Public-Private Partnerships: The Key to Successfully Implementing the SDGs

The Brookings Institution and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently partnered to present a talk on utilizing public-private partnerships (PPPs) in order to effectively implement the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The SDGs are a list of goals, proposed by the UN, that target issues related to health, poverty, hunger, inequality, education, and climate change. According to the expert panel, partnerships connect decision-makers at the global level with the private sector, local governments, and civil society in an effort to capitalize on their specific strengths and balance their weaknesses.

Bill Gates speaking at a press conference at the end of the GAVI Alliance pledging event
Bill Gates speaking at a press conference at the end of the GAVI Alliance pledging event

For example, Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, is a PPP that provides access to vaccines in developing countries. The major players in this alliance consist of the World Health Organization, UNICEF, The World Bank, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Together, these organizations have successfully contributed scientific research, vaccines, and financial tools. According to Gavi, “Since its launch in 2000, [the alliance] has helped developing countries to prevent more than 7 million future deaths…Gavi support has contributed to the immunization of an additional 500 million children.” Gavi’s objectives were strategically implemented to produce results that protect developing populations and improve healthcare, which aligns with SDG 3 that aims to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.”

Partnerships are arguably the driving force behind the successful implementation of the SDGs. Governments are often slow and unreliable, while existing institutions like private corporations and civil society organizations have “on the ground” experience navigating the challenges inherent to their industry. The success of a PPP is determined by inclusivity, local implementation and ownership, transparency, accountability, political engagement, and strong focus on results. According to a study conducted by the OECD, “effective partnerships must have strong leadership, be country-led and context specific, apply the right type of action for the challenge, and maintain a clear focus on results.”

The SDGs also focus on more specific goals such as improving infrastructure, conserving oceans, and sustaining energy, which leaves room for partnerships to narrow their focus and innovate, particularly in the private sector. According to Devex, “Business leaders are still trying to understand the concept of sustainability, too, and how to integrate it into their business models.” The ODA method of developed countries donating funds to developing countries is ineffective since monetary aid does not specifically encourage the creation of new and sustainable systems. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Over the past 60 years at least $1 trillion of development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. Yet real per-capita income today is lower than it was in the 1970s.” As is often the case, this money is lost in transit and never reaches the local level due to corrupt bureaucracies and weak relations with civil society organizations. Financial contributions from the private sector, when combined with effectual and enabling political leadership, move beyond temporary alleviation to foster a more permanent impact.

Public-private partnerships are a vital part of Goal 16, which seeks to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.” Ultimately, PPPs allow for a more inclusive and communicative atmosphere conducive to tackling important development issues on a more direct and practical platform that enables self-sufficiency and citizen accountability. If the SDGs are to be achieved, the vital role of PPPs cannot be ignored.

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India’s Headache on Mental Health

Even though depression is estimated to be the leading cause of disability worldwide and schizophrenia is estimated to affect 33 million people in developing countries, mental illnesses are still not acknowledged as major diseases in many developing countries. Since these diseases often cause long term disability rather than death and often have an early age of onset, studies focusing on prevalence or mortality rates largely underestimate the devastating effects. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) estimated in 2001 that brain disorders are responsible for at least 27 percent of all ‘years lived with disability’ in developing countries.  When combining both death and disability from brain disorders it comprise nearly 15 percent of the developing countries burden of disease

In many developing communities diagnoses of mental disorders have no conceptual equivalent, and where they do the illnesses are stereotyped in pejorative language (‘imbecile’, ‘idiot’, ‘stupid’ and ‘mentally-invalid person’, is used to refer to the mentally challenged). Continue reading

Of Doctors and Immigration: The Growing Need for International Physicians

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will have monumental implications for the future of healthcare. Beyond the political posturing and legal scrutiny the decision has inspired, the fact of the matter is that the healthcare law is here to stay. Absent of legislation to modify or repeal the law, it will remain, for better or worse. In the immediate future—implementation, not resistance—will be the mantra of Washington.

The Affordable Care Act will radically alter the landscape of the healthcare industry.

At the same time, the enactment of the law presents substantial challenges. Especially daunting will be the assimilation of an estimated 40 million Americans as they join the ranks of the insured because of the individual mandate. Simultaneously, some 75 million baby boomers hurtle toward retirement, greatly increasing the demand for health services. In addition, almost 40 percent of the 850,000 licensed physicians are 55 years or older, many of them intending to retire in the near future.

Variables such as these have put the healthcare industry on a collision course with massive labor shortages. Traditional models have projected that there could be shortages of more than 150,000 doctors over the next 15 years. The ACA only exacerbates the problem: the Association of American Medical Colleges projected that when the provisions the healthcare law are in full effect, the shortages will grow 50% worse. Many American medical schools are expanding their enrollment capacities, but even those measures will not fully close the gap. Continue reading

Global Preparedness for Graying Population

Picture Courtesy of CSIS
Picture Courtesy of CSIS
GAP Index Country Rankings, Note: Countries are ranked from best to worst
GAP Index Country Rankings, Note: Countries are ranked from best to worst

Will countries grow “older” before they get “richer”? Population aging has become a global phenomenon. According to the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), since World War II, global life expectancy has risen from about45 to 65. In wealthy countries, life expectancy has risen from mid 60s to high 70s, and in a few countries, including Italy and Japan, it has reached 80. Similarly, United Nations Population Division (UNPD), population projections show that the world median age will rise from 26.4 in 2000 to 36.8 in 2050. While it is good news that the longevity is on the rise due to various achievements in science, public health, and socioeconomic development, can the world handle its growing elderly population? Continue reading