restricted access 6. Transnational Public-Private Partnerships
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6 Transnational Public-Private Partnerships Karin Bäckstrand, Sabine Campe, Sander Chan, Ayşem Mert, and Marco Schäferhoff Transnational public-private partnerships for sustainable development are frequently advanced as policy innovations to reduce implementation and legitimacy deficits in global governance (Haas 2004). Partnerships are conceived as more adequate and effective governance instruments compared to traditional regulatory mechanisms. They are often framed as win-win solutions that increase the democratic credentials of global governance while simultaneously strengthening its environmental performance (Benner, Streck, and Witte 2003; Streck 2004). The Global Governance Project has systematically conducted a series of quantitative studies, in-depth and comparative case studies, as well as interpretive policy and text analyses on transnational partnerships for sustainable development. This chapter critically synthesizes the outcomes of these studies, supplemented by a literature review examining the emergence, legitimacy, and effectiveness of public-private partnerships for sustainable development. Our focus is the more than three hundred partnerships that were adopted around the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development and/or have been registered with the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD). We take stock of our previous assessments of the performance and legitimacy of these “Johannesburg partnerships”1 and highlight individual partnerships, such as the Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor Partnership and the Global Water Partnership. We structure our argument around three questions that reflect the expanding scholarship on transnational public-private partnerships. First, how and why did the partnerships emerge? Second, are they effective in solving environmental problems? Third, are they legitimate governance mechanisms, that is, inclusive, accountable, and transparent? The many studies on public-private partnerships reach different conclusions on these questions, partially because different research 124 Karin Bäckstrand, et al. appraisals of partnerships do not always share the same ontological, epistemological, and normative assumptions on the nature and effects of public-private partnerships. Also in the Global Governance Project, we approached questions of emergence, effectiveness, and legitimacy from different theoretical and methodological angles. Questions of emergence were studied primarily with an interpretive perspective. Functionalist and critical perspectives have been used to understand effectiveness and legitimacy . We used these different approaches because their explanatory potentials for each of the analytical problems are complementary. For instance, effectiveness in a liberal-functionalist analysis primarily concerns the role of partnerships in fulfilling certain governance gaps, whether they reach their proclaimed goals and whether they are more effective than alternative instruments. However, the question of effectiveness is less relevant, or differently interpreted, from a critical perspective (Mert 2009; Miraftab 2004; Ottoway 2001). For example, “goal attainment ” has been criticized for being a rather apolitical frame that obscures the question of whose interests are served or (re)instated by partnerships. In addition, critical approaches have addressed the sources of legitimacy for partnerships. The following section conceptualizes transnational public-private partnerships as multisectoral network governance instruments and contrasts the liberal-functionalist, critical, and interpretive approaches to the study of transnational partnerships. The second section summarizes the context for the Johannesburg partnerships. The third section focuses on how different theoretical approaches have explained (or critically examined ) the emergence, effectiveness, and legitimacy of partnerships. In the conclusions, we revisit the effectiveness and legitimacy of transnational public-private partnerships by summarizing the cumulated research insights on partnership performance, participation, and accountability emanating from the research synthesized in this chapter. Conceptualization Public-private partnerships are not a new phenomenon: they emerged as governance instruments in domestic politics already in the 1980s. The tenacious privatization policies of the Thatcher and Reagan administrations promoted the ideas of new public management, based on the assumptions that the private sector provides public goods and services more efficiently than the public sector, and that consequently the public sector should be downsized by outsourcing governance functions. Transnational Public-Private Partnerships 125 Building partnerships with the private sector, governments could promote the provision of public services without undertaking them. For the private sector, partnerships were a means to expand their activities to previously restricted areas. As a result, corporations enjoyed a number of public relations benefits from building partnerships with governments and communities .Although new public management was often criticized, national and local partnerships had become an accepted and legitimate governance tool in many industrialized countries in the 1980s. The move toward public-private partnerships has been replicated at the international level. Since the 1990s, the United Nations have promoted partnerships ranging from the UN Global Compact to the Johannesburg partnerships as a way to restore the legitimacy of the United Nations in the context...


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Subject Headings

  • Environmental policy -- International cooperation.
  • Environmental responsiblity -- International cooperaiton.
  • Global environmental changes.
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