Development for the People

The private sector in its many forms is becoming an increasingly important actor in development – in economic growth and the provision of public goods and services, the crafting of national development strategies, and international development cooperation. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are on the rise: around 180 deals are concluded per year since 2006 averaging US$10B per PPP agreement in transportation, US$4B in social sectors, and US$2B in others. International finance institutions (IFIs) craft frameworks that establish the private sector, such as financial investors from high-income countries and transnational corporations (TNCs), as key drivers in the development agenda. “Blended finance” and other means to leverage capital to developing countries are also prominent among private sector-oriented trends in development cooperation.

The cost to the public from these PPPs and corporate-led “development” has often been huge. Governments and the public carry the overwhelming risk in PPP projects, from higher user fees to rights violations through land grabs and displacement, while participating private firms have their returns guaranteed with no risk. Preference is also given to big business and multinationals in partnerships and the different forms of private sector promotion, instead of prioritising development of domestic micro, small and medium enterprises and development results to those “left behind.”

Ensuring development for the people in the face of corporate capture of development has never been more crucial. The scope of this theme has been broadened, from PPPs, to TNCs and IFIs in pursuing economic democracy through a human rights framework. In furtherance of this aim, and building on our experience in capacity development and policy advocacy, we will work with people’s organisations (POs) in asserting people’s rights, towards collective initiatives that assert public control over essential services; for the enforcement of domestic policy and regulatory standards to ensure that corporations are made accountable for their impacts to people and environment; and towards more dialogues and spaces for meaningful engagement of POs in inter-governmental processes and agreements concerning private sector in development.

Some of our work on this program theme: