|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Deputy Secretary-General Challenges African Investment Forum to Incorporate
Sustainability into Performance, in Line with Global Compact Principles
Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks to the African Investment Forum, in Kampala on 25 July:
It is a pleasure to join you.
We are here together today because more and more people are coming to understand the remarkable extent of investment opportunities in Africa. Like you, I want to do my part to harness the continent’s human and material wealth and usher in an era of lasting prosperity for all Africans.
We at the United Nations believe that the Global Compact — the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative — can make a vital contribution to that effort. For 10 years, the Compact has been working to convince businesses to embrace and implement 10 universal principles covering human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption. Today, the tide is turning dramatically in favour of sustainable, responsible business practices.
The global financial crisis has highlighted the importance of long-term value creation instead of the current over-emphasis on short-term profits. High-profile scandals have eroded public trust and underscored the role of ethics in markets. And the emergence of potentially grave new threats such as climate change, alongside the persistence of old problems such as extreme poverty, has demonstrated the centrality of non-financial issues — such as environmental and social issues — as part of a company’s risk portfolio.
Clearly, the calculus has changed dramatically — for business and for the United Nations. The United Nations understands that we will not achieve our goals without the engagement of the private sector. And growing numbers of business leaders accept that principles and profits go hand-in-hand. Corporate responsibility is going mainstream.
Last month, at the Global Compact Leaders Summit in New York, we showcased a range of new ideas and material developed by Compact participants in areas such as environmental stewardship, anti-corruption, supply chain management, women’s empowerment and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The MDGs were a special focus as part our preparation for another summit — the September MDG Summit in New York, which aims to adopt a concrete plan of action for accelerating progress over the next five years, as the internationally agreed deadline of 2015 fast approaches.
With that in mind, we have identified 15 promising United Nations initiatives which have great potential to be scaled up, and have asked Compact participants to support them. About 100 commitments were made and are currently being analysed. The Global Compact Summit also adopted a ministerial declaration that signals the great interest of Governments in working more with the private sector to advance United Nations development goals.
That is where the African Private Sector Forum comes in. We are already good partners. Yet there is much more that we can do together. We can identify areas where Africa is especially competitive, and thus where foreign direct investment could make a catalytic difference. We can do more to disseminate information technology, which has played a role in many of today’s African success stories, in particular by empowering women and small businesses.
We can support African entrepreneurship. We can align private sector activities with the MDGs; the Goals should not be seen as mere charity but rather as very promising entry points for public-private partnerships. We can help Governments devise national corporate sustainability policies, improve regulatory frameworks, create enabling transport and energy environments, and fight corruption.
Much is happening already. We have about 15 Global Compact country networks. Many African companies have caught the sustainability wave, though more need to. Many foreign companies are pursuing business development in Africa, in alignment with Compact principles. Stock exchanges in Africa — such as the Johannesburg exchange — have begun incorporating sustainability issues into their performance indices. These are all good signs for the African economies.
I look forward to working with you to advance this agenda. And I look forward to seeing you in New York for the MDG Summit and for the private sector side event we will be holding at that time.
Thank you again for your commitment to African development and to the United Nations.
* *** *For information media • not an official record