2014 Partners' Forum
30 JUNE - 1 JULY | Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa
Private sector leaders reflect on post-2015 priorities and commitments to newborns
More than 40 private sector leaders, from a diverse range of companies, gathered on the sides of the Partners’ Forum in Johannesburg on 29th June to reflect on the role of the private sector, both in the lead up to the 2015 deadline for the MDGs and the post-2015 environment.
Mrs Graça Machel, Chair of PMNCH and the Partners’ Forum, was also present at the meeting. She noted the important contribution of the private sector in improving women’s and children’s health, and urged it to define the role that it sees itself playing in the future. In recent years, the private sector has come to play a more dominant role in financing women’s and children’s health initiatives. For example, private sector commitments constituted nearly 40% of the total commitments announced during the Partners’ Forum towards the advancement of the Every Newborn Action Plan (ENAP). These included: Ayzh Inc., Beckton Dickson, International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP), Glaxo Smith Kline, GSMA, Johnson & Johnson, Laerdal Global Health, Masimo & Newborn Foundation, McCann Health, Medtronic Philanthropy, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer and Premier Medical Systems Nig. Ltd. More companies are expected to announce their commitments in September 2014. Alongside significant commitments from others, including the Islamic Development Bank, this adds up to a huge boost for the start-up phase of the ENAP.
Several speakers emphasized that the private sector can do much more than just providing funding. The private sector has been typecast in a niche role, whereas the potential is unlimited if private sector expertise can be leveraged more effectively. The private sector wants to, and can do, much more. Global and national companies are already contributing through their employees; sales and distribution networks; ability to innovate and scale-up, marketing and advertising capacity; and relationships or networks at the community level. Participation of several companies in the Innovation Working Group has already led to significant progress in some areas.
Collaborating more effectively across the private sector was identified as a key priority by several speakers. While the private sector has to build trust with other constituencies such as donors and governments, companies also need to trust each other to form strategic partnerships. More effort is required to recognise ways in which private sector companies can collaborate with each other and have a unified voice about what the private sector, as a constituency, can bring to the table. Private sector leaders present also acknowledged that African and Asian companies need to be engaged in bigger numbers to scale up impact in countries. Several local companies and small scale social enterprises are active in these countries and their efforts will be critical in reaching the most underserved populations.
Looking to the future, some expressed a concern that the private sector has had limited opportunity to engage in the post-2015 discussions that are seeking to establish priorities for the future. The United Nations Foundation is leading one particular initiative in consultation with civil society groups to develop a framework for private sector engagement vis-a-vis the post-2015 goals. PMNCH has a large working group with about 80 individuals/institutions/governments working on a consensus position across all constituency groups, but the private sector representation in this group needs to be bolstered. Such efforts will need to be strengthened in the coming months.
The private sector meeting also heard from representatives of the NGO and Donors & Foundations (D&F) constituencies. As the largest constituency of PMNCH, and one with extensive last mile reach, the NGOs are a valuable partner for private sector companies. The constituency’s focus in the coming months will include: accountability; post-2015; improving engagement within the constituency; and, influencing future strategy for PMNCH as a partnership platform. The D&F constituency, while expressing interest in working more closely with the private sector in countries, acknowledged its lack of familiarity with the private sector and requested more information on what different companies are doing.