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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

UN Headquarters

24 September 2008

Remarks to the Private Sector Forum on the Millennium Development Goals

It is a great pleasure to welcome you to the United Nations for the first United Nations Private Sector Forum on the Millennium Development Goals and food sustainability.

While stepping into this room I felt a little bit embarrassed; I am not invited officially to this luncheon. My challenge is, while we are talking about food sustainability, where is my food?

I am going to have three speeches today during lunchtime, without lunch. I have four dinner invitations, but in the end, no dinner. That is my challenge today.

I hope you will understand when I have to leave for another engagement, but I am very much grateful for your commitment and leadership on this very important subject.

This is also the first time that the United Nations is reaching out to business while national leaders meet for their annual general debate. You are here at a critical time, on the eve of our summit to step up efforts to reach the MDGs by 2015.

Frankly, I am worried that we are going to miss this historic opportunity to reach the Goals. The very grave fact is that many countries are not on track. That is exactly why I decided to convene this high-level meeting on the MDGs, our blueprint for 2015 and the 21st century. That is exactly why yesterday, during my General debate report, that I have proposed another summit-level formal meeting in 2010. We had such a meeting in 2000 and 2005. All the leaders came. They adopted MDG goals, the outcome document, and I think it would be appropriate for us to meet in 2010, just five years before, to see how and where we will be standing at the time, and to recommit the leaders' will and try to mobilize resources. I hope you will all support this. You have a long and powerful reach to all government leaders, so I hope we can get agreement on this matter. I count on President Kagame's leadership, together with many African leaders.

Of course I will be meeting with many government leaders this week. But I also deeply appreciate the opportunity to speak to you, because we need more private sector engagement in this campaign. Governments may hold the primary responsibility for the MDGs, but we all have a common interest in success.

Poverty is something that no one should endure. Markets can flourish only in societies that are healthy. And societies need healthy markets to flourish.

That is why we have to boost our private-public alliance. We need to bring knowledge, resources and innovation together in a way that links sustainability with opportunities for growth. One important lesson, which I can say always with confidence is that in this world not anybody, not any nation, can do [everything] without very strong partnership between governments. We are talking about the United Nations and business communities and private NGOs, civil society, these are three important pillars. Now I am meeting you as one of those three pillars. That is why we have to boost our private/public alliance.

This is critical because we are facing a development emergency. The high cost of food and fuel is causing millions of people to go hungry. Insecurity and even violence could easily follow.

The UN has a Comprehensive Framework for Action (CFA) to respond to the food crisis. This is what this High-Level Task Force has drafted through several meetings. I think all the relevant UN agencies participated, together with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). This can be called a very comprehensive work, done comprehensively. This contains many guidelines and recommendations. This is not an intergovernmental negotiated document; this was agreed among so many UN-related agencies. I hope that leaders will consider this CFA while formulating their national domestic policies.

One of the important messages is that we need to invest more in agriculture, while we address the short term gaps which have been [filled] by WFP, the World Bank, IFAD and FAO. So we need to have a detailed longer term, investing more in agriculture.

I think that now is the time for more intense efforts. The UN Global Compact has already brought together nearly five thousand businesses from over 130 countries. They are advancing responsible business practices and contributing to the Millennium Development Goals.

The UN family is ready to strengthen these ties. Whenever I travel, I have met Global Compact leaders, and if there is no Global Compact, I try to launch a Global Compact during my visit. That has become one of my missions, one of my pleasures.

I am encouraged that we already have a number of UN-business initiatives: the CEO Water Mandate, the Global Alliance for IT and Development and Caring for Climate. I urge you to join them and spread the message.

Today, we are launching a new guide on food sustainability. It is filled with inspiring examples about companies that are making a difference. Like EcoProfit, which is helping to produce high-quality compost that can be used in organic farming.

Or projects to help reduce the pesticides used to fight locusts. And initiatives that use technology, helping rural people transfer funds with text messages, and extending mobile network coverage to protect fishermen from piracy.

You will also hear about new engagement opportunities, including the Business Call to Action.

And you will be focusing on core themes that go straight to the heart of the problem: water, agriculture, financial mechanisms, nutrition, energy, technology and job creation.

I hope you will use this opportunity to share experiences and find common ground to help reach our shared goals.

You already know how to seize opportunities and enter new markets. You launch new products all the time. Now it is time to use that expertise to reach our shared goals.

We have to turn the responsibility of business into the business of responsibility.

I have every confidence that you can make this happen.

You all have fresh perspectives on the problems in our world, and you have already shown dedication and leadership.

The talent and reach in this room is enormous. If you use it to help people who are suffering, we will all live in a more prosperous and stable world.

Thank you very much for you commitment and leadership. Thank you.