Partnering for people and planet

With the world facing sustainable development challenges on an unprecedented scale, the value of collaborative cross-sector partnerships has never been more critical.

Take the partnership between BHP Foundation and NGO Open Contracting Partnership working with governments of resource rich countries to address the world’s top corruption risk – government procurement of services and infrastructure for citizens. With investment of $US8 million from the Foundation, the partnership has:

· Enabled the government of Afghanistan to save $US740 million in procurement costs.

· Reduced the cost of medicines for people in Chile by up to 50%.

· Exposed a US$22 million supplier price-fixing scheme in the Bogota (Colombia) school meals program, through this enabling over 700,000 school children to receive cheaper, higher quality meals.

As BHP Foundation’s Chief Executive James Ensor told a recent virtual Australia-Latin America Business Council panel on the opportunities and challenges for implementing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, inclusive partnerships at local, regional, national and global levels are imperative.

‘When you’re dealing with the scale of the challenges we’re facing over the next 10 to 30 years, no one sector or organization will be able to achieve the change required,’ said James.

‘So, we made a deliberate decision to work in partnership with others and build platforms of collaboration across civil society, NGOs, industry, governments and multi-lateral institutions.’

For the BHP Foundation, it’s a compelling way to operate.

On stepping back and looking at the scale of the challenge around poverty reduction, climate change, biodiversity, water and education, the Foundation realised there was no alternative but to establish cross-sector partnerships.

‘We need a unified global framework,’ said James.

‘That’s not to say we agree on every aspect with every NGO, government or institution, but we seek agreement on a change agenda to which we’re all aligned.’

‘Especially in our current context, it’s far more difficult for governments to lead in isolation. They need key stakeholder support to prosecute a policy agenda.’

To illustrate the value of collaborative partnerships, James highlighted the Foundation’s involvement in projects addressing the governance of natural resources.

‘Around the world, 1.8 billion people live in poverty in resource-rich countries,’ he said.

‘It’s not that there’s an issue around lack of wealth or resources; instead it’s fundamentally about the governance of natural resources and why that isn’t delivering poverty reduction or other sustainability development goals.’

And in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, strong international cooperation is needed now more than ever if countries are to have the means to recover, build back better and achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

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