Magdy Martínez-Solimán: Remarks at the Business for Social Responsibility Conference 2014 - Transparency and Transformation

Nov 5, 2014

New York

Remarks by Magdy Martínez-Solimán, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support

Business for Social Responsibility Conference 2014: Transparency and Transformation

Shared commitment and collective action in fighting corruption: UNDP perspective on public-private partnerships

This is a call to action, as Angie just said, a call against a cancer, a call for health, and a call for integrity.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen. Good afternoon.

It is a pleasure to be with you today, and to have the opportunity to speak on the strategic role of public-private partnerships in fighting the cancer.

The joint effort of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched in 2012 with the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN) is already one such public private partnership.  

Following the perspectives shared by MACN, I would like to complete the picture by focusing on three lessons that resonate at the “public” side of the partnership. And then, I would like to propose three points for our collective action.

On the lessons:

First and foremost, when we look at development trends over the last decades, it is clearer and clearer that governments alone cannot achieve national development priorities or internationally-agreed development goals like the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) or others. Public-private partnerships (the PPPs) are crucial in efforts to address complex challenges. And I will talk quite a bit about complexity this afternoon.

In the midst of increasing pressures on public budgets, ever-watchful public audiences and congresses and parliaments,  striving to meet increasing demand for more and better public services, the private sector presents models that are tremendously helpful to the public administration, to elected officials, to government. The corporate world brings not only investment, finance and capital but also innovative approaches, normative frameworks and technical expertise, to the fight against corruption; IT experts, insurance, banking, finance experts, costing experts, infrastructure experts, the list goes on and on.

Second, in the fight against corruption, everyone has a stake. Businesses, large and small, require an enabling environment to support growth, jobs, trade, and innovation; Only bad business thrives in an atmosphere of traffic of influence, privileged access to information and bribery. That’s the businesses afraid to compete because they can’t win fair and square against the competition. All other businesses, the medium enterprises, the startups, the big ones, the innovators, those who play by the rules want the State to enforce the rules.      

So the question is are you afraid to compete or are you happy to play the integrity game.

This is the reason why the UN, through the UN Global Compact, engaged businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour rights, environmental sustainability, gender equality and anti-corruption.

Third, corruption is a complex challenge that requires complexity thinking, foresight, collective, integrated action; including global advocacy, national governance reforms, greater civic participation, watchdogs, rule of law, and more importantly, stronger leadership to build transparent coalitions between the public and the private sectors.  

According to the Institute of Business Ethics Media Monitoring Report 2013, bribery and facilitation payments are the most common reported issues among firms in different sectors. The sectors usually reported as the most prone to corruption are those that are critical for achieving sustainable development and democratic governance: extractive industries (70%), defense and security (63%), big pharma (47%) and broadcast/media.  If you work for or with any of these sectors, we need you even more, as advocates, as activists and as practitioners of the integrity agenda.

So, what do we do?

We know that it won’t happen without business. I would like to highlight three possible ways in which it should happen with business:  

First, leadership can instill a culture of integrity, transparency and accountability. But it needs to preach by example. Ethical leaders, both in public and private sectors, are essential in promoting innovation, fair trade and commerce; Integrity and clean hands business practices connected to clean hands government rule.

Second, let us protect the public marketplace, for starters, where the state buys from the private sector. It’s called procurement. Ethical, competitive and transparent procurement is a good way to prove that private corporations compete, and the State buys value for money.

Another good show of visibility is the disclosure of taxes and revenues paid by the private sector to governments. Publish what you pay should be applicable to our work at all levels.

It helps business, and it also helps citizens know what their government has cashed in and hence, what they will do with the public purse.

And Third, noting the model presented by the UNDP-Maritime Anti-Corruption Network partnership, is a good one, let us multiply, let us mushroom partnerships to make the movement stronger. UNDP is committed to this partnership.

Thank you very much.


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