Strathmore Extractives Industry Centre in collaboration with the Danish Institute for Human Rights and Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration has been awarded a research grant of Kshs. 158,063,274 or 9.4 million Danish kroner by the Danida Research Council for a major new research project (a 4 year project) exploring the role of responsible business in advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The SDGs assume large-scale private sector support for their realisation. A substantial “funding gap” entails the need for business to contribute to realising the SDGs, for instance, via partnerships with development actors, as well as through private sector finance of new infrastructure.
This research will investigate whether “responsible business” policies are effective in this context. The aim is to improve policy-making and ultimately enhance the realisation of sustainable development, labour and human rights,” says Claire Methven O’ Brien, project coordinator and strategic adviser at the Danish Institute for Human Rights.
Collaboration across three continents
Work will be undertaken in Ghana and Kenya to assess the impacts of three different types of responsible business initiatives on specific dimensions of the SDGs. That is sector-specific responsible value chain initiatives, national action plans on business and human rights and non-judicial grievance mechanisms. Results from the project will inform sustainable development efforts in Ghana and Kenya and in wider development circles. The institute’s partners on the project are the Strathmore Extractives Industry Centre at Strathmore University in Kenya, the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration and the College of Law of the Australian National University.
“This is the kind of research project that Kenya and the broader African region needs in order to inform it’s development priorities – evidence based, relevant and impactful,” says Jonah Mngola, Director at the Strathmore Extractives Industry Centre at Strathmore University in Kenya.
“The project offers immense potential to inform human-rights-centered policy formulation at the governmental level in developing countries. I also envision that the research will contribute to self-regulating measures in the conduct of business so that the much needed private sector participation in development projects do not become inimical to the respect for human rights and the environment among others,” says Alex Ansong, lecturer at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration.
Associate professor Jolyon Ford from the Australian National University notes that despite high-level policy frameworks and statements about engaging business in the development agenda, the role and impact of responsible business conduct in achieving the SDGs remains under-researched.
“While building our partners’ research capacity, this collaboration will produce conceptual clarity to help others properly frame and design meaningful further research, and also help in practice in designing, delivering and evaluating pro-social development contributions by business actors,” says Jolyon Ford.
Controversy over the role of the private sector
“Given the heavy – and controversial – emphasis put on the role of the private sector in achieving the SDGs, the project findings should be of interest not just to Danida but also to peer agencies, civil society – and of course to business,” says Claire Methven O’Brien.
The project, entitled ‘Realising the Sustainable Development Goals: The role of responsible business’, links to Denmark’s development priorities in Ghana and Kenya and supports Denmark’s objectives to increase commercial cooperation and downscale traditional forms of development assistance from 2017.
This project will run from April 2018 to May 2022.