Helen Clark: Speech at Business Call to Action event

21 Nov 2013

Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator

Address at Business Call to Action event

Tokyo, Japan.

I thank all participants for their attendance at today’s Business Call to Action forum and for their active interest in development.

At UNDP, we greatly value the growing involvement of the Japanese private sector in the unique platform of the Business Call to Action (BCtA).


Over the past decade, UNDP has been steadily increasing its engagement with the private sector. As a vital driver of innovation, investment, and job creation, the private sector is increasingly recognized as an important development partner which can help advance progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and on the post-2015 development agenda which will follow the MDGs.

In the UN’s “MY World” survey in which more than 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.
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. The private sector’s contribution to that is essential.

Our world is at a critical juncture, economically, socially and environmentally. On the one hand, we see more prosperity than ever before in world history. Globally poverty has reduced significantly, driven by progress in the large emerging economies.   

Yet at the same time, the world faces a range of challenges, including:

- persistently high levels of inequality in many places, between rich and poor and on other dimensions. Unemployment, especially among young people, is a serious structural problem in many countries.

- the need to step up the supply of food, energy, and water to meet the needs of a global population of some 9.4 billion people by 2050, at a time when environmental degradation and the pressing need to tackle climate change makes this especially challenging.

-    Many of the world’s ecosystems are in serious decline, affecting most of all the poorest people who depend on the natural environment for their sustenance.

In seeking solutions to these challenges, the innovation, technical expertise, and investment of the private sector is greatly needed in the reinvigorated global partnerships we must build for sustainable development.
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UNDP is proud to host the Secretariat for the Business Call to Action because it represents precisely such a partnership. This global platform encourages companies to commit to innovative business solutions which are good for both their bottom line and for development.

Since its establishment in 2008, the BCtA and its partners have come to appreciate that individual companies wanting to pursue inclusive business models face a number of common challenges in developing countries, including difficulties in sourcing from low-income suppliers with no credit history and in training local workforces. Yet a problem shared is a problem at least half way to being solved. The BCtA can facilitate the exchange of experiences around what works to bring small suppliers into value chains, boost the skills of local workforces  and address other constraints.

To date, 82 companies around the world, including six from Japan, in a wide range of sectors, have made commitments to building inclusive business models. Delivering on these commitments will boost the prospects of very significant numbers of people, and hopefully will also inspire action by other companies. A number of developed countries, including Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and The Netherlands, together with the UN Global Compact and other organisations, are supporting and working closely with UNDP to scale up the BCtA.

UNDP and the governments & organizations supporting the initiative are pleased to welcome today the Japanese companies which have recently  joined: ITOCHU Corporation, kurkku, Unicharm Corporation, Ryohin Keikaku, and Ajinomoto.

As many of you have heard at the BCtA Forum this afternoon, these companies are taking important steps in support of sustainable agriculture, job creation through the local manufacture of essential commodities like malaria nets and hygiene products, the empowerment of women, the capacity development of local artisans, and the improvement of  nutrition. We hope that as the news spreads about these kinds of commitments, other Japanese companies will be inspired to join the BCtA too.

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. The way in which business operates has a huge impact on all aspects of sustainable development. It will be important in the design and implementation of the post-2015 development agenda and sustainable development goals that the role of the private sector is appropriately reflected and encouraged.

UNDP’s new Strategic Plan supports our desire to step up engagement with the private sector in the search for innovative solutions which advance human and sustainable development. We look forward to partnering closely with more Japanese companies to promote sustainable and inclusive business models which will help achieve global development goals - and in so doing be positive for businesses and their shareholders too.