Thinking Outside The Box

Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) as an alternative in gender mainstreaming, advocacy and lobbying

By Umi Wabomba

At a conference way back in 2001, a Dr. Paul Ntungwe Ndue from University of Yaounde II in Cameroon made a presentation on State-Civil Society Relationships: Building Public-Private Partnerships. This was during the 23rd African Association for Public Administration and Management (AAPAM) Annual Roundtable Conference, in Abuja, Nigeria.

In his introduction, he emphasized the significant role of Civil Societies in public policy-making, development debates and service delivery. He concluded that the strength of civil society institutions is indicative of a robust democracy adding that to establish an effective public-private sector partnership requires a common development and consultative agenda.

A key partner that he didn’t mention was the private sector.

Almost a decade later, the importance of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) cannot be over stressed, and the gender mainstreaming debate will not be complete without looking at how these partnerships present an opportunity for a paradigm shift in the thinking of key players.

Kenya is on a tipping point with the passing of the new constitution. Women across all sectors including the civil society, private and public sectors see a great opportunity to take advantage of the provisions in the new constitution to mainstream gender in all spheres of society. There has been an assumption in the past that gender issues are a civil society-only affair and the approach has been confrontational and defensive with the state.

But the new thinking is that, what if this was seen as a partnership with all sectors being proactive by consulting and engaging each other way before key gender related decisions are made? 

There was the recent debate after the public vetting of interested persons who successfully made it as Judges of the Supreme Court under the new constitution. But on the eve of their being sworn in, the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Kenya chapter representatives went to court alleging that the affirmative action provision had not been taken into account with the debate degenerating into how does one interpret 2.5 representatives? Is it 2 or 3?

And a bubble was burst of a great opportunity for Public Private Partnership. The debate on civil society and the role of NGO’s over the last decade has positioned polar, at times antagonistic relations between the state and civil society. Civil societies are now being challenged to get out of their comfort zone of narrow sectoral interests and get involved in broader developmental and governance issues.

The Private sector seems to have made some progress towards this direction. Elizabeth Kariuki, a Senior Programmes Executive at the Kenya Association of Women Business Owners (KAWBO) supports PPPs in gender mainstreaming. “Public Private dialogue is a force to counter policy-making by shouting, or by back-room deals involving a select few. It promotes good public and corporate governance.

It sets an example of transparency and dynamism. It sheds light on the workings and performance of government institutions. It also improves the quality of the advice government receives from the private sector by diversifying sources and by promoting more evidence-based advocacy.

Public Private Dialogue is not a panacea; but it is an important ingredient in strong business enabling environments. Both the public and the private sector still need good information, good analysis, and a sustained commitment to implement change”. She says governments that listen to the private sector are more likely to promote sensible, workable reforms. Entrepreneurs who understand what government is trying to achieve are more likely to support these reforms.

“To exploit the gains inherent in public private dialogue women organizations in public life, civil society organizations and the corporate world should have open lines of communication with the public sector and resort to dialogue as opposed to criticism in redressing policy issues,” Elizabeth advises.

Talking together is the best way for the public and the private sectors to set the right priorities, and to support common interests. Meeting on a regular basis builds trust and understanding between the sectors. Failure to communicate leads to failure to understand each other’s concerns, which in turn leads to distrust and non-cooperation. Non-cooperation leads to inefficiency and waste, which inhibits growth, investment and poverty reduction”, she adds.

The civil society and the private sector need to engage with the government as equal partners so as to benefit from the facilitating environment that the state provides. Institutions of civil society and private sector can play an important role in the deepening and consolidation of participative democracy ensuring public accountability and good governance. Conversely, an interest in a strong civil society and private sector on the part of the state can greatly enhance the legitimacy of state policy and programmes. The partnership should be established around consultation and co-ordination.

 The modalities of an effective public-private sector partnership in development require a relationship of mutual trust between the state, the private sector and civil society institutions with the delicate balance of allowing freedom of association, autonomy and public critique among those same institutions on the other hand. Creative public-private partnerships must be established to meet the needs of effective service delivery to the most vulnerable in society. Sustainable development requires a consistent and integrated national development agenda.

FIDA Kenya, in its draft report, Gender Audit Study of the 10th Parliament, admits that in view of the current state of affairs, the principle of gender equality and development needs to continue being emphasized as a basic requirement for the equal enjoyment of rights and freedoms. In this regard, the Kenyan Government, through its 5 year Medium-Term Plan (MTP) 2008-2012 for implementing the Kenya Vision 2030, identified as a priority the introduction of gender mainstreaming into all Government policies, plans and programs to ensure that the needs and interests of women and other marginalized groups are addressed.

The report further indicates that the government came up with a directive that ensures not more than two thirds of all public positions are held by persons of the same gender. This will go a long way in ensuring that women will be represented in all decision making positions by at least 30 percent.

FIDA-Kenya, commits with support from the MDG 3 Fund, to implement a project to enhance the representation capacities for women to exercise their rights and responsibilities. This is to be done through advocacy on representation of women in all public spheres and by lobbying for the putting in place of policies that ensure affirmative action for women in public life. And this is a clear opportunity for a Public Private Partnership so that lobbying and advocacy can bear fruit as intended.

To paraphrase Dr. Ndue again, effective development requires sustainable public-private partnerships and constructive relations between state, private sector and civil society, premised on relations of trust, mutual benefit, public accountability, participation and legitimate representation.

“The 1970s and early 1980s debates spun the ‘myth of the interventionist state’ in development and which gave way in the late 1980s and early to mid-1990s to the ‘myth of the market’, needs to super-seceded by a new myth, the ‘myth of state-market-civil society’, premised on a network of deeply embedded relations between the state, the private sector and civil society, in a cohesive attempt to kickstart economic growth and redistribution” he concludes.