Helen Clark: Speech at session on “Strengthening Collaboration for Agenda 2030: the Role of Extractive Industries”

Jan 19, 2017

Extractive industries can contribute to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Credit: UNDP

I thank the World Economic Forum for hosting this important discussion on how extractive industries can contribute to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The volume of metals, minerals, and fossil fuels extracted from the earth has tripled in the last four decades, with resource extraction expected to continue to grow in the foreseeable future. This presents both challenges and opportunities for sustainable development. 

On the one hand, the negative environmental and social impacts of resource extraction can be significant; while on the other hand, if managed responsibly, extractive industries offer significant opportunities for development, including through job creation and tax collection.  It is the potential benefits for development which have led to UNDP’s engagement on extractive industry issues.

Last year, UNDP launched a joint report with the World Economic Forum, the Columbia Centre on Sustainable Investments, and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network on “Mapping Mining to the SDGs: an Atlas”. 

The report is the result of extensive consultations and looks at how mining could contribute to all seventeen SDGs. It gives examples of where mining companies are working to have sustainable development impact, but also emphases that more needs to be done – as only relatively few leading companies are currently pursuing such good practices systematically. 

To support the extractive sectors to work in ways which are positive for sustainable development, a number of things could be done: 

•    Laws, regulations, and policies which govern the extractive industry sector could incorporate or be informed by the SDGs. Strong institutions which promote the rule of law and transparency are essential. UNDP works in these areas of policy and regulatory environments which support sustainable development, and on accountability and transparency; 

•    The “business case” for mining companies to take action on the SDGs needs to be clearly articulated and communicated – a convincing business rationale is a strong incentive for companies to take voluntary action for sustainability. 

For example, ensuring good relationships with communities around mine sites, through ongoing consultations, creation of job opportunities and support for community development, is critical for a favorable operating environment and to avoid potentially costly conflicts. The cost of lost production due to a shutdown of a large mining project caused by conflicts with surrounding communities has been estimated to amount to $20 million per week ; and,

•    Third, extractive industry investments and practices can need to be aligned with national SDG plans. As many countries are now developing these plans, there are good opportunities for the extractives sector to be on board with SDG implementation in-country from the outset. 

Strong and broad based partnerships are critical for achieving the 2030 Agenda. In resource rich developing countries, partnership development and multi-stakeholder policy dialogue will be very important in ensuring that the extractive sectors contribute to sustainable development. 

Building on good collaboration to date on these issues, UNDP and the WEF are launching the second phase of our joint initiative aimed at scaling up the contributions of the extractive sector to the SDGs. 

We look forward to working with governments, industry, civil society, and other actors on this initiative, and trust that today’s discussion will generate practical recommendations for how to move forward.

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