Helen Clark: Speech at Executive Session on UN-Business Partnerships for Transformation Global Compact Leaders’ Summit

Sep 20, 2013

Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
Speech at Executive Session on UN-Business Partnerships for Transformation
Global Compact Leaders’ Summit
United Nations, New York

I am pleased to address this Executive Session on UN-Business Partnerships for Transformation.

The topic of this session shows that the days are long gone when the role of business in development was seen primarily as a matter of philanthropic giving.

As a primary driver of innovation, investment, and job creation, the private sector is now recognized as a critical partner in development with an important role in advancing progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and, eventually, the post-2015 development agenda.

More than ninety per cent of jobs in developing countries are in the private sector. Having decent work and a regular income are very important factors in poverty reduction.  In the UN’s “MY World” survey - where over a million people have now voted on what they consider the most important issues for the post-2015 agenda to be, ‘better job opportunities’ has been ranked third out of sixteen global priorities.

The feedback from the many national and thematic consultations on post-2015 led by the UN development system, and from the consultations conducted through the Global Compact provides insights into the roles business can play in a renewed global development agenda. It is also clear that there is strong interest from business in engaging and collaborating, which is very encouraging.

Over the last decade, the UN system has steadily increased its engagement with the private sector. Most UN organizations are now involved in a range of partnerships.

The UN brings to these partnerships its unmatched convening power, the universal presence of the UN development system, and its depth of knowledge and expertise on development.

In return, business brings its own networks, expertise, capacity for innovation and implementation, and financial and technical resources.

Applying the strengths of both parties in partnerships for development is very powerful. Indeed it would be hard to drive a truly sustainable development agenda without business being on board. The very way in which business is done has huge impact on all aspects of sustainable development.

Judging by the good turnout at this Global Compact Leaders’ summit, many businesses agree that partnerships with the UN have value. Together, we can take these partnerships to new, more transformative levels, based, I suggest, on the following principles:

1.    The UN’s universal values and normative role need to be at the heart of UN-business partnerships and their policy and practice;

2.    Forging a partnership is not an end in itself – the aim is to make something happen which would not otherwise occur. We need to assess additionality to ensure value for effort, and not do partnerships for partnerships sake;

3.    In building transformative partnerships the UN can facilitate public-private platforms and dialogue in-country to advance sustainable development.

4.    It could be helpful to design more concrete partnership models, including governance structures and operational instruments, to reduce transaction costs and enhance the effectiveness of the partnerships.

5.    The UN’s role as a value-based convener of public, private, and civil society actors is precious and needs continuous nurturing.

UNDP has had many positive experiences of engagement with business. Let me specify just three examples:
1)    UNDP’s Green Commodities work helps build “public-private platforms” with the aim of promoting sustainable production, trade, and mutual benefit for suppliers and buyers of major agriculture commodities.

In Indonesia, for example, we are establishing a national platform on sustainable palm oil production in close collaboration with the Government, civil society, national palm oil producers, and major international buyers. Partnerships which address the difficult environmental and social challenges of the sector – including the need to increase smallholders’ income - have been formed.

Similar national platforms for other commodities exist in other countries too: in Costa Rica for the sustainable production and trade of pineapples; in Ethiopia for sustainable coffee production, and in Ghana and the Dominican Republic around sustainable cocoa production.

2)    UNDP’s Africa Facility for Inclusive Markets brings business, governments, regional organizations, and other stakeholders together to promote inclusive market and business approaches, including around specific value chains.

Through this initiative we are supporting Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Tanzania, and Uganda to integrate regional value chains for the production and distribution of commodities such as sorghum, onions, and mangoes. Larger markets and better products have helped raise the incomes of many thousands of smallholder farmers.

3)    The Business Call to Action initiative, for which UNDP hosts the Secretariat, encourages companies to commit to innovative business activities which are good for their bottom line and for development. 82 companies around the world have made commitments under this initiative.

We also support UN-wide partnerships with businesses and other actors which can drive transformational change in key sectors. – The Secretary General’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative is a good example.


More could be done to make UN-business partnerships transformational for development – particularly in the area of achieving shared value.

As we work to accelerate MDG achievement by 2015, and as the post-2015 development agenda is being designed, this is the time to act to bring new thinking to these partnerships. I am sure that your deliberations at this Global Compact Leaders’ Summit will make an important contribution to that.

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