Book 01 September 2005

Business UNusual: Facilitating United Nations Reform Through Partnership

by Jan Martin Witte, Wolfgang Reinicke              
United Nations Global Compact Office

Authored by Jan Martin Witte and Wolfgang Reinicke, and commissioned and published by the United Nations Global Compact Office, Business UNusual: Facilitating United Nations Reform Through Partnerships brings a novel perspective to the United Nations’ current effort to fundamentally reform itself.

Business UNusual explores best practice, conceptual advancements and lessons learned from partnerships between the United Nations, Business and civil society that have emerged during the past decade. A survey of more than 150 Global Compact participants and interviews with leaders and practitioners from business, civil society and the United Nations reveals that the world body has made significant progress in advancing its efforts to reach out to these new partners. Many of these new collaborative alliances have produced significant impact, supporting and complementing the work of the United Nations. In addition, these partnerships have become a catalyst for reform and institutional innovation across the entire United Nations system.

The book features fifteen case studies illustrating pioneering partnerships, including the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, Stop TB, Health in Your Hands, the Global Reporting Initiative, First on the Ground, Financing for Development, the Shea Butter Production Initiative and disaster relief projects that emerged after the devastating tsunami in late 2004.

Some Key Findings from Business UNusual

  • In order to build on recent accomplishments and realize the greatest returns from investments in partnerships, commitments to partnerships need to be matched with adequate resources. Strong partnership management –rooted in clear objectives, systematic evaluation, and impact assessment– and an emphasis on local ownership will significantly contribute to the success and sustainability of partnerships.

  • The organization’s value-based mission, its convening power, and geographical reach provide the United Nations with unique strengths when partnering with non-governmental actors. In order to effect change and improve the living conditions of billions of people in a sustainable manner, partnering with civil society and business is more than just an option. In many way, the ability to partner has become a necessity for the United Nations to "get the job done."

  • Business UNusual finds that in many organizations within the United Nations system, partnership work remains at the institutional fringes, conducted parallel to, yet disconnected from, the core lines of work. While progress has been made, the United Nations still faces the challenge of completing the institutional transformation towards a culture of partnership.

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Reviews

Business UNusual reaches two simple but powerful conclusions. First, partnerships among all stakeholders in society are increasingly a "must" in a world filled with complex global challenges. Second, the United Nations should continue its efforts to engage business and civil society in order to achieve its mission. The report does an excellent job of highlighting the UN’s recent accomplishments, but moves beyond simply taking stock of the issues to outline the key challenges facing the United Nations on its path to reform. It is critical that the UN system, along with governments from around the world, take additional steps to address these challenges.

President William J. Clinton, United Nations Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery


Business UNusual
is an important and timely report, for the United Nations as well as its partners in business and civil society. It provides striking evidence of the innovative capacity of partnerships and the various ways in which they complement the work of the United Nations. This report offers concrete suggestions on how the United Nations and its partners can increase local ownership and produce real impact on the ground. We have reached a critical juncture, and this report contains important pointers on moving forward.

Kemal Dervis, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme


This report covers important topics, including the role the private sector plays within international cooperation and the importance of business partnerships to the UN system. It is essential that we have leaders within the private sector who are champions of bringing a human rights framework beyond the UN and into day-to-day business practices. Yet businesses must find the benefits for themselves, beyond altruism, in doing so. UN-business partnerships are one of the best ways to achieve this outcome, and this report provides thoughtful guidance to making those partnerships work globally.

Mary Robinson, President, Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative; United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002); President of Ireland (1990-1997)

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