Without the private sector, the Sustainable Development Goals will not be achieved

Statement delivered by Marcos Neto, UN Assistant Secretary General and Director of UNDP's Bureau for Policy and Programme Support at the 2024 Evaluation Session of the Executive Board at UN HQ, New York

June 4, 2024
Marcos Neto - Evaluation
Photo: UNDP


Distinguished Members of the Executive Board and Member States, 

This morning, we heard a lot of you, Member States, talking about the need for better and closer work with the private sector with UNDP. This evaluation comes at a great moment because of this demand that you are asking for as well as the business review model that is going on and the experience that the organization has. 

UNDP has been working on issues of private sector and development since 1980s. It is not something new for the institution. We do have a Private Sector Development and Partnership Strategy introduced in 2018 and updated last year to enhance impact and improve service offers. 

The reason that we created a strategy is because is that there is no way that we are going to achieve the SDGs, or the Paris Agreement, or the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework without the private sector. 

We need the private sector in all of its forms, otherwise will be very difficult to achieve the SDGs. 

Today, UNDP assists numerous companies and investors in embedding the SDGs into their practices. Because that is also important that the private contributions come from a financial point of view, from a technological point of view and from the way they do business. Perhaps this is the number one way that the private sector will eventually contribute to development by how they pursue their own objectives. 

Using UNDP’s unique Impact Measurement and Management methodologies and the UNDP SDG Impact Standards, we support over 150 companies, funds, and investors directly, and many more indirectly, in maximizing net-positive impacts on the SDGs. Over 30,000 people have enrolled in our open-access IMM for SDGs course and nearly one in five investors already use the SDG Impact Standards for their impact strategy. Our recent partnership with the International Organization for Standardization has produced the PAS 53002 Guidelines for Contributing to the SDGs, which now awaits launch.  

Our private sector strategy aligns completely with our Strategic Plan 2022-2025 and supports the moonshot of unlocking US$1 trillion in investment towards the SDGs, but also to directly support to two additional UNDP Strategic Plan moonshots to help 100 million people escape multidimensional poverty and 500 million people in accessing clean energy. 

The evaluation underscores UNDP’s ability and commitment to address global challenges through partnerships with businesses around the globe. The evaluation also acknowledges UNDP’s unique value proposition, based on the breadth of our mandate and expertise. It registers successful results in areas such as sustainable finance, business and human rights, digitalisation and promotion of greener practices, which we will continue to target. Particularly, we will prioritize digitalisation, green economy and women-led enterprises, where UNDP can significantly foster positive impact. 

 The evaluation also identifies challenges and UNDP is already addressing them.

UNDP welcomes and accepts all six recommendations in the evaluation.  

Our management response prioritizes actions aimed at achieving greater policy coherence and effectiveness. It also considers previous recommendations while this is the first evaluation focusing solely on our work on private sector, and over thirty key actions from eight global thematic evaluations that in the past four years encompassed UNDP’s engagement with the private sector. 

Consequently, UNDP’s management response is based on an approach based on four intervention axes. 

Firstly, UNDP will refine the theory of change of our Private Sector Development and Partnership Strategy. This will be carried out through global consultations that leverage ongoing discussions across all thematic service offers. This responds to the first recommendation, on better leveraging our service offers to promote integrated and coherent support for private sector development and structural transformation. 

Secondly, UNDP will strengthen and promote offers that align with recommendations 2 and 5.  

For recommendation 2, which aims to enhance integration of market-based approaches and promote supply and value chains across projects, we will focus on Value Chains offer. While for recommendation 5, that suggests building thorough understanding of investors decision-making to better support companies in developing countries, UNDP will improve its service offer on Unlocking Private Finance and Aligning Business Operations for the SDGs in collaboration with at least two development finance institutions or investors. 

Thirdly, UNDP will bolster institutional capacity by refining internal guidelines and expanding training.  

Recommendation 3 suggests that Country Offices should strengthen private sector support by focusing on key sectors for poverty reduction and greener economy. UNDP will collaborate with governments in 40 countries to roll-out a package of analytical tools like the SDG Push scenario and SDG Investor Maps. While in response to recommendation 4, that asks UNDP to strengthen engagement with larger companies and private sector networks, UNDP will consult with key stakeholders to develop and disseminate new guidance on improving engagement with this group.   

Lastly, UNDP will continue to foster a conducive organizational culture, building on ongoing efforts to identify bottlenecks and enhance our internal policy framework, with clearer guidance on policies and procedures for private sector engagement. This applies to Recommendation 6, on concluding changes in our policies and regulations on private sector engagement. 

Across these four axes in the management response lies a commitment to offer support to colleagues and partners at the regional and country levels and also to bolster advocacy efforts and partnerships with donors, IFIs and other UN agencies, as advised by the evaluation.  

Moving ahead, UNDP will continue providing unique value to supporting private sector development and structural transformation, as acknowledged in the evaluation.  

UNDP is committed to implementing the evaluation’s recommendations.  

Thank you.