Profit Motive Alone Cannot Drive Innovation, Secretary-General Tells General Assembly Dialogue on Technology Facilitation

29 April 2014
SG/SM/15807-GA/11504-PI/2087

Profit Motive Alone Cannot Drive Innovation, Secretary-General Tells General Assembly Dialogue on Technology Facilitation

29 April 2014
Secretary-General
SG/SM/15807
GA/11504
PI/2087
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Profit Motive Alone Cannot Drive Innovation, Secretary-General Tells

 

General Assembly Dialogue on Technology Facilitation

 


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the General Assembly Structured Dialogue on Technology Facilitation, in New York today:


I thank the President of the General Assembly for inviting me to open the first of these dialogues on technology facilitation.


I see three key issues.  First, developing and disseminating clean and environmentally sound technologies are central to the success of the post-2015 development agenda.  All countries will need appropriate technologies and know-how to support inclusive economic growth while moving away from unsustainable consumption and production.


Second, the scale of efforts is yet to match the scale of the challenge.  Multilateral and bilateral cooperation and technology transfer is happening, and United Nations agencies are involved on many levels.  But we need to do much more to foster the development, diffusion and transfer of the technologies needed to address our most pressing development challenges — from eradicating extreme poverty and inequality to improving health, from eliminating hunger to mitigating climate change and promoting resilience.


Third, technology cooperation is a long-term endeavour.  Whatever we agree in these four dialogues should be seen as the beginning of a long-term project.  Ideas and innovations are like public goods.  When someone comes up with a brilliant idea — whether in basic science or in applied technology — it potentially benefits us all.  Thus, the more innovative, problem-solving minds there are, the better it is for all of us.  We should therefore aim to promote research and development capacity and investment in all countries — beginning with providing a firm educational foundation for all girls and boys.


One of the main drivers of technological innovation is competition among private businesses.  But, understandably, companies regard their technology portfolio as one of their most valuable assets.  Without such profit-motivated innovation, the global economy would be far less dynamic.  Yet, the profit motive alone is not enough to bring us the innovations we need to raise people’s living standards.


There are good examples of companies, for instance in the field of health, contributing to the common good, but poverty and the profit motive do not often sit comfortably together.  That is why we continue to need public support for technology development.  We need vaccines and treatments for the diseases that afflict mainly the poor.  We need improved and climate-adaptable crops that are grown mainly by poor farmers.  We need decentralized renewable energy solutions for poor rural communities.


Even where the innovation occurs primarily through private research and development, the public good may require facilitating broad and timely access.  For example, we urgently need technologies to lower greenhouse gas emissions.  The newly operational Climate Technology Centre and Network, established under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, can make a significant contribution to that effort.


The international community has a crucial role to play in providing the incentives and institutions for facilitating the development, transfer and deployment of technology for sustainable development.  Last year, in my report on this subject to the General Assembly, I proposed a range of options.  They start with obtaining comparable data on technological capacity across countries and systematically surveying existing capacity-building activities.


I am pleased that the President of the General Assembly has encouraged Member States to keep those options under consideration.  I am also encouraged that Member States have accepted in principle the idea of a technology bank for least developed countries, and that a study of its feasibility is under way.


As you embark on these important dialogues, let me observe that technology and innovation, by their very nature, evolve very rapidly.  Any specific proposals on what the United Nations level can contribute will need to be continually reviewed and updated.


The two reports by the Secretariat in the last two years provide a range of suggestions on how these dialogues can contribute to facilitating the development, transfer and dissemination of technologies for sustainable development.


I look forward to reflecting the recommendations of the General Assembly President in my synthesis report on the post-2015 development agenda later this year.


I wish your dialogues every success.


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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.