Tuesday, 18 December 2012

How can business help the MDGs?

By Noshua Watson

The UN High Level Panel met a few weeks ago to discuss the Post-2015 Millennium Development Goals framework. The new MDGs have been at the forefront of discussion in the UK, as Prime Minister David Cameron is co-chairing the panel with the presidents of Indonesia and Liberia. Out of the UK events, blogs and online discussion, different means of encouraging business participation in the MDGs have emerged: including business in the MDG consultation process, asking business to contribute to an enabling environment for economic growth and poverty reduction, integrating the MDGs into corporate strategic goals or even having an MDG oriented around private sector goals like FDI, employment or supply-chain inclusion.

An issue that has been assumed, but not directly addressed has been: while targeting the MDGs, how do you build local capacities? I think that those who want to engage business in the MDGs can learn from the philanthropic sector in this area. For the Bellagio Initiative on philanthropy and development, Bheki Moyo wrote that the aim of institutionalised (or vertical) philanthropy should be to support horizontal (or community/local/regional) philanthropy. The Bellagio Initiative worked this way, as the Rockefeller Foundation worked with IDS and the Resource Alliance to reach out to Southern NGOs, academics and thought leaders.

At a recent workshop on how foundations could strengthen civil society in Africa held by Oxford-based NGO INTRAC, the participants concluded that there is a trade-off between working with local organisations that have already demonstrated their capacities versus taking time and money to strengthen new partners. They found that, “There may be multiple layers between monetary input and development activities and outcomes. A typical ‘chain’ might involve private funder, intermediary international NGO, local partner NGO(s), community-based organisations and individual beneficiaries.”

The same goes for businesses, especially multinationals, that would try to achieve the MDGs. Including smallholder farmers in a global value chain might also require finding and financing local processors. The Business Innovation Facility has piloted this kind of intervention to help expand an agro-processor and local supply chains in Nigeria.