|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
United Nations Cannot Function Properly without Strong Support, Participation
of Private Sector, Secretary-General Tells Regional Business Summit
Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Business Summit in Bali, Indonesia, on 18 November:
It’s a great pleasure for me to address distinguished leaders of business community on this occasion of the ASEAN and East Asian Summit meeting.
I have been making great contributions, as well as participating and being involved in ASEAN community-related issues and I’m particularly delighted to be here today with such a distinguished group of business leaders. Precisely because of your standing and record of success, I would like to ask for your help on an issue that keeps me awake most nights.
As Secretary-General, as you know, I’m dealing with so many issues, starting from peace and security and environmental challenges and human rights issues, including how we can work together with business community leaders. One good lesson which I have learned in the last five years as Secretary-General is that the United Nations cannot properly function without the strong support and participation of business leaders. I know that most of you are more interested in and concerned about the current world economic crisis, and you are more interested in your own business performance.
However, today, I’d like to discuss with you, and I’d like to really ask for your personal leadership involvement on an issue which I regard as most important for our communities. So I hope that you will bear with me if I do not say anything about security or world economic issues. I’m sure that you have already heard from President [Susilo Bambang] Yudhoyono or from the President of the Republic of Korea. You are going to hear from [United States] Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton and many other distinguished leaders who will come and share with you their thoughts about what’s going on in this world in politics and business and development.
But I’d like to take one aspect, one aspect of these development challenges. That is the health of the world’s women and children. So I would like to focus only on this issue. Because it may be new to you, it may be more important for you to make a contribution [to this].
Yesterday, I visited the remote and mountainous region of Kalimantan in Borneo. There’s a health facility that does incredible work — the Menteng Clinic. Sitting with some of the women and girls being treated there, one of them told her story.
Not long ago, women in the area gave birth as best they could. Then the clinic opened. This particular woman went in early and got free care. And when she experienced complications with her pregnancy, a trained midwife was there to help. Without these services, both she and her baby might have died.
It is a story that resonates with me all the time. When I was a young boy growing up in Korea, I often asked my mother, who used to tell me at that time the women were labouring to give birth when they went into a certain room. There was no hospital, not even midwives. They would often look at their shoes, rubber shoes. Then I would ask why they would look at these rubber shoes — because they were so anxious, so worried whether they could give birth safely, whether they would be able to see their shoes again after delivering a baby safely.
That was a story when I was growing up. Even these days, there are many people, many women, who are dying needlessly because of the lack of right cures at the right time. This is the story and issue which I would like to discuss with you and ask for your support on.
That is our challenge: to help make sure the women of our world can give birth without fearing that they will die, that they can get the care they deserve and need. I think you can help.
Earlier this week, in Bangladesh, I saw remarkable progress. Thanks to rural clinics such as I visited in Kalimantan in Borneo, far, far fewer women are dying in childbirth than just a decade ago. Infant mortality has fallen dramatically, as well.
In Thailand yesterday I saw first-hand the benefits of universal health care. Again, women and children are the primary beneficiaries. But what struck me, especially, is how Thailand began this programme long ago, when per capita national income was just $400. They are a middle-income country now. They didn’t begin this universal health care because they were rich. Even though they were very poor, with only $400 per capita income, they started [this]. I had a similar experience earlier this year in Nigeria and Ethiopia. These are quite encouraging and moving stories.
I learned two lessons from this experience. First, I saw for myself how simple solutions can save lives, training midwives in rural areas, for example, or providing such basics as clean water. Second, I saw that countries do not need to wait to become wealthy in order to make huge gains for their people.
Asia has come far in recent years, and part of the reason is that nations in the region have invested in people. When I visited Bangladesh, I was very much encouraged. Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries, a so-called least developed country. But what they were doing was that they were investing in people, investing in education, investing in health-care issues. And that is what I would like us to think about this morning: how we can work together to keep up the momentum, what more we can do together to save the lives of women and children everywhere.
Asia is on the rise. While other regions of the world are beset with economic troubles, you continue to grow and to thrive. This presents a paradox: while Asia gains in power and influence, it has not yet begun to fully take on its proper share of responsibility. Asia has not taken a proper role in the international community for the larger world that we share.
That is the message I will deliver to world leaders at this Summit meeting. And it is the message I offer you. And I think it is only natural that the United Nations Secretary-General delivers this message to all the business leaders because national leaders are much busier, engaged in their national agendas.
Then there needs to be somebody who has to look at broader views, global visions, [for] these health issues — saving lives needs fewer deaths, of many women, millions of women and millions of children. I believe that is one of my very important responsibilities. That is why I am asking you to step up, to recognize your place in this new world and help the United Nations to help those who are less fortunate.
A great place to begin is women and children, as I said, because as I see it, they are the foundation stone of social progress. They represent more than half the world’s population and make up even more of its untapped potential dynamism. I know that Indonesia has the world’s third largest female population, particularly young women. You might even say that they are the world’s next great emerging market.
That is why, last year, we launched an innovative new programme, “Every Woman, Every Child”. Governments, business organizations, civil society organizations, committed more than $40 billion in support immediately. Then why and how could we mobilize $40 billion in just one year in this time of international economic crisis?
I believe it was possible because it is a moral imperative; because the health of women and children matters to all of us, personally and fundamentally; because these are our sons, our daughters, our mothers and our wives, and our grandchildren and our future. They are all ours. It’s not other people. Because they are our people and because they are our future, I believe that we were able, the United Nations was able, to mobilize $40 billion. But we need more.
And when women and children die needlessly from disease, or complications which can be prevented, it is a tragedy. It is a tragedy of the world because these deaths are easily preventable. That is where you come in; that is where businesses and civil society non-governmental organizations are among our very best partners. And I’d like to ask you to lead by example.
And I would like to introduce our distinguished colleague and great business leader, Ray Chambers, who is sitting here and who is travelling [with me] now. You might have heard about him, or some might not have heard about him, but he’s a very famous businessman, very successful businessman, first of all.
But he has turned himself into a very great humanitarian leader and MDG [Millennium Development Goals] advocate. Because of his strong commitment to saving lives from malaria, providing more than 300 million bednets, insecticide-treated bednets, to African children, he was nominated as one of the 100 most influential people of world by Time magazine just a couple of months ago. And he’s my Special Envoy on Malaria and MDG advocate.
I hope each and every one will follow his example. You can do it. That’s why I’m here. I’m not going to talk anything about politics, anything about human rights. You will hear a lot about all of these issues in the coming two days from world leaders.
Governments have to set the stage for effective health care, to be sure. But the private sector and civil society can help deliver it. Businesses around the world are already making a huge difference. Soft-drink manufacturers are helping to distribute clean water. Pharmaceutical companies are reducing the cost of medicines and vaccines, and helping to make sure that health care reaches more people in the poorest communities.
Cellular-phone companies are increasingly helping put women in remote areas in touch with doctors and nurses to get the care they need. Imagine, for example, a nurse in a health centre in the countryside being able to send an ultrasound image from her mobile to a doctor in Jakarta or Bangkok, and get advice back immediately. Then their lives can be saved.
You are familiar with all of these opportunities and advances, I know. You have all heard about the extraordinary successes of organizations like BRAC — the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee — in changing people’s lives with simple solutions, using entrepreneurship and individual enterprise as their model.
This is what I am asking you today during this Summit meeting. The United Nations counts on you as a key partner in building the future we want. I invite you to join that future through our United Nations Global Compact.
Six of ASEAN’s 10 nations have local Global Compact networks. I hope new networks will soon be established, and that many of the companies in this room will be among them, joining the Global Compact. This UN Global Compact spans many United Nations goals — development, human rights, environmental and climate change, and fighting poverty. I urge you to lend your support where you can, consistent with your company’s core businesses and high corporate standards.
I will tell you one story. When I first became Secretary-General, I was briefed about this Global Compact. The Global Compact now has more than 7,000 of the world’s biggest businesses and corporations. I was given a world map with the dots where Global Compact networks had been established. I saw none in my country, Korea. I was elected at that time as Secretary-General and I was being briefed about this Global Compact. South Korea is one of the 15 world’s largest economies. They want to do all that is good, but I did not see any dots on the Korean peninsula. So I asked, what happened to Korea? Korean companies had never joined.
During the last four years, we have more than 200 Global Compact members in Korea. I know that there are many Korean business leaders present in this meeting. I hope you will go back and discuss with your leaders and try to join this Global Compact, and it will be the same with many of the business leaders present in this hall.
But please remember: the health of women and children is at the core of everything, from the productivity of your own workforce to the well-being of the planet. When mothers are healthy, children are healthy. When children and mothers are healthy, then communities and nations cannot but be healthy. The whole world will be healthy. I really count on the leadership of ASEAN business leaders.
I know most of you are members of ABAC — the Asia Business Advisory Council. Let me again disclose one secret. People often say that success has many fathers. I will try to be one of those fathers.
When I was working as APEC SOM [Senior Officials Meeting], we were discussing how APEC can work together with businesses, how we can get support from the business community. And we decided to establish this council where business leaders would participate. And at that time, even, the APEC Summit meeting invited many business leaders, like the ASEAN Summit is doing now. And we discussed how to name this council. There were many proposals. The most common proposal was ABC — Asia Business Council. People thought that it was too common, too easy; easy to remember, but too common. So I proposed, let us name it ABAC — Asia Business Advisory Council. It was unanimously adopted. So I’m one of the fathers of this ABAC. And I’m very proud.
Now, being with you 16 years after ABAC was created, I really count on the support of business leaders. When we are working together in addressing many different challenges, each and every country has different challenges. This is the time when business leaders, Government leaders and youth should see beyond their national borders. This is the right time that we have to be united with a strong sense of solidarity to address all these challenges, starting from climate change, food crisis, nutrition and energy shortages, and gender empowerment, water scarcity and women’s and children’s health.
Those are all the issues for which we have to work together to make a difference, to make this world better for all, where all the people can live free of want, free of threats, free of insecurity and free of health concerns.
So, ladies and gentlemen, let us work together to make this world better for all.
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