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Network to be Launched to Promote NGO-Private Sector Partnerships

February 17, 2005 | Harold Doan and Associates, CA

GN3 Editorial Comment: The failure of, and in many instances disillusionment with state-centered approaches to poverty eradication and other development challenges has prompted a number of innovations including some promising partnership approaches amongst civil society, business and government. Although the danger of cooptation is always present, civil society organizations will have to discern intentions, commitment and performance of potential partners. In the article below, operating under a framework of so-called social responsibility, new partnership approaches are emerging in the Asia-Pacific region to try to harness the different strengths and capacities of both civil society and business in addressing critical issues like poverty eradication. With transnational corporate partners like GlaxoSmithKline, it remains to be seen how these partnerships will develop.

BANGKOK, THAILAND - A Network backed by the ADB to bring together nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and the private sector from across Asia and the Pacific will be formally launched today to promote sustainable development, combat poverty, and improve the quality of life in the region.

The Network - NGO and Private Sector Cooperation for Sustainable Development - will provide a new Internet-based mechanism for corporate and NGO groups from the region to share experiences and case studies, identify potential partners, and undertake multi-stakeholder initiatives with social and environment benefits.

Utilizing Internet technology such as web sites, email, virtual meetings, and web conferencing, the Network will help private companies and NGOs improve their communications, develop mutual understanding, and form innovative partnerships.

"Increasingly, businesses and NGOs in the Asia-Pacific region recognize that by working together they can capitalize on each other's strengths and nurture synergies for public good," says Bart W. Edes, Head of ADB's NGO Center. "They are forging partnerships to provide disaster relief, protect the environment, address health needs, promote education, and assist marginalized and disadvantaged communities."

Mr. Edes says corporations and NGOs can benefit from the Network and these partnerships.

By working with local charities, community-based organizations, and other NGOs, businesses can more effectively implement corporate social responsibility programs. Moreover, alliances with NGOs enable companies to benefit from their partners' access to local networks and their understanding of community needs, public trust, and hands-on experience with grassroots communities.

At the same time, NGOs often find it difficult to plan for long-term objectives as their traditional sources of revenue typically provide only temporary funding. Through partnerships with the private sector, NGOs can improve the development impact of their programming, while building their organizational capacity - in terms of entrepreneurial and financial management, marketing strategies, and sustainable funding.

The Network arises from a three-day workshop held in March 2004 in Pattaya, Thailand, organized by ADB and GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals (GSK Bio) on Building NGO-Private Sector Partnerships against Poverty, and hosted by the nonprofit Population and Community Development Association, which has operated restaurants and other businesses to fund AIDS-prevention and other social programs.

Representatives of NGOs, corporate foundations, and businesses from several Asian countries participated in the workshop. The workshop's results, including case studies shared by participants, have been synthesized in a practical "how to" guide: NGO-Private Sector Partnerships Against Poverty: Lessons Learned from Asia.

ADB and GSK Bio will maintain their support for NGO-private sector partnerships by serving as ad hoc members of the Advisory Committee established to advise the Secretariat set up to coordinate the Network's activities. In addition, GSK Bio provided seed capital to fund the Secretariat, which will be housed at the Kenan Institute Asia (KIAsia) in Bangkok. The Secretariat will serve as a clearinghouse of information, enlisting participants, guiding initiatives, and providing regular updates on partnership development.

Aside from developing momentum across the region, the Network will also encourage in-country workshops on NGO-private sector cooperation, provide practical opportunities for collaboration, including project placement and project solicitation, and conduct bi-annual virtual meetings to discuss results and plan future activities.

Dr. Paiboon Wattanasiritham, Chairperson of the Community Organizations Development Institute (Thailand), and member of Thailand's National Economic and Social Advisory Council, will give remarks at today's official launch ceremony, together with representatives of ADB, GSK Bio, and KIAsia.

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