Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, Remarks for the opening panel at the UNGA High-Level Side Event “Collective private sector action for disaster risk reduction, emergency preparedness, response and recovery”

Sep 19, 2017

We see increasing interest from all actors to develop tools for the private sector to engage constructively in supporting communities in complex emergencies and conflict-affected situations. Credit: UNDP.

As prepared for delivery.

I am delighted to be here to discuss the important role of the private sector in disaster risk reduction, emergency preparedness, response and recovery to advance the Sustainable Development Goals. Today’s event is central especially to Goal 17, Partnerships for the Goals. In this regard, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the progress of the Connecting Business initiative—a private sector-led and UN-supported initiative. I would first like to acknowledge the many partners with us today who have been supporting this work and to welcome our new partners, the Directorate-General of European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and the United Nations Global Compact.

Challenges and Opportunities

Currently, 43 percent of people live in fragile situations globally. By 2030 this number is expected to climb to 62 percent.  We are seeing the scale of humanitarian needs fast outpacing the ability of traditional actors to respond. 

There is growing recognition of the private sector as a strategic partner in the implementation of the SDGs, including in disaster and conflict management. The private sector is uniquely well-positioned to deploy a variety of assets, such as its people, systems, technology, logistics, finance.  Furthermore, collaboration between the private sector and governments can contribute to faster and more effective disaster management and resilience of societies when each actor is brought in to build upon their comparative advantages. 

It is important to recognize that the private sector is a diverse group of actors that is not defined only by multinational corporations and industry giants. Micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) account for 60-70 percent of all jobs and are the main income providers for the “base of the pyramid”—those who earn less than US$10 per day.  

Humanitarian and development systems are complex, and as indicated in the World Humanitarian Summit consultations, there had been no clear entry point for the private sector.  The private sector, especially MSMEs are also themselves, vulnerable to hazards, such as earthquakes and floods. 

The Connecting Business initiative 

The Connecting Business initiative (CBi) was launched at the World Humanitarian Summit last year. CBi responds to a demand voiced in consultations with over 900 companies and partners, who made it clear that they want to play a more strategic role in building resilience and contributing as partners to governments and to the UN system.   CBi was created to respond to those needs, which it does in two distinct ways:  

•    First, CBi provides a clear entry point and better capacity for the private sector, of all sizes, to partner. CBi has a structured way of setting up as well as strengthening existing private sector-led networks for collective action, and connecting them through stronger partnerships to national disaster management structures.

In its first year, CBi supported private sector-led networks in 13 locations . Eight of these networks responded to emergencies together with partners, including our network in Madagascar during the response to cyclone Enawo 

Our CBi Member Networks from the Philippines and Fiji, who are with us today, will share concrete examples later. Thank you for joining us. 

•    Second, CBi, via its networks, helps to enhance the resilience of companies, especially MSMEs, by helping them understand their own vulnerabilities to risks and put in place the mitigating actions to ensure that operations continue during and after an emergency. For example, in Turkey, the network offers resources and training for MSMEs to prepare for disasters. Through CBi and its supporter UPS Foundation, this experience is now being replicated in Mexico and other countries.

What next?

We see increasing interest from all actors to develop tools for the private sector to engage constructively in supporting communities in complex emergencies and conflict-affected situations where deep-rooted development challenges coexist. Conflicts drive 80 percent of humanitarian needs . They put huge pressure on the humanitarian and development system. Peace and inclusion, underpinned by strong institutions, are integral to the SDGs. The private sector can be a partner in achieving this. Collective action to systematically identify and manage risks can provide solutions and safeguard the most vulnerable.

We are very grateful for the support from the European Union to take this work forward in collaboration with the UN Global Compact Business for Humanitarian Action and Peace platform and other partners.


Let me conclude by saying that meeting and reducing humanitarian need, and securing the path to development, will require action from us all. UNDP remains committed to working with partners to expand CBi from currently 13 to 40 countries by 2020. I would like to acknowledge the tremendous efforts of our partners from the private sector, governments, the UN Global Compact, UN OCHA and other UN agencies, NGOs and civil society. And for those who are not yet on board, I call on you to join us as partners in this exciting initiative. 

Thank you. 

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