The UN Agenda 2030 highlights the crucial role of partnerships in global governance for the achievement of seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Partnerships, it is argued, could potentially solve implementation gaps and address democratic deficits in sustainability governance, particularly by including various stakeholders. We know from previous research that successful and legitimate partnerships depend on a set of factors, such as accountability, transparency, and representative models of inclusion of major stakeholders. But what type of partnerships have been developed and implemented in the context of the SDGs? Can they be regarded as effective and legitimate? How can we explain the legitimacy, or the lack thereof, in these partnerships? We address these questions by using a unique and novel dataset on partnerships related to three specific SDGs: Goal 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), Goal 11 (Sustainable Cities) and Goal 13 (Climate Action). More specifically, drawing on the previous literature on the importance of institutionalization, inclusion and transparency/accountability, we systematically analyze and compare over 1000 multi-stakeholder partnerships and their specific characteristics. The preliminary results of the paper have important implications for if the new generation of SGDs partnerships can fulfil their promise to be transformative, effective and inclusive in implementing Agenda 2030.

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Background readings on partnerships in global sustainability governance

Mert, A. and P. Pattberg. 2018. How Do Climate Change and Energy-related Partnerships Impact Innovation and Technology Transfer? Some Lessons for the Implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In The Cambridge Handbook of Public-Private Partnerships, Intellectual Property Governance and Sustainable Development, edited by Chon, M., Roffe, P., and Abdel-Latif, A. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bäckstrand, K. and Kuyper, J.W., 2017. The democratic legitimacy of orchestration: the UNFCCC, non-state actors, and transnational climate governance. Environmental Politics, 26 (4), 764- 788.

Bäckstrand, K., Kuyper, J. W., Linnér, B., & Lövbrand, E. 2017. Non-state actors in global climate governance: from Copenhagen to Paris and beyond. Environmental Politics, 26(4), 561-579.

Mert, A. 2015. Environmental Governance through Partnerships: A Discourse Theoretical Study. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Mert, A. 2015. Institutions in global environmental politics: Public-private partnerships. In Edward Elgar Encyclopaedia of Global Environmental Politics and Governance, edited by Zelli, F. and Pattberg, P. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Mert, A. and Pattberg, P. 2015. Public-private partnerships and the governance of ecosystem services. In Ecosystem Services: From Concept to Practice, edited by Bouma, J. A. and van Beukering, P. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bäckstrand, K. and Kylsäter, M. 2014. Old Wine in New Bottles? The Legitimation and Delegitimation of UN Public–Private Partnerships for Sustainable Development from the Johannesburg Summit to the Rio+20 Summit. Globalizations, 11(3), 331–347.

Bäckstrand, K., Campe, S. Chan, S., Mert, A. and Schäferhof, M. 2012. Transnational Public-Private Partnerships. In Global environmental governance reconsidered, edited by Biermann, F. and Pattberg, P. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Mert, A. and Chan, S. 2012. The Politics of Partnerships for Sustainable Development. In Public–Private Partnerships for Sustainable Development: Emergence, Influence and Legitimacy, edited by Pattberg, P, and Biermann, F. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Pattberg, P., Chan, S, Mert, A. and Biermann, F. 2012. Public-Private Partnerships for Sustainable Development: Emergence, Influence and Legitimacy. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Bäckstrand, K. 2010. From Rethoric to Practice: The Legitimacy of Global Public-Private Partnerships for Sustainable Development. In Democracy and Public-Private Partnerships in Global Governance, edited by Bexell, M. and Mörth, U. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Mert, A. 2009. Partnerships for Sustainable Development as Discursive Practice: Shifts in Discourses of Environment and Democracy. Forest Policy and Economics, 11 (5-6), 326–339.

Bäckstrand, K. 2008. Accountability of Networked Climate Governance: The Rise of Transnational Climate Partnerships. Global Environmental Politics, 8(3), 74–102.

Bäckstrand, K. 2006. Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships for Sustainable Development: Rethinking Legitimacy, Accountability and Effectiveness. European Environment, 16, 290–306.