What is it about?

Government policies supporting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and sustainability criteria, as well as commercial goals, do not prevent friction, lack of mutual understanding and cultural clashes with the private sector. This is a fundamental relational issue that deserves more scholarly attention. Our starting point is that public–private partnerships that are necessary to reach the targets of the UN’s 2030 Agenda pose a test for ministries of foreign affairs (MFAs).

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Why is it important?

We argue that this is a considerable and relatively neglected concern, and is potentially obstructing the achievement of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda. SDG partnerships differ from early 21st-century public–private partnerships (PPPs) in the field of development cooperation.


We have learned a lot on the interface of four professional environments: diplomacy, business, academia and the world of think tanks. Apart from analysing various literatures, we have benefited from varied data collection with input from policy makers, diplomats, business representatives and consulted experts across cultures.

Jan Melissen
Leiden University and University of Antwerp

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This page is a summary of: SDGs, Foreign Ministries and the Art of Partnering with the Private Sector, Global Policy, April 2018, Wiley, DOI: 10.1111/1758-5899.12563.
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