July 29, 2022
Director of Partnerships and Global Engagement, National Security Council, The White House
Climate change, a growing food crisis, inflationary pressures, an ongoing pandemic, and other global conflicts and disasters continue to challenge leaders around the world. Strategic collaboration between the government and the private sector can help meet these humanitarian challenges head-on.
As part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s 11th Annual Building Resilience Through Private-Public Partnerships Conference, a panel of experts discussed how private-public partnerships can help to mitigate and positively impact emerging humanitarian needs.
Using History, Experience, and Networks to Handle New Humanitarian Crises
Mark Simakovsky, the Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for Europe and Eurasia (E&E) at USAID, has years of experience with global conflict, from the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008 to the first Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014. Based on these experiences, Simakovsky presented lessons learned recently on how public-private partnerships can help alleviate humanitarian crises and global challenges.
“A few lessons learned that we've seen from USAID for Ukraine, in particular, is humanitarian crises don't just happen in areas that are underdeveloped,” said Simakovsky. “As a result of [the war] occurring in a modern country like Ukraine, there are corporations and private sector engagement and people that are operating in Ukraine on a daily basis. USAID [has been] able to engage with the private sector to see what it can do inside the country.”
International Public-Private Partnerships Foster Innovation
Planning across private-public partnerships not only alleviates challenges but fosters innovation and creative problem solving for supply chains. Jarrod Goentzel, the Director of the MIT Humanitarian Response Lab, highlighted the importance of planning together with the private sector to achieve better results.
“I think a little bit of that preparedness work ahead of time — learning from what the experiences we have internationally — to think about scenarios where we might need to be thinking more directly about engaging the private sector in that planning and in that contingency work,” explained Goentzel.
Empowering Local Markets to Solve Regional Needs
Developing strong public-private partnerships also enables agencies to leverage the local markets as effectively as possible, opening up the infrastructure for products local markets can't provide. David Burke, Chief Programs Officer at Team Rubicon, explained the symbiotic relationship in further detail during the panel.
“Our private sector partners can move goods that are truly needed and truly valuable for those crises, and the infrastructure's not so clogged that you can't move anything.” Burke continued, “So if cash can do as much of the lifting as possible, then the infrastructure remains open to support — [and] more accurate needs come out of those initial assessments.”
Transparent Communication Remains Key For Public-Private Partnerships
Sadie Bynum, Global Emergency Response Manager for Airbnb.org, shared how the company leveraged its resources to offer relief to Ukrainian refugees. At the end of the panel, she left the audience with actionable advice on establishing private-public partnerships.
“The other thing is to be really clear about what you can do,” said Bynum. “Know whatever your organization's superpower or the resource that you have [is], and be able to offer that clearly and let people know how they can get to it.”