Secretary-General's remarks at Global Compact event [as prepared for delivery]
Yangon, Myanmar, 1 May 2012
THE SECRETARY-GENERAL -- REMARKS AT MEETING WITH BUSINESS LEADERS TO INTRODUCE THE GLOBAL COMPACT IN MYANMAR
It is an honor and a pleasure to meet with you today at this most remarkable gathering of domestic and international companies in Myanmar. And we are here at a remarkable time. This is my third day in Myanmar and the spirit of reform and change is everywhere. I believe the decisions Myanmar makes in the next few years could truly shape Myanmar for the next few generations. I have met a cross-section of leaders and I am convinced the reform effort is real. The challenge is to ensure that people feel the benefits of reform in their daily lives. We are here at a time of transition - a time that is ripe with potential and expectation for business and investment. Atop the list of priorities are jobs and income opportunities, especially for the many young people whose talents and creativity are waiting to be tapped. Equally paramount is development that is widespread and sustainable. In order to deliver prosperity and opportunity widely, Myanmar needs strong and inclusive markets. Business has to be the backbone of growth. However, investment and business activity must be sustainable and responsible – upholding the highest standards of business ethics. Collaboration and partnerships – between business, civil society and government – are also essential. This is the only way to build societal trust in the marketplace and, then, ensure that the market delivers long-term benefits for all. These are the principles embodied in the United Nations Global Compact. For over a decade, we have worked to embed universal values into markets around the world. Business has responded strongly. Increasingly, businesses understand that principles and profits go hand-in-hand. 7,000 companies from 140 countries are engaged, showing the growing appeal of responsible business. Many of the international companies represented here today are long-standing signatories of the Global Compact. Today, they are joined by several companies from Myanmar. I commend each of you, whether domestic or foreign enterprise, for this commitment. Your actions send a powerful signal, and I hope that you inspire and guide others to commit to responsible practices. Today’s introduction of the Global Compact is a milestone for Myanmar. But the real work is ahead. I urge each of you to make the right choices: to respect the rights of employees and all people touched by your operations, especially children … to ensure decent work conditions and empower women in the workplace … to safeguard the environment and apply the highest standards in the use of natural resources … to practice business based on sound ethics, fair competition and good governance. This is the way to build the social legitimacy of business and investment - showing that the private sector is part of the solution to achieving a better future for all. On a personal note, as you know, I come from a country that has experienced rapid change and development – that was once dependent on aid but is now a thriving economy in the global marketplace and a major donor. I have seen that transformation is possible. Myanmar, too, is well placed to leap-frog up the development ladder and creates a modern economy. The future is in your hands. Ladies and gentlemen, The Global Compact is strongly committed to providing a vibrant network for companies and civil society to share their experiences – success and setback alike – in bringing sustainable enterprise to this country. I would like to thank you for recognizing the importance of embedding corporate responsibility into the foundations of the new Myanmar. By fully embracing the Global Compact principles, we can build a more inclusive economy and achieve sustainable development. Now is the time to make the right choices. Now is the time to invest in a better future for all. I wish you strength and success in your important efforts, and I very much welcome your partnership with the United Nations.
Statements on 1 May 2012