Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Public-private partnerships

Financing NAP 1325

During the panel on Investing in Peace: Financing 1325 & the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls, Sara Lulo (Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School) & Greg Starner (White & Case LLP's Commercial Litigation Group) shared their experiences on strategies to work with the private sector. Sara: “Doing good is good business.” This is why the private sector is getting more and more involved in 1325 related, not for profit activities. (For more information, contact Dewi Suralaga from Dutch development organization Cordaid who also participated, Dewi.suralaga@cordaid.nl)

What is in it for the private sector? Greg: “We as a law firm like to see our lawyers on the ground getting experience, as an opportunity to develop expertise. We also like the idea to contribute to programmes that fit our objectives. We want to feel like we are adding value to local communities or international initiatives.” How does a law firm fit in a National Action Plan (NAP) 1325? “Make concrete where we as private sector can add specialized expertise. We need to address our roles specifically in NAPs for 1325.”


There can be mutual suspicion. NGOs can have the prejudice that companies do wrong through their business, and attempt to compensate through CSR projects. Companies can have concerns about corruption, inefficiency, low impact of the money and resources that have been invested, and dangers to employees. Sara: “We need to acknowledge what the other one is seeing on the other side. Both can bring real value to the table. It is very important to put in place some kind of accountability mechanism, so companies will feel comfortable that they can see concrete results and won’t be put at risk.” Greg: “Companies are results driven, so we need measurable strategies and indicators.”


Sara: “We need to identify champions in the private sector, and equip them to sell the importance of working on, for example 1325 related issues, internally in their companies, with concrete indicators and statistical data to back up their argument. Fuerthermore, they want to know where their money is going. Therefore we need research and quantitative data. We have to emphasize that it is not just a women’s issue, it is a human rights issue (framing). The more information people have, the stronger their engegement will be, and the better they can sell it within their companies.”

Sara continues: “What do we mean with private sector? Not just big businesses, also small local businesses, law firms, media, the health sector. Think creatively! The service sector has a lot of experience and expertise which can be valuable. What is financing? It is not just money. Think of how we can do more with the relationships, such as support in kind: skills training on the ground, or one-time small supplies such as donating 10.000 batteries for flashlights in refugee camps.

UN Women and the private sector

Also UNIFEM/UN Women chose public-private partnerships as a central issue in their interactive workshop on this year’s priority theme. Together with Global Compact (a global platform which convenes companies together with a.o. UN agencies), UNIFEM developed 7 Womens Empowerment Principles (WEPs).

Anthony de Jong (Business Development and Resources at UN Women, the only Dutch employee thus far) explained his work on getting companies enthousiastic to invest in UN Women. Some large international companies have already confirmed that they will provide funding.

Obstacles and solutions for women's access to the private sector

People from countries as diverse as the United States, Australia, Taiwan, South Africa, Nigeria,Canada, Norway and the Netherlands discussed what their most significant national obstacles are to participation of women in the private sector. It turned out women from the global South first mention poverty and lack of education primarily, masculine corporate cultures/structures are only secondary. Women from Northern countries mentioned lack of childcare facilities and flexible working hours, lack of women in top positions, the pay gap and minimal pregnancyleave possibilities (the Netherlands globally lags behind with men getting only 2 days after their child is born!).

They also talked about possible solutions. Companies should not wait for their governments to set quota, but should take their own initaitives to improve the gender balance in their organizations. Also the supply chain of products to their organization must be diversified. Furthermore, companies need to become more flexible towards their employees, for the benefit of both women and men: such as more flexible working hours and possibilities to work from home (‘het nieuwe werken’).

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