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The Role of Ethics in Public-Private Partnerships – the Post 2015 MDGs Agenda

28th to 29th August 2014, Kampala, Uganda


Delivering a better future for all requires cooperation amongst the public sector, private sector, citizens, consumers, workers, investors and educators. The public sector alone cannot deliver on the development promise, and neither can the private sector. Public-Private Partnerships have thus gained currency in an effort to spur development.

What are Public-Private Partnerships? There is no unanimity on the definition of a Public-Private Partnership. A public partner could include a government agency or official, an Academic research institution, a Non-Governmental Organization, and an international non-governmental organization among others. A private partner could include corporations, trade associations, and other organizations that represent industry interests.[1] According to OECD a public-private partnership is “…a long term agreement between the government and a private partner where the service delivery objectives of the government are aligned with the profit objectives of the private partner.”[2]

PPPs have become a useful tool for delivering public services including infrastructural assets such as roads. They present the public sector with particular challenges that need to be met with prudent institutional answers. If used effectively and efficiently they can deliver value for money. However, they also raise issues of financial sustainability due to their complex nature in terms of risk sharing, costing, contract negotiation, affordability, budget and accounting treatment.[3] Conversely, public-private partnerships must not only be financially sustainable. They also must be sustainable in ethical, social and environmental terms.

With 2015 just around the corner, it becomes pertinent to interrogate the contribution of public-private partnerships in achieving development and their ethical implications. What political decisions need to be made for PPP to work successfully? Are there any objections to public-private partnerships when they are often presented as “win-win-win,” situations for the public sector actor, the private sector actor, and the public? How can the divergent missions of public and private sectors be synergised in public-private partnerships? What are the arising tensions out of these partnerships? Are there any cumulative effects arising out of these partnerships? Are there ethical issues arising from PPPs? What is the role of ethics in PPPs?

Reflecting on these questions is worthwhile in view of the role that PPPs can play in development. It is for this very reason that Strathmore University, in its 11th Annual Ethics Conference, invites among others, the public sector, entrepreneurs, investors, policy makers and scholars to deliberate on matters of ethics in relation to public private partnerships.  

[1] Jonathan H. Marks, “What’s the Big Deal? The Ethics of Public-Private Partnerships Related to Food and Health,” Edmond J. Safra Working Papers, No. 11 (2013), available at, accessed on 31/03/2014.

[2] Ian Hawkeswoth, “From Lessons to Principles for the use of Public-Private Partnerships,” available at, accessd on 31/03/2014.

[3] Ibid.


On behalf of Strathmore University, you are invited to make a presentation at the 11th Annual Ethics Conference to be held on 28th – 29th August 2014 at the Kampala Serena Hotel, in Uganda. The theme for this year’s Conference will be: The Role of Ethics in Public-Private Partnerships – the Post 2015 MDGs Agenda.

Over the years the ethics conference has played a major role in transforming leadership and governance in the East African region. This year, the conference brings together actors from the Public and the Private sector to share experiences and perspectives on ethical issues in Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs). This is critical as we head to 2015 which is the deadline for achieving the MDGs. In that regard, kindly read the Conference’s Concept Note for further guidance on the topic and expected research output and presentation.

The Conference Secretariat welcomes Research Papers, Presentations and Case Studies on the following topics and related areas:

  • Understanding Public-Private Partnerships;
  • Principles in the use of Public-Private Partnerships;
  • Role of PPPs in development;
  • Sustainability of PPPs;
  • Ethics in the public/private interface;
  • Political leadership, Integrity and PPPs;
  • Institutional corruption and systemic effects in Public-Private Partnerships and their ethical implications;
  • Incorporating the public/private sector perspectives into the UN Post-2015 Development Agenda;
  • Role of international organizations;

Key Dates & Deadlines:

7 May 2014: 300-word abstract in electronic form, accompanied by a resume or summarised bio and a recent passport size digital photograph.

24 May 2014: Notification of Acceptance of Abstracts

28 June 2014: Submission of the draft paper

14 July 2014: Notification of peer review comments

16 August 2014: Submission of final paper ready for publication as per conference format guidelines

The proceedings of the Conference will be published.

Please send your abstract in electronic form to:

The Conference Secretariat

Strathmore Law School