New York

24 September 2018

Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at United Nations Global Compact CEO Roundtable [as prepared for delivery]

My warmest greetings to you all. Thank you for being here for this year’s CEO Roundtable.

You are all aware of the many tests we face.

This is a time when unity is needed most, yet societies are becoming increasingly fragmented. 

Environmental and political crises also have powerful social dimensions, disproportionately affecting women, young people and other communities. 

No single nation or sector can address these challenges in isolation.

We need all hands on deck and the time to act is now.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is our template for action.

The business community has an indispensable role to play, and I am very encouraged that you are here today to focus on two key elements of success: reducing inequalities and respecting human rights.

This year marks the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

Yet current levels of inequality — from income to gender to services to opportunities for a decent life — leave us very far from upholding the vision of the Declaration’s drafts, and will make it impossible to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. 

This is bad for society and bad for business.

As inequalities continue to grow, all actors — including business leaders — have a direct interest in bringing people and communities in from the margins, and in eliminating the racism and xenophobia that feed exclusion.

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights offer guidance to businesses looking to meaningfully contribute to the SDGs.  

This begins with adopting a human rights policy.  

It can also include efforts to use due diligence tools to assess the risks faced by people across the chains and spectrums of business operations. 

Experience suggests that human rights conversations within companies and businesses are most effective when they involve the entire organization, workers and management alike. 

Bringing human rights to life also means establishing mechanisms to provide remedies to victims of human rights violations.
It is also important to reach small and medium enterprises, whose activities touch on large numbers of people.

The United Nations is counting on you to bring this discussion back to your respective countries. I welcome your engagement in your countries’ Global Compact Local Networks, and I urge all of you to explore ways that you can better work with the UN system at the country level to truly make the “Global Goals Local Business”. 

I would also like to briefly mention the challenge of financing for the global goals.  Some of you will recall that this was our focus at last year’s roundtable, and I know that many of you will be participating in today’s high-level meeting convened by the Secretary-General.

The financing challenge is central – and enormous.  Today the Secretary-General will launch a new strategy outlining key actions the United Nations will take to mobilize funds and deepen the transformation of the global financial system.  We look forward to your contributions in increasing investment, seizing the potential of financial innovations, and fighting the corruption and illicit flows that undermine so much of what we are trying to achieve.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let us also remember that when companies show they care about human rights and equality, it advances their standing in the countries where they operate and, just as importantly, among their own staff – a reputational gain of incalculable value.

I look forward to your insights today, including on what you would like to see from the United Nations and Governments. 

Let us work together to ensure that we can all enjoy a world of prosperity, dignity and opportunity where no one is left behind. 

Thank you.