Enabling cross-sectoral cooperation

Moving from narrow sectoral approaches to cross-sectoral cooperation
Coordination between non-governmental and governmental institutions is essential for preventing duplication of action and integrating efforts. Coordination methods may include inviting specialized personnel from ministries, universities and other public and education agencies to take part in technical meetings and seminars organized by NGOs, and vice versa, to exchange views and expertise on plans, programmes and projects on established areas of commonality or building new common ground.
The nature of partnership and the balance between the three sectors varies widely according to context and objectives. Some forms of partnership are more suited to particular objectives, income groups or contexts, but all are unique. There are no 'magic formulas' which enable successful public/private partnerships to be replicated or scaled-up.

This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities.

Agenda 21 recommends promoting close collaboration between governmental and local authorities, local communities and non-governmental organizations and private business. It also recommends that governments, where appropriate in cooperation with international organizations, should strengthen national institutional capability and capacity to integrate social, economic, developmental and environmental issues at all levels of development decision-making and implementation. At the global, region and sub-regional levels, Agenda 21 also stresses the need for cooperation between regional and subregional organizations (such as regional commissions, development banks and economic cooperation organizations) and organizations of the UN system. Attention should be given to moving away from narrow sectoral approaches, progressing towards full cross-sectoral coordination and cooperation.

Cooperation between governments and NGOs is more robust in countries with mature democratic systems and long-standing traditions of constructive NGO-government dialogue. In the Netherlands, for example, NGOs have well-worn channels for speaking with government representatives and for injecting their criticisms and proposals into national deliberations. NGOs gain numbers and strength and the government gains international prestige -- not to mention the Dutch people, who are better governed than they would otherwise be.
Both governments and intergovernmental institutions such as the UN system can magnify their efforts if they make NGOs real partners in the analysis, evaluation and implementation of sustainable development strategies. For one thing, NGOs can often transcend historic political divisions that governments find insurmountable, such as bridging the gap between North and South. For another, NGOs can explore cross-sectoral issues in ways that governments -- for reasons of protocol, self-interest or information overload -- cannot. Finally, NGOs are challenging the conventional wisdom on economics, financing and technology cooperation. It is in governments' self-interest to work with them, rather than at cross-purposes. Chapter 27 of Agenda 21 states that governments should "explicitly invite NGOs to take part in the formulation of policies and in the implementation of development programmes". Since governments are not all equally committed to Agenda 21, NGOs can help ignite societies' -- and thereby governments' -- enthusiasm for this task.
Type Classification:
C: Cross-sectoral strategies