Cleveland, Ohio

23 October 2006

Secretary-General's message to the Forum: "Business as an Agent of World Benenfit -- Management Knowledge Leading Positive Change"(Organized by the Academy of Management, the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, and the UN

It is a great pleasure to send my greetings to all the participants in this important meeting on the role of business in today's world. This subject has been an integral part of my tenure as Secretary-General. Indeed, more than ever before, the United Nations is making business –as well as civil society and the academic community -- vital partners in advancing our goals of international peace and development.

Just ten years ago, the relationship between the United Nations and the private sector was burdened with mistrust. In a relatively short period, however, we have all become increasingly aware of how globalization is re-shaping our world and how most of the world's challenges are too interconnected for any one sector to face them alone. Common objectives –such as building markets, combating corruption, safeguarding the environment and ensuring social inclusion –are paving the way for collaboration. Today, UN engagement with business can be seen in countless day-to-day initiatives around the world encompassing most of the pressing problems of our time, from poverty and hunger to HIV/AIDS and water supply. Quite apart from the impact on the daily lives of ordinary people, another result of this cooperation has been to open the United Nations itself to different, and often more efficient, ways of thinking, operating and delivering services, thereby providing a catalyst for institutional innovation and reform.

At the centre of the Organization's engagement with business is the UN Global Compact, which I launched six years ago and which has become the world's largest corporate citizenship initiative, with thousands of participants from more than one hundred countries, more than half of them from the developing world. The Compact offers a platform for learning, dialogue and partnership projects. By aligning corporate activities with UN goals, the Compact's stakeholders have generated improvements in governance and built up the capacities of suppliers and small enterprises. And by advocating universal principles as a core part of corporate strategies and operations, the Compact has sought to make global markets more sustainable and inclusive.

But there remains much to do. Globalization remains an imperfect process. Business continues to face tremendous pressure to uphold its social responsibilities. There is a pressing need to sustain the momentum of the corporate responsibility movement. And the academic community has an important role to play in this effort.

Your research on corporate citizenship can provide an essential underpinning for sound policies and strategies. Your teaching can equip the leaders of tomorrow with the tools and orientation needed to face an era of global challenges. In particular, there is space, and a real need, for the academic community to establish a coalition committed to advancing the business case for responsible practices and universal principles. I thank the Academy of Management and the Case Weatherhead School of Management for recognizing the importance of this issue, and I encourage all of you to take forward this effort. I would hope that at the next Global Compact Leaders Summit, you will be able to report on progress made on this initiative.

All of us have a stake in getting globalization right. Success will depend to no small extent on whether business –in partnership with the United Nations and other stakeholders –can operate in ways that benefit economies, societies and people everywhere. I have enjoyed working together with you toward that end in recent years, and thank you for your support. Please accept my best wishes for a productive forum and for the success of your efforts in the years ahead.