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Role of Private Sector in Sustainable Development Highlighted at IAEA Conference

Panellists at an side event of the 2017 Technical Cooperation Conference - "The Role of the Private Sector: Partnerships for Development". (Photo: J. Howlett/IAEA)

For achieving the United Nations sustainable development goals (SDGs), countries will need to establish close collaboration and strong partnerships between the public and private sectors and seek support from international organisations. Government officials, private sector representatives and IAEA experts shared success stories and discussed how public-private partnership can expand access to the peaceful use of nuclear technology and innovation on the margins of the ongoing International Conference on the Technical Cooperation Programme – Sixty Years and Beyond.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has identified the private sector as a main partner in sustainable development. “The SDGs call for bolder action from diverse sectors of the society - government, international organizations, civil society and the private sector,” said Ana Raffo-Caiado, Director of Programme Support and Coordination at the IAEA. “Businesses play an important role in fostering development, and the IAEA has been very open to working with a broad range of partners to mobilise various resources to support nuclear technology for development.”

Participants in the roundtable discussion, ‘The Role of the Private Sector: Partnership for Development,’ explored how collaboration with private sector partners through the technical cooperation programme and other IAEA initiatives can be expanded to increase access to nuclear science and technology.

Andy Garner, laboratory coordinator at the IAEA, highlighted the Agency’s experience and opportunities working with private sector in the context of the renovation of the IAEA’s research laboratories. “What we need to make clearer is how the private sector can benefit from working with organizations like the IAEA,” he said.

From the private sector

Representatives of businesses, private sector foundations and associations presented concrete examples of their organization’s contribution to advance different areas of sustainable development, from improving access to health care to eradicating poverty. Industry representatives spoke on a variety of issues including how to use technology and innovation to provide lower cost and easily accessible services to developing states and how to create economically sustainable and effective partnerships.

Varian Medical Systems, which provides equipment and training programmes related to cancer care, has had a close working relationship with the IAEA for years. “Through participations at knowledge-sharing events like this, we have gained valuable inputs that helped us become more innovative with our products,” said said Michael Vejda, Managing Director for Austria and Slovenia.. “With this innovation, we are able to enhance the safety of our medical devices and make sure they are as user-friendly as possible.”

Representatives from ThermoFisher Scientific, Siemens, Elekta and the United Nations Federal Credit Union Foundation also made presentations at the side event.

Expanding partnerships

But challenges remain and there are still strong needs to explore new ways for the United Nations and other international agencies to partner with the private sector, and improve methods for financing and investing in priority projects, explained Kari Aina Eik, Secretary-General of the Organization for International Economic Relations, a non-profit, non-governmental global network that represents more than 500 private sector companies. “To expand such partnerships, there will be a need to further develop strategic marketing efforts, clear and easy partnership methods, and set key priorities,” said Eik.