World Entrepreneurs Investment Forum 2017

– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, at the World Entrepreneurs Investment Forum 2017 in Manama, Bahrain


Distinguished participants, Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me to address this important Forum. At the outset, I want to congratulate the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Arab International Center for Entrepreneurship & Investment Training and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) for organising this event. I also commend the many partners and sponsors who are supporting the convening of the Forum.

I am pleased that you are building on the success of the 2015 Forum which adopted the Manama Declaration on Entrepreneurship for Development. Since you last met, the global community has taken several important steps. First, We adopted the Addis Ababa Action Agenda addressing Financing for Development. Second We adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. And Third we agreed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Your focus on “Achieving the SDGs through Promoting Entrepreneurship and Innovation” is therefore complementary to our efforts to implement these frameworks. I am pleased to learn of your fruitful deliberations over the past two days. The engagement between the many stakeholders participating is a practical means of forging actions that will bring progress in Sustainable Development Goals implementation.

Excellencies, let me speak about three issues.

The first is that we face unprecedented challenges in the quest for development.

World leaders have pledged to lift people out of poverty, ensure sustainability and leave no one behind. These are bold promises and they require bold action. But, there are many challenges in the way of meeting these goals.

At the global level, there is much political and economic uncertainty. Many regions and countries face the threat of conflict and instability. There are also multiple effects of climate change such as severe weather events and disasters which retard our development gains. We also face a global refugee crisis of an unprecedented scale. Irregular migration, urbanisation, unemployment, inequality, deforestation: and the list goes on.

In the face of such extraordinary challenges, our response must likewise be extraordinary.

Poverty will not disappear just by wishing it away. Instead we will need to take focused and innovative action to eliminate it. Rapid and sustained economic growth is crucial to eradicate poverty, improve livelihoods, create jobs and reduce inequalities. Growth needs to be inclusive and spread across all sectors of society. Entrepreneurship and innovation are strong engines for economic growth, income generation and the creation of decent jobs for all. Ultimately, they are key to the economic transformation and diversification we need.

Young people face dim prospects in many regions. High unemployment robs both them and us of the chance to reap the full benefit of their potential. Disaffected youth becomes the fertile ground for extremism and criminal activities. We must therefore invest in youth to ensure that they acquire relevant skills and get relevant opportunities. Their innovation and dynamism can be a catalyst for development. Do we still remember a little company that sold the idea that other people would care what you ate for lunch today? Well look at FaceBook now. And not just FaceBook, social media is now a whole industry spawning other innovative and impactful ideas.

In an increasingly globalized world, no country or region can meet the challenges alone. The Forum has been a unique opportunity to forge partnerships, exchange best practices and explore options for mobilising financial resources.

In an increasingly globalized world, no country or region can meet the challenges alone. The Forum has been a unique opportunity to forge partnerships, exchange best practices and explore options for mobilising financial resources.


President of the UN General Assembly

The second issue I would like to expand on is the critical importance of entrepreneurship and innovation. The transformational approach embedded in the Sustainable Development Goals gives us a framework for catalysed actions across many areas. The growth we need will not come solely from Government policies. Instead, we need to harness the financial and productive capacity of other stakeholders such as the private sector.

We must however offer better incentives to induce entrepreneurs and innovators to invest in sustainable development goals. This will help unleash and foster a dynamic private sector and ensure competitiveness.

Let me emphasise here, in particular, the role of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which very often constitute the majority of business activity within countries. Supporting SMEs is a proven strategy to build a robust economy from the ground up. In addition, access to financial services and innovation offer valuable opportunities for women and young people as well. Helping businesses get off the ground and sustaining them through their initial phases helps generate employment, income and economic growth.

I trust that the discussions at this year’s Forum will spur further action in promoting entrepreneurship and innovation towards sustainable development.

My third and final point is on the means of implementation. Our lofty ambitions, while laudable, are insufficient to truly meet the needs of our people and planet. If we do not close the resource gap we will get to 2030 with unmet targets, dashed hopes and devastated people. While estimates vary, the gap between existing development funding and what is required to achieve the SDGs is said to be at least US$3 trillion – annually.

Traditional means of financing alone will not bridge the gap. We must therefore forge innovative partnerships between governments and the private sector, between civil society and entrepreneurs. A multi-stakeholder approach is critical. Public-Private Partnerships can be channelled towards sustainable development objectives. Blended financing can also be an innovative means of channelling funds into mutually beneficial programmes. We must also harness the multiplier effect of technology to increase the speed, reach and sustainability of development.

While countries work to maximize domestic resource mobilisation, we must continue to strengthen international cooperation and capacity building. Commitments on Official Development Assistance, technology transfer and market access must be fulfilled in a timely manner.

By drawing on all viable sources we can begin to build a more adequately financed response to the global challenges which the SDGs are seeking to address. I am pleased to learn that the Forum has been a good platform for facilitating match-making, joint investments and partnerships. It is my hope that the seeds planted will yield an abundant harvest for those directly involved. I hope too that they will have a multiplier effect on our broader sustainable development efforts.

In mid-2018, I will convene a High-Level event on Sustainable Development Financing to support discussions among Member States and other stakeholders. I look forward to your continued active engagement and cooperation on this important issue.

As I close, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, let me recall that SDG9 which addresses innovation was reviewed at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) this past July. In its Declaration, the HLPF acknowledged – and I quote “the importance of supporting entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, which add new momentum for economic growth and job creation and expand opportunities for all” – end of quote.

I commend the Kingdom of Bahrain and UNIDO for putting these words into action by organising this World Entrepreneurs Investment Forum. I encourage you to continue your leadership and engagement in support of sustainable development. I wish all of you success in the ventures that lie ahead.