THROUGH GLOBAL COMPACT, BUSINESS CAN JOIN WITH OTHERS TO FIND SOLUTION TO POVERTY,
SOCIAL INJUSTICE, SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS CEREMONY LAUNCHING COMPACT IN EGYPT
Following is the message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the ceremony launching the Global Compact in Egypt, delivered by S. Iqbal Riza, Chef de Cabinet, Executive Office of the Secretary-General, in Cairo today:
I send my greetings to all who have gathered in Cairo for the launch of the Global Compact in Egypt.
At the 1999 World Economic Forum in Davos, I called on business leaders from all over the world to form a compact of shared values -- a Global Compact that would give a human face to the global market.
In the years since then, the Global Compact has emerged as the only truly global corporate citizenship initiative. It advances the role of business as a partner for development, especially in efforts to reduce poverty here in the developing world.
Today, with its launch in Egypt, the Compact takes its first step into the Arab world. I thank the corporate leaders who have gathered today for their commitment to the principles of the Compact. I hope this important day will soon be followed by similar initiatives throughout the region.
As we all know well, the rapid globalization of international markets has brought prosperity and wealth to many. But a huge portion of the world’s population has not yet reaped its benefits. We have a shared duty to do all that we can to shape globalization so that it spreads prosperity far more broadly among the populations of poorer countries.
The Compact is an important part of these efforts. It is not an indictment of the business world. On the contrary, it is based on the idea that business, as a major and powerful component of every society, has a vital role, and a clear responsibility, to help address the world’s most pressing problems. Through the Compact, business can join hands with other sectors to find solutions to the poverty and social injustice that still blight our world.
Although it is still young, the Compact has had notable successes. More than 1,200 companies in about 70 countries have joined the initiative by embracing nine principles related to human rights, labour and the environment. Many Global 500 companies are counted among their number.
Regional and national networks have been established in more than 50 countries, which have helped to rally leaders around the concept of good corporate citizenship. The Compact’s frequent Policy Dialogues on issues such as HIV/AIDS, the fight against corruption and Supply Chain Management have generated widespread interest in the global business community.
A Compact initiative to help the growth of sustainable businesses in the world’s least developed countries is under way. The Compact has stimulated scores of projects that provide new jobs and new opportunities, and which improve the lives of the poor. Its online databases carry many examples and case studies of corporate leadership of this kind, so that experience can be shared.
The Compact is a voluntary initiative. It relies on the vision and commitment of leaders in the private sector to make its principles an integral part of their day-to-day operations. Its mechanisms are not regulation, sanction or confrontation –- but rather dialogue, learning and projects. Instead of interpreting existing norms and regulatory frameworks, the Global Compact focuses on finding practical solutions.
In the Egyptian business community, we at the United Nations feel we have a partner that is ready to join us in carrying the Global Compact forward. The recognized excellence in leadership, the quality of Egyptian products, and the skill and professionalism of the country’s workforce are widely admired. Many companies from around the world rely on Egyptian suppliers, and many Egyptian corporations are major participants in international business. Your entrepreneurial spirit, willingness to take risks and commitment to good corporate citizenship can help lay the foundation for tomorrow’s development and guarantee the future of your children. And your example can be a model for business throughout the Arab world.
I therefore encourage Egyptian and other Arab business leaders to seize the opportunity provided by today’s launch. In doing so, I appeal not only to your sense of responsibility, but also to your business acumen, since the Global Compact is a valuable tool for business leaders to build bridges at home and abroad. Aligning your business operations to universally shared values and principles can strengthen your ties with progressive and responsible counterparts in the global economy as well as with the UN.
Commitment to the Compact will also appeal to customers. If a business can demonstrate a good record of responsible corporate citizenship, it will have a clear advantage in a competitive marketplace. You can also lift the morale of your employees, who are likely to be reassured and motivated to work in a company that is trying to make the world a better place. You know well that retaining and attracting motivated staff can only help the productivity and performance of your companies.
Governments, such as the Egyptian Government, which have a strong history of partnerships with business, are well-placed to play their part in furthering the goals of the Global Compact –- goals which are best pursued when governments pursue policies that are conducive to business growth and strive to improve people’s lives.
So I send the same message to both government and business leaders in Egypt: Your commitment and your leadership will determine whether the Global Compact will succeed in Egypt, and whether it will expand throughout the Arab world. I am confident that the Global Compact will take root and blossom in your country and in the region. If it does, it will be a new and practical source of hope for citizens that the benefits of globalization will reach them too, and that economic progress will truly improve their lives -– and our world.
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