Companies ‘a Driving Force’ in Fostering Peace, Pushing Governments to Assume Climate Change Commitments, Secretary-General Tells Private Sector Forum

24 September 2018

Companies ‘a Driving Force’ in Fostering Peace, Pushing Governments to Assume Climate Change Commitments, Secretary-General Tells Private Sector Forum

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the United Nations Private Sector Forum, in New York today:

It is common to say that peace, development and human rights are three faces of the same reality — there is no peace without development, there is no development without peace, there is no peace and development without human rights.  It was Kofi Annan who said it in a very clear way.

What, for me, is more important in the Global Compact is the fact that the Global Compact is based on a set of values.  These are companies that, of course, will operate in their own areas, that will do what they have to do as companies — looking for the profits that are absolutely legitimate, but they subscribe to a number of central values, values that have to do exactly with the respect of human rights in all dimensions; the respects of sustainability in whatever they do; the respect of concerns related to gender.  Companies create jobs.  Jobs for Youth is probably the most important tool we have today in the prevention of conflict.

And so, if companies do their job properly; if companies do their job in the respect for these values and create richness and wealth and help to have communities with cohesion by the way they are integrated in the communities where they operate, companies are indeed contributing decisively for peace.  This is what matters in the Global Compact, is that you are committed to values and those values are exactly what makes your companies not only profitable, effective companies to the economy, but companies that contribute to the prevention and sustaining peace that correspond to the two objectives that we have now central in our concerns in the United Nations.

It is clear that the cohesion of societies, it is clear that the role of women and young people, it is clear that adequate levels of employment, it is clear that an adequate exploitation of resources are things that help prevent conflict in societies, avoiding tensions that lead to conflict, and when conflict ends and peace needs to be sustained, help to sustain that peace and help make the transitions from conflict into peace as transitions that are successful — as we have seen in many parts of the world.

And so, I strongly believe that your contribution to the agenda of prevention and sustaining peace, a central agenda in our approach to peace, is today very important.

Allow me to make two very brief observations.  We are also pursuing one objective, which is to have a fair globalization, and for that, the Sustainable Development Goals — the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development] — is our central instrument.  But, in the 2030 Agenda, we are not moving fast enough.  We have fixed — with all Heads of State and Government around the table — as now in the General Assembly — we have fixed a number of very important targets, but when one looks at what is happening in the global economy, we are moving more or less in the right direction in the majority of them, but too slow.

And the Sustainable Development Goals are complex to understand, and if they are today well accepted by, I would say, the diplomatic community, by Governments that tend to introduce them in national plans, by the elite of the business community around the world, the truth is that they are not yet really bound into the society, into [inaudible] most of the millions of companies that operate around the world.

And so, you have a very important role, which is to mobilize civil society, to mobilize business communities and to mobilize all the other actors that are relevant in our countries in order to make sure that the Sustainable Development Goals become entrenched in what we do — that we have benchmarks to measure what is our impact in those goals.

And one thing what I would like to say, to end:  I am deeply concerned with the fact that climate change is running faster than we are.  I do believe that climate change is also a terrible factor in relation to the creation of conditions for conflict, independent of the other devastating impacts it has on societies.

I think we need to raise the alarm.  Not only are things getting worse than expected, what we are witnessing in the world is more dramatic than the worst forecasts that scientists have made a few years ago.  But, unfortunately, Governments are losing momentum.  They are losing the sense of urgency.  It is not clearly as strong a priority as it should be in most parts of the world.  And so, I strongly believe that the business community can be the driving force together with civil society to make sure that everybody understands that to meet the goals defined in the Paris Agreement [on climate change] is essential, and that, not only do we have to be able to respond to the commitments made, but we need to have an enhanced ambition and to make stronger commitments.

That is why I am convening a summit for 2019 to make sure that countries in 2020 are able to enhance their commitments to make sure that climate change is controlled.  If things go on as they are going on today, in a very limited number of years, we will make it irreversible not to be able to reach the end of the century with an increase of temperature below 2°C.  And that will be devastating.  That will have catastrophic consequences for everybody, including for the businesses around the world.  And we count on the private sector to be a driving force to push Governments to assume their responsibilities in this very important aspect of our commitments.

So, development, peace, human rights.  All of these are areas that I believe a vibrant business community based on the values of the Global Compact can be a very important tool to make sure that we succeed.  Thank you very much to all of you.

For information media. Not an official record.