVT’s capacity to prevent and remediate non-compliance and enforce the labour law. The ministry has indicated that it aims to have the same quality, credibility, transparency and trust as BFC and asked the programme to work hand in hand with the ministry on this. The joint action plan was developed in 2016 and some important com­ponents have been put in motion. Priority was given to collaborate on expanding the MoLVT’s capacity to undertake strategic labour compliance inspection as part of their next inspection plan (2019 – 2023). With support and collaboration from the ILO experts on strategic labour compliance, the ministry is now working through a process of developing sectoral inspection plans that target certain issues and work­places. Two working sessions have taken place and the next one is planned for Q4 this year. During the working sessions, the different and complementary roles of the MoLVT inspection services and BFC are often discussed, where the inspection services of the Ministry have the Government’s authority to inspect all workplaces and enforce the law, and where BFC as a neutral and independent programme has the mandate to assess and report on compliance with the labour law in all garment exporting factories and support factories in making improvements.

Objective 3: Creating partnerships for continuous for continuous improvement and the future of the sector

The garment sector is the engine of social and eco­nomic development in Cambodia. It is by far the biggest contributor to Cambodian’s export earnings, it is also the sector that creates formal employment to a large and vulnerable group of mostly young female Cambodians with very limited formal job alterna­tives. These women workers not only earn income to maintain their own lives, in fact, it is estimated that income of each garment worker also supports three to four of their family members. As such, it is estimat­ed that over 2 million Cambodians depend on the existence of the sector. With important changes in the trade environment in combination with some inher­ent internal weaknesses, the competitiveness of the Cambodian garment sector is under threat. BFC has used its convening role and its data to support indus­try stakeholders in developing a vision for future of the Cambodian garment industry. The Supreme National Economic Council (SNEC) received the Prime Minis­ter’s mandate to formulate this strategic vision and, as member of the technical team tasked with drafting the vision, BFC has supported the process through facilitating contacts and meetings with unions, brands, manufacturers and industry groups. In addition, the IFC, as partner to the BFC programme funded a large scale survey amongst factory managers and owners on the business environment and BFC brought aca­demic experts on labour economics and one on global supply chains to provide feedback and input during the strategy formulation process.

The draft strategy is being finalized and will be sub­mitted for approval from the Government. Once approved, BFC will continue further support the implementation, including through bringing partners together in support of the strategy. (…)

Factories under BFC’S assessment programme (by province)

Section II: Compliance overview


BFC, MoU Signed to Extend the ILO Better Factories Cambodia Programme[25]

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will see the partnership between the Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia (the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, and the Ministry of Commerce), the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) and International Labour Organization’s Better Factories Cambodia programme extended for another three years, covering a period from January 2020 to December 2022, during which the partners have committed to improve working conditions and improving competitiveness and productivity in the textile and apparel sector and expand the coverage of the MoU to include the travel goods and bag sector of Cambodia.

ILO Better Factories Cambodia Programme will be extended its scope from garment and textile, to also include travel goods and bag industry. Since 2001, the Royal Government of Cambodia has linked trade with labour standards in the garment and textile sector in Cambodia in order to promote compliance with, and effective enforcement of, existing labour law, and to promote labour rights against the Cambodian labour code and internationally recognized core labour standards.

The BFC programme will continue to perform assessments on the working conditions in garment factories. Advisory and training activities on workplace improvement and productivity enhancement will continue to operate regularly on a fee for service basis. BFC will also work with the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training on the implementation of a joint strategy and action plan with the objective to support government’s capacity and ownership to uphold compliance with labour law and support remediation in the garment, footwear and travel goods and bag sectors. Furthermore, BFC will continue to work with GMAC and travel goods and bag manufacturers for the areas of joint collaboration to build factory capacity for sustained compliance and support factories in strengthening their management systems. (…)

ACT (Action, Collaboration, Transformation)[26]

[for description and information in Khmer][27]


ACT (Action, Collaboration, Transformation) is a ground-breaking agreement between global brands and retailers and trade unions to transform the garment and textile industry and achieve living wages for workers through collective bargaining at industry level linked to purchasing practices.

Collective bargaining at industry level means that workers in the garment and textile industry within a country can negotiate their wages under the same conditions, regardless of the factory they work in, and the retailers and brands they produce for. Linking it to purchasing practices means that payment of the negotiated wage is supported and enabled by the terms of contracts with global brands and retailers.

ACT is the first global commitment on living wages in the sector that provides a framework through which all relevant actors, including brands and retailers, trade unions, manufacturers, and governments, can exercise their responsibility and role in achieving living wages.

ACT members have agreed the following the principles:

  • A joint approach is needed where all participants in global supply chains assume their respective responsibilities in achieving freedom of association, collective bargaining and living wages.
  • Agreement on a living wage should be reached through collective bargaining between employers and workers and their representatives, at industry level.
  • Workers must be free and able to exercise their right to organize and bargain collectively in accordance with ILO Conventions.

Memorandum of understanding between ACT corporate signatories and INDUSTRIALL Global Union on establishing within global supply chains freedom of association, collective bargaining and living wages

Goals and Purpose

This Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aims at creating a cooperation between IndustriALL Global Union and ACT (Action Collaboration Transformation) corporate signatories (“We”) in order to achieve living wages for workers in the global textile and garment industry supply chains through mature industrial relations, freedom of association and collective bargaining. (…)

There are two sustainable mechanisms that we consider have the capacity to deliver freedom of association, collective bargaining and living wages to any scale, while setting a level playing field:

  • Industrywide collective agreements
  • National minimum wage fixing enforcement mechanisms

MSI Integrity, The Grand Experiment of Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives[28]

Our Insights

If MSIs are going to be relied upon by policymakers, businesses, donors, and CSOs as tools for closing governance gaps or achieving rights protection, then there ought to be evidence that they are fit for that purpose. Nearly three decades since the first MSIs emerged, such evidence remains scant. While MSIs often promote themselves as successful, without an understanding of their actual impacts on rights holders, they risk creating the perception that the issues and abuses associated with an industry, country, or company have been addressed—when in fact they may still be occurring.

            The stakes are high. By MSIs’ own claims, their standards now apply to millions of rights holders, on farms and in forests, in manufacturing plants and mining operations, worldwide from Cameroon to Cambodia, Pakistan to Peru. These are not pilot programs; they are experiments in private governance on a global scale.

            Yet there are more questions than answers regarding whether, and under what conditions, MSIs’ standards or certification produce positive human rights impacts. While a norm of impact measurement appears to be emerging under the leadership of ISEAL Alliance and its members, at present there is a lack of robust standards and expectations around the methodology, consistency, and frequency of assessments.

            The limited evidence that is available is not particularly promising, and stands in stark contrast to MSIs’ suggestions that they benefit rights holders. Governments are reporting public expenditures on infrastructure and receipts from resource extraction, but there is no understanding of whether this has strengthened civil society or otherwise led to improved government accountability. Factory workers have protective gear, but discrimination and violations of freedom of association go undetected. Improvements in crop yields and prices exist, but this has not always led to higher net household income—the metric that matters for lifting people out of poverty.

            Yet, MSIs appear to be feeling more pressure to prove their worth. Unfortunately, producing graphics that demonstrate the scope and scale of an MSI’s reach is more common than deep and honest reflections into whether an initiative is protecting rights or achieving its mission. This self-promotional tendency suggests that MSIs have themselves become institutions with their own agendas, selfpreservation instincts, and desires to sustain or grow. This is further emphasized by the fact that MSIs’ impact studies are generally focused on whether the desired effects within the companies or sites monitored have been achieved—has child labor been reduced or are safety practices followed—rather than questioning if there have been any unintended consequences or examining the wider effects of the MSIs’ intervention in a community. This narrow focus enables corporate members of MSIs to point to their participation in MSIs as achieving change, without the more critical question of whether an MSI’s intervention is generally positively protecting rights holders and communities, or if it is causing any other complications or negative side-effects. This, in turn, points to the Achilles heel of MSIs: that, as institutions, they need to prove to their business members they can “deliver results” in order to sustain membership and survive as organizations. (…)

MSI Integrity, Annual Report[29]

We spent much of 2020 engaging policymakers, academics, civil society, MSIs, businesses, and the wider public on the findings and recommendations in the report. These recommendations outline a two-fold path forward.

1. Rethink the Role of MSIs: To articulate and understand the appropriate role for, and limitations of, MSIs, and to recognize that they are not a substitute for public regulation. MSIs should be recognized for what they have been equipped to do well: to be forums for building trust, experimentation, and learning. However, they should no longer be viewed as institutions that robustly ensure that their corporate members respect rights, provide access to remedy, or hold corporations accountable for abuses. Regulation at the global, national, and local levels is needed for these purposes.

2. To Challenge the Corporate Form: To recognize that the corporation is neither structurally situated nor primarily motivated to consider its human rights impacts, and that as long as corporations are primarily beholden to investor-shareholders, they will resist transformational human rights and environmental justice initiatives that jeopardize their profits or power. To us this means developing and promoting business models and policy transformations that more effectively center workers and affected communities in the ownership and governance of economic enterprises.


  1. What are the advantages and drawbacks of partnerships between civil society and businesses?
  2. Are multistakeholder partnerships helpful for democratic governance or a threat to it?
  3. Why are partnerships more common in some industries than others?
  4. Do trade unions welcome partnerships to improve protection of rights in the workplace (supplier factories), and do they appreciate the efforts of NGOs advance labor rights? Is there collaboration or competition between trade unions and NGOs?
  5. Should the United Nations enter into partnerships with transnational companies?
  6. Can multistakeholder partnership provide more effective protection of some human rights? What is the experience and data tellimg us so far?
  7. What is the role of governments – in home and host countries – in multistakeholder partnerships? Give examples of roles that different states have played.
  8. Do partnerships replace the need for law and legal protections?
  9. What type of resources are needed to create and operate a multistakeholder partnership? What resources can each stakeholder group contribute best?
  10. Why do the UN SDGs emphasize partnerships?
  11. Do you see any problems with the UN or governments supporting private-public partnerships?
  12. What is the ‘secret’ to making a partnership work?
  13. If you were working for a company, would you suggest entering into partnerships with civil society groups and/or the government? What if you worked for an NGO?

Further Readings

[1] Herman Brouwer et al. The MSP Guide: How to Design and Facilitate Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships (2016) www.mspguide.org/sites/default/files/case/msp_guide-2016-digital.pdf.

[2] OECD, Successful Partnerships – A Guide (2006) www.oecd.org/cfe/leed/36279186.pdf.

[3] UN General Assembly, Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, A/RES/70/1 (2015) http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/70/1&Lang=E.

[4] UN, Partnerships for SDGs online platform (2019) https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/partnerships.

[5] UN Sustainable Development Goals Partnerships Platform, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/partnerships.

[6] UN Sustainable Development Goals Partnerships Platform, Partnerships and Voluntary Commitments over Time (2017) https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/26213sdgs.fw_2.fw.png.

[7] UN, Guidelines on Cooperation between the United Nations and the Business Sector (2015)


[8] UN, Enhanced Cooperation between the United Nations and all Relevant Partners, in Particular the Private Sector, Report of the Secretary-General (2017) https://undocs.org/A/72/310.

[9] UN, Global Compact www.unglobalcompact.org

[10] UN, Global Compact, De-Listing and Re-Joining Policy (last update February 2020) www.unglobalcompact.org/docs/about_the_gc/De-listing%20and%20re-joining%20policy_UNGC_Jan%202019.pdf

[11] Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), Factsheet (2018) https://eiti.org/document/eiti-factsheet.

[12] Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), The EITI Requirements, https://eiti.org/eiti-requirements.

[13] International Labour Organisation (ILO), Progress and Potential: How Better Work is Improving Garment Workers’ Lives and Boosting Factory Competitiveness: A summary of an independent assessment of the Better Work programme (2016) https://betterwork.org/dev/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/BW-Progress-and-Potential_Web-final.pdf.

[14] Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, Achievements 2013 Accord (2018) https://bangladeshaccord.org/resources/press-and-media/2018/07/20/achievements-2013-accord.

[15] The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, How the Accord Works (2018) https://bangladesh.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/How-the-Accord-works-flowchart.pdf.

[16] Agreement on Sustainable Garment and Textile (2016) www.ser.nl/-/media/ser/downloads/engels/2016/agreement-sustainable-garment-textile.pdf.

[17] Christina Tewes-Gradl et al., Proving and Improving the Impact of Development Partnerships – 12 Good Practices for Results Measurement (2014) www.endeva.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Endeva_2014_Proving_and_improving_the_impact_of_development_partnerships__1_-2.pdf.

[18] Institute for Multi-Stakeholder Initiative Integrity (MSI Integrity), MSI Evaluation Tool, For the Evaluation of Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives (2017) www.msi-integrity.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/MSI_Evaluation_Tool_2017.pdf.

[19] Institute for Multi-Stakeholder Initiative Integrity (MSI Integrity) www.msi-integrity.org.

[20] Herman Brouwer et al. The MSP Guide, How to Design and Facilitate Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships (2016) www.mspguide.org/sites/default/files/case/msp_guide-2016-digital.pdf

[21] John Ruggie, ‘The Global Compact as Learning Network’, Global Governance 7:4 (2001) www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/27800311.pdf.

[22] Peter Utting & Ann Zammit, ‘United Nations-Business Partnerships: Good Intentions and Contradictory Agendas’, Journal of Business Ethics (2009) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/225347517_United_Nations-Business_Partnerships_Good_Intentions_and_Contradictory_Agendas (references omitted).

[23] Bun Eang Sar, Meyka Chea & Chanpisey Ung, ‘Public-Private Partnerships in Cambodia: Issues and Solution’, Open Journal of Business and Management (2020) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/341545169_Public-Private_Partnerships_in_Cambodia_Issues_and_Solution.

[24] Better Factories Cambodia, Annual Report 2018 – An Industry and Compliance Review https://betterwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/BFC-Annual-Report-2018.pdf

[25] Better Factories Cambodia, The MoU Signed to Extend the ILO Better Factories Cambodia Programme Thursday (2019) https://betterwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/MoU-signing-recemony_final.pdf.

[26] ACT (Action, Collaboration, Transformation), What is ACT? (2018) https://actonlivingwages.com/fact-sheet.

[27] ACT (Action, Collaboration, Transformation),  https://actonlivingwages.com/country-activities/?lang=km.

[28] The Institute for Multi-Stakeholder Initiative Integrity (MSI Integrity), Not Fit-for-Purpose The Grand Experiment of Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives in Corporate Accountability, Human Rights and Global Governance (2020) https://www.msi-integrity.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/MSI_Not_Fit_For_Purpose_FORWEBSITE.FINAL_.pdf.

[29] The Institute for Multi-Stakeholder Initiative Integrity (MSI Integrity), 2020 Annual Report (2021)



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