Secretary-General, at Private Sector Forum, Challenges Participants to Bring Solutions, Innovations to Scale to Reach Millennium Development Goals

22 September 2010

Secretary-General, at Private Sector Forum, Challenges Participants to Bring Solutions, Innovations to Scale to Reach Millennium Development Goals

22 September 2010
Meetings Coverage
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Private Sector Forum on

 the Millennium Development Goals

Secretary-General, at Private Sector Forum, Challenges Participants to Bring

Solutions, Innovations to Scale to Reach Millennium Development Goals


Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Virgin Group Chairman Richard Branson, President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen were among hundreds of high officials from corporations, Governments and world organizations at the United Nations Leadership Forum who today stressed the critical role of the private sector in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

“There is no longer any doubt that business plays an integral role in delivering economic and social progress,” declared Mr. Ban, who decided after the first Private Sector Forum on the Millennium Development Goals and Food Sustainability in 2008 to hold an annual forum to ensure that the private sector contributed to intergovernmental negotiations during the opening of the General Assembly.

Today’s Forum coincided with a high-level plenary to review progress in reaching the Goals — which aim to slash extreme poverty and other global ills — and came three months after Mr. Ban challenged more than 1,000 chief executives and entrepreneurs to agree on a “Development Compact” in support of reaching the targets by their deadline of 2015.

“Already, many businesses have advanced employment and income generation, improved health outcomes and gender parity, provided access to safe water and sanitation and advanced environmental sustainability,”  he said today.  “Now is the time for all of us to bring these solutions and innovations to scale,” he charged participants.

President Wade said that his country’s Strategy of Accelerated Growth, recently launched, reserved a special place for the private sector in improving all social conditions.  A key aspect of that was distribution of income through salaries and job creation, but that was only part of the solution.  Women’s advancement was critical, along with innovation and financing — which required the private sector.  Through existing partnerships with the private sector in Senegal, agriculture had become self-sufficient, women’s health was monitored through cell phones, and work was being done with UN-Habitat to eliminate slums.

Prime Minister Rasmussen said that the presence today of such a distinguished group of leaders was a reflection of the vital role of the private sector, which, along with growth, must be at the core of achievement of the Goals.  Momentum was now building around the growth agenda, including through the building of a green economy.  However, gaps in green growth must be bridged and that would be the subject of work in the near future, which must focus on results.  He announced today that a group of 11 major donors had signed a statement to promote private sector partnerships for development and encourage that sector to increase its responsible role.

Mr. Branson said that this summit had taught him that it did not take forever to change the world, and each time he travelled to Africa, he was encouraged by the potential for progress.  However, there was still a large gap between rich and poor.  The Goals could help bridge that gap, and entrepreneurship, along with Government and the charitable sector, were the critical components of that bridge.  Long-term solutions required the creation of jobs and businesses, the provision of cleaner energy for all and the building of a far more equitable world.  To make that happen, every business must place people and the planet at their core.

The Master of Ceremonies for the Forum was Lord Michael Hastings, Global Head of Citizenship and Diversity of KPMG International, who said that engagement and investment was the story of the afternoon and that everyone present needed to scale up their emotional, practical and business engagement with the Goals. 

Following the opening, Lord Hastings introduced keynote remarks by Jeffrey Sachs, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals; Akinwumi Adesina, Vice President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA); Graça Machel, Former First Lady of South Africa, Advocate for Women’s and Children’s Rights; and Ray Chambers, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria.

Mr. Sachs said that the three keys to achieving the Goals were technology, scale and management.  If the technologies that led to breakthroughs could be put into place at a large scale and with rigor, poverty and endemic disease could be overcome.  He illustrated that idea with examples in agriculture, health services and infrastructure.  Technologies were available in those fields, but their scaling up and the management were still not in place, which is where business came in.  He urged participants to make their contribution to that effort and help make happiness the ninth Goal.

Dr. Adesina stressed that democracy could not be achieved on an empty stomach — an African green revolution was needed, which, in turn, could not happen without the necessary finance.  There was financial liquidity in Africa, but agriculture was now receiving only 1 per cent of investment funds, primarily because of risks.  Describing initiatives that greatly leveraged available investment to support improvement in agriculture, he stressed that official development assistance (ODA) alone could not do the job; what was needed was to leverage liquidity to accomplish all the Millennium Development Goals.

Dr. Machel thanked the Secretary-General for finally presenting the women and girls of the world with a global strategy, after a long wait.  There was mounting evidence that investing in women made sense, as they were most likely to build on financial and educational investments.  For businesses, investing in women and girls gained the best returns.  She maintained that, in the increasingly globalized world, communications technology must be harnessed to allow women to mobilize for greater participation; the private sector had the greatest capability to provide such technology in ways that were driven by women’s needs in the community. 

Mr. Chambers, describing the magnitude of the threat of malaria, said that approaching the disease from a business point of view when he had started working as the Secretary-General’s adviser, he had set a goal to provide 700 million people this year with bed nets, raising billions of dollars to reduce the death rate from the disease to zero by 2015.  Business strategies, along with all varieties of media, were utilized to reach that target.  Those strategies were a model that could be used by business to engage it in finding solutions to all the Millennium Development Goals.

Following those remarks, participants in table groupings discussed how to accelerate progress on the Goals in specific areas, through business innovation, after which one rapporteur per area provided a brief report.

In the area of poverty and hunger, Chris Schroeder, Board Member of Qatar Airways, said that a platform for sharing expertise and best practices and needs was critical, and that it was imperative to conduct business now in a way that helped everyone.  Transparency at a national level was necessary for that to happen. 

In regard to maternal and child Health and HIV/AIDS, Dan Brutto, President of United Parcel Service (UPS) International said that business could provide innovation, communication and scale, working closely with Government in a transparent way that could be measured, with linkages created among all Millennium Goals.

On access to education through innovative communications technologies, Wang Jianzhou, Chairman of the China Mobile Communications Corporation, said that geographical isolation should no longer prevent sophisticated education, owing to the latest technology, particularly, at present, mobile phones.  There were no insurmountable problems in that area, if the proper partnerships were created.

Addressing Innovations for Financial Inclusion, Mo Ibrahim, Founder and Chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, said that a new model for agriculture in Africa was needed, as over 70 per cent of the population was involved in that sector.  Modern methods were needed at the same time that the fabric of society was strengthened.  Better governance of the private sector was critical for those purposes.

On empowering women and achieving equality, Cherie Blair, founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, said that aim should be part of every Goal.  It was not only relevant to the developing South, but also to the developed world.  Women’s access to credit, information and communications technologies, and control of assets, as well as greater representation in higher corporate positions, were particularly important in that light.

On the Green Economy, Rezaul Hasanat, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Viyellatex Group of Bangladesh, said that the right policy environment was crucial, as were the right technology choices, which should be supported by developed countries.

Finally, announcing a new commitment, Rajeev Ranjan Vederah, Executive Director of Ballarpur Industries Limited of India and Malaysia, said his company would support an initiative to integrate 5,000 small farmers into its supply chain.

In closing remarks, Robert B. Zoellick, President of the World Bank Group, affirmed that economic growth was fundamental to eradicating poverty and that many

private sector services were integrally connected to services that were often thought of as only part of the public sector.  Equity funds and private funds were needed to bolster such for-profit services.  In addition, he stressed, a basic lesson from business that should be applied to development was simply doing what worked. 

In his closing remarks, Joseph Deiss, President of the sixty-fifth General Assembly session, said that the emphasis on concrete solutions at the Forum had made it a very valuable contribution to the Assembly’s review of progress in the Millennium Development Goals.  Ten years into the effort to reach the Goals, the picture was mixed, but there should be no doubt that those targets could be achieved. 

In that effort, he stressed that the Government and the private sector had complementary and mutually-dependent roles.  There was now much experience in pro-poor business practices, and those should be multiplied, particularly in pursuit of a green economy, which was a concept that was not widely understood and that he hoped to explore in depth during the sixty-fifth session.

Collaborating with the United Nations Global Compact Office in organizing the 2009 Forum were the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); International Chamber of Commerce (ICC); International Finance Corporation (IFC); International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); International Labour Organization (ILO); Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); and Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).

Additional co-organizers included the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM, part of UN Women); United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); United Nations Foundation (UNF); United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); United Nations Office for Partnerships (UNOP); United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); World Bank; and the World Food Programme (WFP).

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