Private sector – important strategic partner for UNDP in promoting MDGs

Aug 12, 2014


“In UNDP and the broader UN system, we are keen to see even greater engagement of the private sector in human and sustainable development.  Indeed it would be hard to drive such development forward without business being on board.” Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator

Private sector plays an important role as an engine of economic growth and job creation in developing countries. It provides goods and services, generates tax revenues to finance essential social and economic infrastructure, develops new and innovative solutions that help tackle development challenges and it is a central actor in addressing climate change. As such, the private sector is an important strategic partner for UNDP in achieving its vision to help countries eradicate poverty and reduce inequalities and exclusion within broader sustainable development.

UNDP has projects related to private sector development or engagement in most of the over 170 countries and territories where we provide assistance. UNDP works with companies from a variety of sectors, for example, water, energy, extractives, food and agriculture, consumer products, healthcare, finance and information technology. Private sector companies have supported UNDP projects directly with US$135 million between 2009 and 2013.

Recognizing the impact that the private sector can have on development, UNDP is committed to working with business towards meeting the MDGs. In the 10 years since UNDP started such collaboration it has made great progress in developing partnerships with business. Business is viewed no longer as a source of funding, but as an equal partner in development.

On-going international flagship initiatives show how the private sector can engage with UNDP, both globally and in specific countries. They also illustrate UNDP’s role in building ‘eco-systems’ of partners to support inclusive business.

UNDP’s collaboration with the private sector can take various forms:

  • Facilitate discussions between public and private sector and the civil society on a specific development theme or industry sector;

  • Find solutions for development challenges through core business activities and initiatives that include low-income groups into value chains as producers, suppliers, employees and consumers;

  • Mobilize private sector financial and in-kind resources for development projects;

  • Leverage innovative technologies and solutions for development;

  • Form broader collective action initiatives on key development issues.

Business Call to Action (BCtA)

The initiative challenges companies to develop inclusive business models that offer a potential for development impact along with commercial success. Some 25 multi- national and national companies have already joined BCtA and launched new initiatives around the globe.

For businesses, BCtA offers an opportunity to showcase results at high-visibility events around the globe, a knowledge-sharing platform and support for business-model development and monitoring.

One of the strengths of BCTA is that as a global multi-stakeholder platform, we are working to sustain the momentum underway and provide visibility for inclusive business models. As a commitment-based membership organization, our member companies are not only encouraged to adhere to principles related to the MDGs, but go one step further by showing proof that the principles have translated into action in the form of concrete initiatives.

As a result of these efforts, evidence is mounting that the private sector is doing its part to improve livelihoods around the world. For example:

  • Panasonic, one of Japan’s largest electronics manufacturers, has identified Africa and Asia as key markets for providing greater access to energy. The company plans to provide 1 million solar lanterns as a clean and safe light source to meet the needs of communities who can benefit from solar lamps and mobile phone chargers.
  • To meet educational challenges in India, DataWind has worked to address the demands of poor communities who face very high illiteracy rates. The company recently rolled out the Aakash tablet, designed to deliver high-quality content at little or no cost. By 2017, DataWind expects to distribute 5 million tablets in India, with more than 80 percent reaching individuals at the base of the economic pyramid (living on less than $8 a day).
  • CEMEX, a Mexico-based global building materials company, is working to ensure that more than 2.5 million people in Latin America have access to safe and affordable housing by 2016. The company is scaling up with expansion of its two signature affordable housing programs — the Assisted Self Construction Program and Patrimonio Hoy — in order to improve access to safe housing for families in Latin America. 

As BCTA continues to support companies in reaching new markets and strengthens the case for more inclusive business models, it’s encouraging that by 2022 member companies have collectively committed to:

  • Secure employment for 1.8 million people in 12 middle- and low-income countries.
  • Provide 102 million people with access to financial services.
  • Improve health care for 12 million people.
  • Provide vocational training and capacity building opportunities to 3 million people.
  • Improve the nutrition of 1.2 million people.
  • Assist 40,000 farmers in improving their agricultural yields.

As the focus shifts to a post-2015 agenda with its forward-looking Sustainable Development Goals, we are fortified by the progress made in supporting innovative solutions to meet the MDG objectives.

In addition to Inclusive Market Development activities on the ground, the Growing Inclusive Markets and Business Call to Action Initiatives, UNDP is working in and with the private sector in the following ways:

  • Global Compact networks bring together companies and local partners to promote corporate social responsibility and provide networking opportunities for business and development actors. UNDP facilitates Global Compact local networks in 52 countries in developing countries and countries with economies in transition. More information on Global Compact

  • The MDG Carbon Facility offers a comprehensive one-stop shop of services for companies, government agencies and non-governmental organizations that wish to develop greenhouse gas emission reduction projects. More information on MDG Carbon Facility

  • The Montreal Protocol Programme assists private enterprises in converting manufacturing lines and equipment servicing to ozone-friendly technologies and substances. In addition, the programme actively pursues economically and technically feasible measures of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Malawi Innovation Challenge Fund is a new and innovative way to support private sector development. It is an US$ 8 million fund supported by UNDP and the UK Department for International Development (DFID). Businesses within the agricultural and manufacturing sectors of Malawi can compete for grant funding for innovative projects that can deliver large social impact and help the country diversify from its narrow band of exports. More information on Malawi Innovation Challenge Fund