Sustainable Development Goals ‘Will Fail without Private Sector Support’, Deputy Secretary-General Tells High-Level Dialogue on Partnerships
Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks at the high-level dialogue on “Delivering the SDGs in partnership with the private sector”, in Beirut, today:
I am very pleased to join you all for this important dialogue on “Delivering the SDGs in partnership with the private sector” in the Arab region. I am thrilled to see such a diverse group of experts from across the private sector, Government, academia and civil society.
We are meeting at a critical time when our ability to achieve the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development] hangs in the balance. The world is facing cascading crises in food, energy and finance, compounding the already devastating impacts of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Across the Arab region, the socioeconomic outlook remains turbulent. High levels of debt are draining funds away from the Sustainable Development Goals and towards debt servicing costs. Conflicts and protracted economic crises add further layers of complexity. Progress on the [Goals] has stalled in some areas, and even reversed in others.
Governments cannot face these challenges alone. To succeed, we need a whole-of-society approach — one that draws upon every aspect of the richness and talent of our diverse societies. And it is in this context that we meet today on private sector partnerships.
The Sustainable Development Goals will fail without the private sector. We urgently need powerful private sector partnerships that invest in the transitions necessary to accelerate development progress and get the [Goals] back on track.
The private sector has a key role to play in driving a just and inclusive energy transition. The 2030 Agenda acknowledges the role of the private sector in all its diversity — from microenterprises to multinationals — in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. It commits Member States to take the necessary actions to promote effective public-private partnerships and calls on all businesses to apply their creativity and innovation to solving sustainable development challenges.
The private sector can play a crucial role in bridging the financing gap to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, which has been estimated to exceed $660 billion per year in 12 Arab countries. While private capital is abundant, only a small share is aligned with the Goals. The challenge is to mobilize domestic and foreign private capital to help close this gap.
On a positive note, corporate finance deals in recent years increasingly reveal a move towards sustainability in the region — especially in renewable energy, water and transportation. Nonetheless, investments in social infrastructure and services, equality, peace and justice remain too few and too little.
At this time of rapid change, I commend this dialogue and encourage all of you to think creatively and boldly about how we can best ensure the delivery of valued public goods in partnership with the private sector. Strong and sustainable businesses are built on global values, including human and labour rights, gender equality, environmental sustainability, transparency and anti-corruption. These values also underwrite the United Nations Global Compact.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is changing the world, fostering collaboration, connection and sustainable development. However, the potential harms of the digital domain risk overshadowing its benefits. Urgent ethical, social and regulatory questions confront us.
These include the lack of accountability in cyberspace; the emergence of large technology companies as geopolitical actors; the exacerbation of gender bias; and the use of digital surveillance and manipulation to influence behaviour and control populations.
Both the public and private sector have a responsibility and moral obligation to protect the online space and strengthen its governance to keep pace with rapid, real-world developments.
While States remain central to our collective ability to meet global challenges, solutions increasingly depend on the private sector and other non-State actors. They must be part of our deliberations and they must be accountable for their commitments. This requires involving a diverse range of voices from the private sector — including micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises, and women-led businesses.
More systematic engagement with the private sector goes hand in hand with a renewed social contract anchored in human rights, inclusion, protection and participation.
Across the spectrum of global challenges, we need private sector resourcefulness and cooperation to advance our common objectives of peace and sustainable development. We need new ways of working together with the private sector to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, protect the global commons and promote a resilient global economy that works for all.
I very much look forward to our discussion and carrying forward these commitments into the SDG Summit in September.