By Phyllis Wakiaga
Does private sector have the power to transform society by transforming the economy?
This a core discussion that revolves around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which were introduced in the Post 2015 development agenda. The agenda among other things focusses on the development challenges of the coming decade taking off from the perspective of the millennium development goals (MDGs). The MDGs have been very successful in mobilizing global action to deal with poverty and were well absorbed into the UN Millennium Declaration and also in the subsequent development goals. But we have to be cognisant of the challenges of the day and of the aspects not previously incorporated into the MDGs.
The SDGs are built on the foundation of the MDGs because of the compelling nature of the later. The post 2015 agenda does not exclude them but rather makes them broader and more universal. Universal, not only in appealing to a wider audience other than poor and developing countries, but recognising that emerging and developed countries also have specific responsibilities and challenges that they need to tackle by participating in this global development agenda. They are also universal, in terms of expanding the agenda beyond the focus on poverty to embracing sustainable development in all its dimensions, both economic and environmental.
Therefore the agenda is a proposal for action at the global level as well as the national level and an expansion of partnerships that will bring in civil society, business and the private sector, national governments, multilateral institutions and the United Nations (UN). So yes, the private sector does have a role in socio-economic development. The greatest innovations infact have been done around business models.
The agenda is underpinned by five principles referred to as five transformative shifts. To eradicate extreme poverty in our lifetime inclusivity is necessary and everyone, each community and each nation, matters and should take part in the SDGs. The second shift is the environmental protection agenda which puts sustainable development at the core of its focus. The third aspect, one which is missing from the MDGs which were mostly social goals, is economic growth.
Economic growth and especially transformation through inclusive growth and job creation, takes its rightful place at the core of the new development agenda. The fourth point, also missing from the MDGs, is the creation of peace through conflict resolution and the creation of sound institutions. It is impossible to have development without peace, without accountability, without justice for all. And finally there is the desire for renewed global partnerships, a recognition that we are in this planet together and therefore no society can thrive while others languish. Each nation has responsibilities.
In order to give reality to these five transformative shifts, 12 illustrative goal are proposed which are by no means binding but demonstrate how this vision can be rendered into goals. The 12 illustrative goals come together with 54 targets.
However the SDGs cannot be achieved without money and the second question arises, how do we finance them? Three key possible streams exist; private investment, domestic resources mobilized by developing countries and foreign assistance. The role of private sector and in particular the industrial one comes sharply into focus due to its ability to create employment and contribute to the growth of the economy. The role does not only entail aid into projects to achieve the SDGs, but rather, it is important for the private sector to step up and takes it rightful place in development. To do this the business sector requires an enabling environment with which to grow, create jobs and attend to social goals.
Poverty eradication and economic growth can be achieved through an inclusive and sustainable industrial policy. A policy framework for investment is therefore integral to the process, one which takes all these realities into account and develops a suitable ecosystem for the growth of industry and the country as a whole. The UN Global Compact Network is the key vehicle that the business community has and will use to mobilize business action around the SDGs and I invite any private sector organisation that is not a member to join the network.
The writer is the CEO of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers and can be reached on email@example.com