This conference marks an important moment in Ghana’s work toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and I am glad to be here to share it with you.
Today, thanks to the initiative of the CSOs Platform on the SDGs and some representatives of business in Ghana, we are uniting in one room public, private, NGO, Development Partner stakeholders -- to discuss our individual and collective contributions to the SDGs in Ghana. I am particularly grateful for the strong representation of the private sector as this is one of the first national opportunities to share ideas about their pivotal role.
I want to begin by acknowledging the team effort behind today’s event, led by the CSOs Platform on the SDGs and by Deloitte on behalf of the private sector, representatives from the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) and the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) joined forces to kick off a discussion on a multi-stakeholder partnership for the SDGs. Thank you all.
Secondly, I think it is appropriate this morning to acknowledge the leadership role Ghana is playing in the sustainable development agenda on the global level.
Two months ago, we celebrated the appointment of H.E. President Nana Akufo-Addo as Co-chair of the group of Eminent Advocates for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
In making this appointment, UN Secretary-General António Guterres rightly recognised Ghana’s past achievements under the Millennium Development Goals to reduce extreme poverty by half, its leadership in the development phase of the Sustainable Development Goals, and the high expectations for Ghana's future achievements of the sustainable development goals.
And so I would also like to thank Eugene Owusu, Special Adviser to the President on the SDGs, for being here and delivering a message on behalf of the President.
What we learned from the Millennium Development Goals is that setting goals and sticking to them through alliance of government, civil society, the private sector and development partners lifted millions of people out of extreme poverty. Worldwide, the number of people living in extreme poverty fell from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015.
What do we do with that experience? The world decided to go the rest of the way, to end extreme poverty and to take on an even more ambitious, transformative development agenda.
The resulting 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a political commitment and it is a Road Map for ending extreme poverty in all its forms, for overcoming uneven progress across countries and within countries, and for leaving no one behind.
It is one unified agenda for social, economic and environmental development, centered on five components, known as the 5 Ps:
- For People, the Agenda 2030 commits to end extreme poverty and hunger and ensure dignity and equality,
- For Prosperity, the aim is to modernise agriculture, diversify industry, and boost decent work,
- For the Planet, the ambition is to deal with the real effects of climate change today and to exploit natural resources in ways that also preserves them for our grandchildren tomorrow,
- For Peace, working towards inclusive societies, where no one is denied access to justice,
- and to accomplish all this through Partnerships – public and private sector, all segments of society, all levels of government, and between countries.
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the SDGs, translate this ambition into concrete and measurable results.
And while these Goals still do include the traditional areas of development in ending hunger, improving access to good health care, and promoting gender equality, it is important to remember that they also include a set of goals and targets about Prosperity:
- To boost economic growth and decent work,
- To improve infrastructure and cities,
- To diversify economies and speed up industrialization,
- To ensure access to reliable energy for everyone,
- To build up macroeconomic, public finance, international trade, and governance systems which provide an enabling environment for business.
To put it most succinctly, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, like the Africa Union’s Agenda 2063, recognises economic growth as a necessary condition for development and combatting poverty, and recognises the private sector as an engine for that growth.
The group of Eminent Advocates which H.E. the President co-chairs includes global business leaders, as well as eminent personalities in the arts, in sports, in academia, because as a group they represent the new partnerships needed for financing and implementing the SDGs.
The private sector is becoming prominent in the multi-stakeholder partnerships in countries throughout the Region.
In Kenya, for example, the private sector has organised itself in its own platform for the SDGs.
In Botswana, Government-Business platforms, such as the High Level Consultative Council chaired by the President, have been established as key entry points for SDGs partnerships.
In Nigeria, the Private Sector Advisory Group is emerging as a vehicle for engaging Businesses and Foundations in implementing the Agenda 2030, and it is mobilising private sector members around the SDGs targets to combine the vast resources of the private sector and stakeholder commitment to build momentum for sustainable development.
These are some of the examples of private sector platforms and their importance for national SDG implementation reported in the voluntary national reviews at the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development last July. We are looking forward, hopefully, to Ghana presenting its own voluntary review of national SDG implementation in 2018.
So as you can readily understand, financing development, financing such an ambitious agenda for sustainable development, has become a central concern.
At the UN Private Sector Forum in September in New York, this was the hot topic of discussion among some 300 Chief Executives with Heads of State and the UN. The Forum acknowledged that to deliver the SDGs, the world needs to make an annual investment of some 3-5 trillion dollars - ANNUALLY.
And the main point of that event was not to acknowledge the finance gap but to recognise that the gap will not be filled with traditional finance alone – what governments invest and development aid. There is a business case for development, as any business knows, and there just needs to be more avenues through which business can be confident that their investment serves both private enterprise and social goals.
- For example, strengthening the business environment is important for unleashing investment in development.
- For another, promoting avenues of venture capital would make it easier to connect with social enterprises and invest in their creative ideas for good business opportunities in improving sanitation, recycling waste, exploiting options for renewable energy in remote areas, connecting research to entrepreneurs.
- It is also important to make it easier for the business community to raise its collective, representative voice in the institutions that Ghana is setting up to coordinate the SDGs. Civil Society is very well organised on this, in the important role to raise the voice of citizens to act on the SDGs and hold leaders to account for their SDG commitments. And the voice of the private sector is equally needed.
One of their most important roles of the private sector in multi-stakeholder platforms would be taking a big-picture approach to the SDGs, in ensuring that investments towards one Goal are not undermined by delays towards others.
The 17 SDGs are mutually-supportive, which also means that they are mutually dependent.
For example: Ghana has set high objectives to develop new industries, SDG 9, and modernise agriculture, SDG 2. And that should open new opportunities for business. But if that growth is going to be inclusive, and sustainable, it has to provide good local jobs. So the policies on education, Goal 4, need to work closely with business to anticipate what skills they will need, and then work with business to prepare young people for them – linking classroom and workplace learning. And that training needs to open non-traditional occupations to women, to help us meet Goal 5 on gender equality. Only when the private sector and the education sector work together to ensure that vocational and general education anticipates and responds to new demands and opportunities in the private sector, will we meet Goal 8 on decent work for all. And with well-trained and able-to-learn workers, industries will be better able to adopt new technologies, improve productivity, and compete on the global stage. It is all connected. And I think that businesses see that better sometimes than do individual Ministries or individual UN Agencies!
So, private sector representation is needed in the national and local multi-stakeholder partnership for the SDGs - for sharing your innovative business solutions, for identifying any barriers that prevent business from contributing to the global goals in Ghana, for ensuring that progress towards one Goal is not undermined by delays in others.
These are just some of the various ways in which the private sector can contribute to SDG attainment – through sustainable business practices, through investments that respond to Government incentives and policies to domesticate the SDGs, through seeing the big picture and helping connect the SDGs effectively, and through expanding development financing through Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropy.
I am looking forward to hearing today some candid discussion in the panels on business opportunities within the SDGs and about making the SDG coordination platforms truly effective as vehicles for multi-stakeholder strategic partnerships.