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Introduction
The Partnership Data for SDGs (PD4SDGs) initiative is a collaboration between the Division for Sustainable Development of UN-DESA, the UN Office for Partnerships and the UN Global Compact aimed at improving the transparency, accountability and the sharing of experiences of the work being carried out by multi-stakeholder partnerships and voluntary commitments in their support to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The initiative seeks to bring greater transparency, coherence, impact, and comparability of the work carried out by multi-stakeholder partnerships and voluntary commitments by promoting a system-wide use of the established SMART criteria – a partnership/commitment that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Resource-based, with clear and Time-based deliverables.

There is a growing trend to collect voluntary commitments and partnerships in support of UN conferences and processes dealing with sustainable development, sometimes with varying degree of associated level of details, which could lead to difficulty in reviewing impact, track progress and conduct in-depth and global comparability analyses on announced commitments and partnerships. It is against this background the Partnership Data for SDGs initiative has been developed.

The initiative is open for all entities within the United Nations that engage with, and promote the work of, multi-stakeholder partnerships and voluntary commitments in driving implementation of the SDGs.

Entities part of PD4SDGs commit to:

  • Publish information in the agreed PD4SDGs format about multi-stakeholder partnerships and voluntary initiatives that they are directly engaged in, or promote through their work
  • Information published using the P4SDGs framework should be publicly accessible and should adhere to the SMART Criteria - information on multi-stakeholder partnerships and voluntary initiatives that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Resource-based with time bound deliverables.
Background
The Partnership Data for SDGs (PD4SDGs), launched at the 2016 Partnership Exchange special event, is a United Nations initiative that seeks to bring together a range of stakeholders committed to supporting the Sustainable Development Goals in an open and transparent manner by improving the transparency of the work being carried out by multi-stakeholder partnerships and voluntary initiatives in their support to the Sustainable Development Goals.

The initiative has been developed by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the UN Global Compact and UN Office for Partnerships in response to United Nations Member States stressing the need to develop ways to improve transparency, accountability and the sharing of experiences of multi-stakeholder partnerships and on the review and monitoring of these partnerships.

The achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals will require an intensified collaboration between all Governments, sectors and people working together in an integrated manner by pooling, knowledge, expertise and financial resources. With this ambitious agenda of 17 interlinked Sustainable Development Goals and 169 associated targets as a blue-print for achieving the sustainable Future We Want, cross-sectoral and innovative partnerships and voluntary commitments at all levels will play a crucial role for getting us to where we need to be by the year 2030 while ensuring no one is left behind.

The concept of voluntary, multi-stakeholder initiatives to facilitate and expedite the realization of sustainable development goals and commitments was an important innovation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), held in 2002 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) then defined partnerships as “specific commitments by various partners intended to contribute to and reinforce the implementation of the outcomes of the intergovernmental negotiations of the WSSD (the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and the Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development) and to help achieve the further implementation of Agenda 21 and the Millennium Development Goals.”

The term "voluntary commitment" came into use ahead of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in 2012 and emphasized the outcomes of associations rather than the associations themselves, although behind every voluntary commitment there is usually an association or partnership. Both terms refer to voluntary initiatives to promote sustainable development.

Announced voluntary commitments at Rio+20 were sought to be SMART - Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Resource-based, and Time-bound – with great depth of information on the action plans of sustainable development implementation, which in turn would yield a higher level of transparency and future accountability. The complementary nature of these voluntary initiatives was duly acknowledged by the intergovernmental process. Member States decided to establish a comprehensive online registry to compile these voluntary commitments, keeping it fully transparent, accessible to the public and periodically updated (para 283, A/RES/66/288 - The Future We Want).

In 2014, at the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States - SIDS Conference, which had the overarching theme of “The sustainable development of Small Island developing States through genuine and durable partnerships, the international community came together and announced over 300 partnerships aimed at driving sustainable development in SIDS. Member states decided that announced multi-stakeholder partnerships should follow the SIDS SMART Criteria – SIDS Specific, Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Resource-based, and Time-bound.

The outcome of the SIDS Conference, the SAMOA Pathway, requested UN-DESA to continue to maintain a partnerships platform focused on the small island developing States and to regularly convene the inter-agency consultative group to report on the full implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action, the Mauritius Strategy and the Samoa Pathway, with adequate and timely analysis based on relevant targets and indicators relevant to the small island developing States in order to ensure accountability at all levels.

At the high-level United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14) - The Ocean Conference - held in June 2017 at UN headquarters in New York, close to 1,400 voluntary commitments for concrete action to advance implementation of SDG 14 were made by governments, the United Nations system, civil society organizations, academia, the scientific community, and the private sector. These commitments, together with the Conference outcome document Our Ocean, Our Future: Call for Action, mark a global breakthrough on the path to sustainable management and conservation of our oceans, seas and marine resources.

The United Nations Global Compact manages the UN-Business Action Hub, a platform where the UN and business can engage in dialogue, share information and take action to advance UN objectives and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The UN-Business Action Hub was developed as a joint effort of the United Nations Global Compact, Global Hand, a Hong-Kong based non-profit specializing in facilitating private sector and NGO connections, and 20 UN entities and aims to foster greater collaboration between the business and UN to advance solutions to global challenges and to support various humanitarian and disaster preparedness and response efforts. The UN-Business Action Hub contains partnership initiatives and commitments from thousands of private sector organizations around the world.

Other United Nations conferences have also promoted the announcements of partnerships and voluntary commitments as complimentary to its political outcomes, including the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, as well as the World Humanitarian Summit and the Global Sustainable Transport Conference, convened by the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

With the agreement of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs in September 2015, UN-DESA, building on the mandate from the Rio+20 Conference (para 283, The Future We Want) and mandates from 2030 Agenda (SDG 17, target 17.16), re-developed the online registry to align all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, now available at https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/partnership. In addition to accessing voluntary commitments and partnerships from a range of sustainable development conferences (WSSD, Rio+20, SIDS Conference, Global Sustainable Transport Conference, and - in 2017 – The Ocean Conference), initiatives are also accessible stemming from a growing number of larger umbrella partnerships and networks such as Every Woman Every Child, Sustainable Energy for All, SDG Philanthropy Platform, SDG Fund, and the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative, each of which has commitments and initiatives attached to its umbrella network on the online platform.