26 March 2019

Sustainable Business Network Can Expand Corporate Engagement, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Economic and Social Commission for Asia, Pacific

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks at the meeting of the Executive Council of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Sustainable Business Network, today in Bangkok:

It is a pleasure to kickstart my visit to Bangkok with you today.

I just came out of the airport, in a visit that is taking me to Regional Forums on Sustainable Development in all regions.  I was keen to get a first-hand understanding on the specific challenges and opportunities faced by the regions in their pathway towards the Sustainable Development Goals.  I thank ESCAP for organizing this conversation and providing me with an opportunity to engage and hear from you.

This will be a defining year for the 2030 Agenda.  Four years into our journey, we will be holding its first high-level stocktaking on the Sustainable Development Goals at the General Assembly in September.  It will be an opportunity to review progress, catalyse action and accelerate implementation.

It is already clear that the world is not moving fast enough to deliver on its ambitions of the 2030 Agenda.  The clock is ticking, and we need to pick up the pace.  In approving the Sustainable Development Goals, we all knew that leaving no one behind by 2030 would require action at unprecedented scale.  We also knew that the Sustainable Development Goals would demand a paradigm shift in the way we approach international development.

The 2030 Agenda placed economic transformation at the centre of global action.  It placed the bar high and called for partnerships at a scale never seen before.  This is why businesses have taken a front row in the new Agenda.

Tackling climate change, achieving sustainable production and consumption, ensuring decent work for all, unlocking investments for infrastructure, energy.  These are all central to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and these are all areas where progress simply cannot happen without the private sector.

This is why I am so pleased to be with you today, and to discuss how the ESCAP Sustainable Business Network can strengthen synergies with other global United Nations initiatives to advance business engagement.

As you all know, the United Nations Global Compact is a flagship United Nations initiative for engaging with businesses.  Over the years, this mechanism proved to be critical to raise awareness and encourage business models that have a human face.

With more than 9,500 companies and 3,000 non-business signatories based in over 160 countries, the Global Compact is the largest corporate sustainability initiative in the world.  But we need to reposition this asset and strengthen its connection to other initiatives at the country and regional level — such as the ESCAP Sustainable Business Network.

We are now working closely with the Global Compact leadership to ensure it is fit for purpose to respond to the heightened demands of the new Agenda.  We know many of you already partner with the Global Compact and its local networks.  We count on you to continue to engage as we promote this shift.

There is real momentum in the United Nations system to transform and open up to businesses.  Many United Nations entities are innovating and creating new mechanisms to engage and enable action by businesses.  From the United Nations Development Programme, to the United Nations Environment Programme, to the United Nations Children’s Fund, across virtually every single United Nations entity — experiences abound, but we need to take them to scale and ensure synergies across all actions.

A key objective of the Secretary-General reforms of the United Nations is precisely to ensure that we coordinate better our assets and modernize our mechanisms for partnerships.  We are working with the Global Compact, the United Nations Office for Partnerships and entities of the United Nations development system to harmonize our approaches to private sector partnerships.  Representatives of businesses around the table can expect to find in the United Nations a better partner in the near future.

We hope to be your touchstone, a neutral broker, as we help connect businesses to local pipelines that can help improve the lives of people and protect our planet.

ESCAP is fully engaged in this effort and provides an entry point for your contributions.  We are moving fast.  Together, we can seize the momentum to leverage synergies with the Network you are leading in Asia and the Pacific.

I want to acknowledge the remarkable growth in this region over the past few decades.  This has lifted millions out of poverty; it has given rise to new companies; and allowed many others to move up the value chain and become global leaders in their sectors.

However, let us recognize that growth has not come without costs.  It has increased the stress on the environment, worsened air quality and increased inequalities.  If we are gathered here today, it is because we share the view that this is not sustainable nor desirable.  We share a collective responsibility to reverse climate change, and ensure cleaner air, unpolluted waters and decent work for all.

We all know “business as usual” approaches will not deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.  Let me add that usual approaches to businesses will also not make the cut.  Many of you are already showing leadership throughout your operations and supply chains, and several Governments are taking steps to push progress further.

The ESCAP Sustainable Business Network is a clear indication of this shared commitment.  Together, we can take this to another level and make the Sustainable Development Goals a reality for all.  We owe it to the younger generation and the next.

Today, I want to hear your views and suggestions on how to get there.

For information media. Not an official record.