SDG Business Forum 2017

As delivered

Statement of H.E. Mr. Peter Thomson, President of the 71st Session of the General Assembly, at SDG Business Forum 2017 – High Level Lunch “Collaboration for Transformational Change, with a focus on the role of the private sector”

18 July 2017


SDG Business Forum Secretary-General Guterres,

Ministers, President of ECOSOC


Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be here today among so many visionary leaders, and I congratulate the organizers for convening this SDG Business Forum.

Just yesterday, I had the honor of addressing the 2017 Partnership Exchange, at which I was deeply encouraged by the increasing recognition at the United Nations of the importance of collaboration and partnership in driving towards the better world envisaged by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Transformational breakthroughs to end extreme poverty and hunger; to secure more equal, peaceful and prosperous societies; and to protect our natural environment and avert the worst impacts of climate change, are all possible by 2030.

But the success of our great endeavor will require that all partners – Governments, the UN, international financial institutions, civil society, and critically, the private sector – join forces and forge coherent ways of doing business together.

Together the domestic and international private sectors constitute engine-rooms big enough to power the inclusive and sustainable economic growth we need to deliver shared prosperity.

They are the powerhouse that can deploy innovation and technological advances in support of the Sustainable Development Goals.

They are the holders of global finance in the volume needed to fund the SDGs.

With so many businesses around the world looking for bankable projects in which to invest, the growth prospects offered by the SDGs make them the best available investment opportunities.

And the private sector is comprised of many active world citizens, problem-solvers and critical thinkers, with huge influence on consumer behavior. This is key to the success of the 2030 Agenda. If we are going to restore the balance between human aspirations and planetary resources we need to change our consumption  and production patterns as set out in SDG12.

Now that partnerships have been identified as an essential ingredient of achieving the SDGs, it is critical that we get serious in engaging the private sector in the strategic collaborations that will drive global transformational change.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen

During the course of this year, I have seen some very positive signs of such partnerships.

In East Africa, I saw private sector organizations working with Governments to power the global GIG economy, and to produce digital services that give access to affordable banking and health, while integrating labor and skills markets into the global economy.

In South America, I met with Government, civil society, and private sector leaders who have partnered to build eco-friendly and disaster resilient housing for the most vulnerable.

And in Silicon Valley, I met with leaders of technology who showed how pattern recognition is being used to analyze global air quality, and big data is being used to help emergency relief workers save lives during disasters.

More and more, private sector investments are being made into projects that put the pursuit of sustainability and social progress on a par with profit.

Profit is of course essential, but it is only logical that sustainability is of equal importance. Increasingly, we see business plans being drafted to integrate the SDGs into performance indicators.

We saw at last month’s Ocean Conference how the power of partnerships with the private sector are being harnessed to address challenges on a global scale.

The Ocean Conference attracted the participation of around 6000 representatives of business, governments, international organizations, civil society, and the scientific community. It produced almost 1400 voluntary commitments from this cross-sectoral community dedicated to restoring humanity’s relationship with the Ocean and its resources to one of respect, balance and sustainability.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

From these and many other SDG experiences we have witnessed this year, three central messages have emerged:

Firstly, inclusive and strategic partnerships that engage the private sector, and that leverage the comparative advantages of all stakeholders, are at the heart of maximizing the impact of our work to implement the SDGs. The private sector is essential not only in taking specific individual actions, but in strengthening global SDG momentum.

Secondly, to facilitate private investment in the SDGs on the scale required, particularly in developing countries, greater attention is needed to deepen the understanding of risks. We must meaningfully address the question of how it can be mitigated and by whom.

And thirdly, to facilitate a global integration of the SDGs by the private sector, a genuine integration that can be measured and verified, global environmental, social and governance reporting standards have got to be standardized.

These issues were among the topics discussed this morning at a ministerial breakfast I convened on sustainable finance. We focused on how the private sector can work closer with the UN and its Member States in galvanizing resource mobilization for the SDGs. Speakers highlighted the positive momentum created during the 71st session in bringing this conversation to the UN. The ministerial breakfast concluded that we have to use the UNs unique convening platform to catalyze momentum on private sector investments and financial flows for the SDGs.

I therefore call upon all here today to join these efforts to support the Secretary-General in the vision he has given us today, and to commit to forge new and improved ways of doing business, and to implement the SDGs.

I thank you.

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