This briefing offers a simple introduction to the issue of public-private partnerships through a gender lens, outlining why strong public services are essential for achieving gender equality, how the rise of public-private partnerships risks undermining this, and offering policy recommendations that seek to meet the needs of women around the world.
The use of public-private partnerships (PPPs) and other private financing modalities have been on the rise since their introduction more than twenty years ago. PPPs are regularly used across the world to finance the costs of delivering essential, public services and building largescale infrastructure.
With international financial institutions (IFIs) such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) setting out privatisation as both necessary and desirable in order to involve the private sector and generate the capital needed to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) , the governments of countries in both the Global North and Global South have largely accepted this reality as either donors or recipients of overseas aid.
However, the evidence available demonstrates that when governments opt for private investment for the construction and service delivery of public services such as healthcare and education, access to essential services by the poorest and most vulnerable is restricted and inequalities tend to increase.
Overall, PPPs are antithetical to achieving gender equality, and their pursuit of maximising commercial profit detracts from the wider goals of reducing poverty and improving access to quality healthcare and education for women and girls.
Globally, we need a shift towards the promotion of high-quality, publicly-funded public services which work in the interests of people, not company shareholders. Governments and IFIs need to stop the ideological promotion of PPPs, and instead ensure gender-responsive and accessible public services to achieve gender equality and relieve women and girls of the burden and drudgery of unpaid care work.