13 December 2017

Liliana Andonova on global public-private partnerships


In Governance Entrepreneurs: International Organizations and the Rise of Global Public-Private Partnerships (Cambridge University Press), Liliana B. Andonova, Professor of International Relations and Political Science at the Graduate Institute, provides the first study that combines a new theory of interactive cycle of institutional change with a comprehensive quantitative and qualitative analysis to shed light on the variable politics and consequences of public-private partnerships in multilateral institutions such as the UN Secretariat, the World Bank, UNEP, WHO and UNICEF. Interview.

Can you share the major findings of your book?

Its main insight is that the multilateral system has changed substantially, especially through its partnerships with non-state actors. Contrary to established theories that look at change in international institutions either as a product of intergovernmental deals or as mission extension and pathologies of international bureaucracies, the book shows that under certain structural pressures, agents within international organisations have formed leadership coalitions with state principals and external actors, to create and subsequently institutionalise new forms of governance, namely public-private partnerships. So, partnerships have transformed in important ways multilateral institutions. What is more, change is partly endogenous to the multilateral system itself. It is hardly the privatisation of global governance.

Does the book have any methodological innovation?

Yes, it has multiple methodological innovations. The literature on global public-private partnerships can have a kind of mischaracterised shape as a debate between partnership enthusiasts, who argue that such partnerships address a whole set of functional failures of the multilateral system by bringing in new resources and a new kind of expertise, and partnership sceptics, who see in public-private partnerships essentially a way for private and transnational actors to gain more power in the sphere that should be rightly preserved for the public sector. Evidence on that debate has been very limited to major cases or instances of public-private collaborations. One of the real innovations in this book is that for the first time systematic data are provided across five multilateral institutions on their partnership portfolios, what kind of actors collaborate in those partnerships, what kind of actors lead them, and lastly what kind of actors finance them. To do so, the book uses a new dataset on public-private partnerships that covers the World Bank, UNEP, WHO, UNICEF and the UN Secretariat. Besides, the data is fairly disaggregated to allow us to examine what kinds of instruments, actors and outcomes are related to the partnerships. By the same token, the book uses mixed methods in the sense that it also relies on extensive interviewing and archival research through which I was able to document the full cycle of institutional change.

Will you further investigate global public-private partnerships?

This is a very important question, thank you! Some of these partnerships are successful and some not; they also exist in many different structures For instance, the Global Fund and GAVI have huge partnerships with billions of dollars of funding. Others are relatively small or localised, such as UNDP’s small grants programmes, partnerships for clean energy or UNEP’s partnerships on chemical safety. Yet they all contribute to major elements of global governance. Other partnerships, still, may have relatively limited activity on record. To understand the full scope of public-private partnerships, one should consider them not only theoretically, from the point view of IR theory and institutional change, but also from the policy perspective. Therefore, the first step that I wish to pursue is to make the data available for policymakers and to make the book’s insight useful for advancing issues related to the broader sustainable development agenda such as health, children, women, environment, energy, climate and human rights.

The second step is to interrogate the extent to which these partnerships have been effective in facilitating collective action and providing some public goods globally and as well as locally – how they have influenced affected communities. A third step is to look at the effectiveness of public-private partnerships in addressing global challenges.

Full citation of the book: Andonova, Liliana B. Governance Entrepreneurs: International Organizations and the Rise of Global Public-Private Partnerships. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017. www.cambridge.org/9781107165663.


Interview by Bu─čra Güngör, PhD Candidate in International Relations and Political Science