Helen Clark: Speech at the UN Private Sector Forum

Sep 26, 2015

I am pleased to participate in this year’s U.N. Private Sector Forum with its focus on how business can contribute to implementation of the SDGs.

The new development agenda – Agenda 2030 – is the result of extensive consultations around the world and of Member State discussions and negotiations. The SDGs set global development priorities for a generation, and without doubt our world will be more peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable if the Goals are achieved.

Eradicating poverty is identified as the most urgent task in the new agenda, which also is ambitious on tackling inequality and discrimination in all forms, pursuing education and healthy lives for all, and achieving environmental sustainability.

The new agenda also includes a goal on peaceful and inclusive societies, characterized by effective and inclusive institutions, the rule of law, and access to justice for all. Such societies are more likely to attract quality investment, and to generate sustainable growth and jobs. Contributing to creating the enabling environment for that is part of UNDP’s mandate.

All UN Member States have signed up to the SDGs. But because of the scope and ambition of the new goals, governments acting alone cannot achieve them. How business does business, and where it does business, will have a significant impact on whether the SDGs are achieved. Through commitment to inclusive business models and eco-sensitive ways of operating, the impact will be very positive. Take, for example, the palm oil procuring sector, the vast bulk of which has signed up to deforestation-free supply chains. Their actions stand to make a huge contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and to maintaining the world’s tropical forests which are the lungs of our planet.

In the UN development system, we have many positive experiences of working with the private sector. For example,

•UNDP hosts the secretariat for the SDG Business Call to Action (BCtA), which challenges companies to develop inclusive business models which are both profitable and contribute to development outcomes. More than 110 companies are engaged. Initiatives from the companies to date include pledges to provide access to financial services for more than 59 million people, promote improved health outcomes for 63 million people, and enhance access to energy for 90 million low-income households. Entry to value chains for micro business and SMEs is also a major contribution to development.

•In Iraq and Somalia, businesses and UN agencies are partnering to provide opportunities to young people considered at risk of being recruited by criminal or extremist groups.

•In countries affected by the Ebola crisis, public and private sector organizations worked together when the UN needed to develop a fast and secure way to pay Ebola response workers. This was critical for bringing the Ebola epidemic under control.

•Partnerships with the banking sector have helped the UN provide assistance to Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. In the search for sustainable responses to the protracted crisis in Syria, private sector engagement will be very valuable. Private sector participation in the Resilience Development Forum in Jordan in November is welcomed, where the focus will be on development support for Syrians displaced by the crisis and for the countries and communities hosting them.

Overall, in the UN system, we see countless opportunities for business to contribute to implementation of the SDGs through commitment to seeking shared value and through commitments to environmentally sustainable ways of operating. We look forward to hearing today’s announcements from companies on the actions they will take which will support implementation of the 2030 agenda.

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