Let us bring private sector into 'engine room' of SDGs - Edward

Feb 28, 2017

UNDP Resident Representatives delivering his statement at the launch of PSAG on SDGs in Abuja (Photo, UNDP Nigeria/Lucky Musonda)

Statement by UNDP Resident Representative, Edward Kallon, during the launch of the Private Sector Advisory Group on SDGs in Nigeria - 28 February 2017, Abuja.



Your Excellency the Acting President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, allow me to begin by expressing to you, and the Government and the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, my profound gratitude and deep appreciation of your acceptance of my recent posting here as the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative. As you are aware, I am also serving as the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator and the UN Designated Official for Security in Nigeria. In these diverse roles, I look forward to working closely with you, Your Excellency, and the entire leadership of this country in mobilizing all the available resources and expertise from the UN system to support the Government to address the development challenges the country is facing.

For the past three months I have been in the country, I have come to appreciate the humanitarian and development challenges facing this great nation.  My appreciation of the challenges at the federal level has been largely informed by my own reading and interactions with members of the both the Executive and the Legislature, as well as representatives of Development Partners and Civil Society Organizations. My visit to the States of Kaduna, Kano, Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States have greatly enriched my understanding and appreciation of the daily struggles and experiences of ordinary Nigerians, especially those in those in IDP camps.

I have just returned from Oslo, Norway, where I attended the ‘Oslo Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad region’ co-hosted by Norway together with Germany, Nigeria and the UN to raise awareness of the crisis and increase funding for the humanitarian appeals. Participants at the Conference noted the substantive progress made in scaling-up the humanitarian response in North East Nigeria and committed to further strengthen the principled humanitarian response to the crisis to address medium- and long-term development needs and identify durable solutions to avoid further escalation of the crisis.  

Your Excellency, based on my personal experience from my recent visits to the North East, the sense of urgency with which action is required to avert a looming humanitarian crisis could not be greater. To mobilize additional resources to address the impact of the crisis in north east Nigeria, the United Nations launched in Oslo the Nigeria Humanitarian Fund to enable Donors and the vibrant private sector in Nigeria to contribute resources to address the impact of the crisis. This is consistent with the Grand Bargain made at the World Humanitarian Summit.

Your Excellency, we are living in challenging, and yet interesting, times. The humanitarian crisis in the North East, coupled with the current economic recession present challenges of unprecedented proportions. But while the challenges are enormous and unprecedented, there are also boundless opportunities. In local communities in the North East, I have witnessed firsthand, the great resilience of the people of this nation despite the social, economic and ecological vulnerabilities that confront them on a daily basis. In this regard, I am delighted to note the Government has recently concluded the development of a comprehensive ‘Economic Recovery and Growth Plan’. We look forward to working with you, Your Excellency, in implementing this Plan, which articulates home-grown solutions to reverting the economy to a positive growth trajectory and laying a firm foundation for sustainable development.   

Riding on these national initiatives and the resilience of the Nigerian people,  we should consider ourselves privileged to be the first generation with a realistic chance of bringing about tangible and sustainable development incorporating its three pillars – economic, social and environmental.  From my interactions with the leadership of this country, I have no doubt that there exists the necessary political goodwill for this.  We just need to seize the opportunity, marshalling all efforts, expertise and resources, including those of the private sector.

The Sustainable Development Goals and the Need for Smart Partnerships

The 2030 Agenda commits all countries and stakeholders to work together to promote sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development and environmental protection while ‘leaving no one behind’. The scale and ambition of this new universal agenda calls for an integrated approach to sustainable development and collective action at all levels.  

Through the 2030 Agenda, nation states have recognized the imperative of a revitalized global partnership, that is, “an intensive global engagement in support of implementation of all the goals and targets, bringing together Governments, civil society, the private sector, the United Nations system and other actors and mobilizing all available resources.”  I am delighted to join you, Your Excellency, on this occasion to witness the birth of this revitalized partnership with the private sector in Nigeria.

Role of the Private Sector in SDGs implementation

The revitalized partnership places the private sector at the centre-stage of the SDGs implementation process. Progress, or the lack of it, will hinge heavily on the extent of private sector engagement. Private business activity, investment and innovation are the major drivers of productivity, inclusive economic growth and job creation.

We should pursue a revitalized partnership both as a means to an end and an end in itself. Your Excellency, it is only through the revitalized partnership that we can effectively deliver the ‘means of implementing the SDGs’ through domestic public resources; private business and finance; international development cooperation; international trade; sustainable debt management; and addressing systemic issues and science, technology, innovation and capacity-building; and data, monitoring and follow-up.

The means of implementing the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs are the basis for SDG 17 and its associated targets. Revitalized partnerships, especially with the private sector, will be critical for filling the funding gaps.  Your Excellency, it is estimated that up to seven trillion dollars will be required on an annual basis by developing countries to meet the SDGs. Out of this and based on the current estimates, an annual funding gap in the order of 2.5 trillion dollars has been identified. A large share of the resources needed to fund the new agenda will come from the private sector - businesses, foundations and private investors.

Towards a Business Unusual Approach: Going Beyond the Numbers Game

The private sector faces a number of constraints which must be addressed to enable them to occupy their rightful place in the development process. At the macro level, there is a need for a shift in the mindset from the perception that the contribution of the private sector to sustainable development is limited to philanthropy and voluntary corporate social responsibility to a more holistic view encompassing inclusive and sustainable business models that deliver sustainable development - without undermining profitability.

Your Excellency, while the diversity of private sector, ranging from micro and small enterprises; to cooperatives and multinationals is to be acknowledged, there is a need for all sector players, whether small, medium or large, to apply creativity and innovation in creating jobs, growing the economy and delivering basic social services. The task ahead over the next fourteen years is enormous and the private sector must move to the centre-stage and occupy the ‘engine room’ of the SDGs implementation process.

The private sector must engage as partners in the development process and invest in areas critical to sustainable development and shift to more sustainable consumption and production process; develop requisite skills; and create descent and durable jobs. This is the only way to tackle the prevalent poverty and deprivation in this country, while conserving the environment and ultimately, saving Planet Earth. Judging from the wide array of private sector organisations represented here today and the countless ones that were not able to make it to this room, there is not a trace of doubt in my mind, Your Excellency, that the private sector in Nigeria is ready to move to the centre-stage of the sustainable development agenda.

But I also know that if we continue on a business-as-usual track and at the current scale of operation; level of engagement; and pace of adaptation to change and innovation in delivery of development, much progress will not be made and the promise of Agenda 2030 will not be achieved. The private sector must move to a new scale of operation; a new platform of engagement with the government and other stakeholders; and a new modality of delivering development through greater innovation. Yesterday’s approaches will, certainly, not deliver the desired results and aspirations of Agenda 2030.

Leaving no one behind’ implies that it is no longer sufficient to talk, in general terms, about the overall contribution of the private sector but rather the appropriateness, quality and durability of that contribution. For instance, it is no longer sufficient to talk about the important role that the private sector plays in creating jobs, contributing to GDP and private capital flows in developing countries. We must go beyond the numbers game and ask some tough questions of the private sector: whether we have achieved full and productive employment or not? whether there is gender-parity in employment? whether the youth, beyond completing school, have the requisite skills for the labour market? whether the labour force is engaged in descent and durable jobs? and whether poverty and income inequality are being addressed through reported jobs and growth attributable to the private sector. We must also ask important questions about the environmental cost of growth; we need to be concerned about negative externalities of economic activities and, as much as possible, internalize such externalities. These are by no means easy questions. But they deserve answers nonetheless. And it is my hope that we, together, will find answers to these as we embark on the SDGs journey, under the leadership of the Government.  

Role of UNDP in Promoting Private Sector Engagement

Your Excellency, while it may appear from the foregoing that we are entering an unchartered territory and there are more questions than answers; we should be comforted in the fact that we are not starting from zero. We already have a rich history of private sector engagement in sustainable development initiatives to learn from and build upon.

In the run-up to the 2015 UN Summit the immediate past UN Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki Moon convened the United Nations Private Sector Forum to enhance the understanding of efforts underway by the private sector and civil society, and provide a platform for the private sector to commit to long-term goals and partnerships that will make important contributions towards achieving the SDGs.

As you may also be aware, Your Excellency, UNDP hosts the secretariat for the SDG Business Call to Action (BCtA), which challenges companies to develop inclusive business models which are both profitable and contribute to development outcomes. More than 110 companies are currently engaged. Initiatives from the companies to date include pledges to provide access to financial services for more than 59 million people, promote improved health outcomes for 63 million people, and enhance access to energy for 90 million low-income households.

Closer home, during the Ebola crisis, public and private sector organizations worked together with the UN in many countries in this region to develop a fast and secure way to pay Ebola response workers. This was critical in bringing the Ebola epidemic under control.

Here in Nigeria, UNDP and other UN agencies are currently partnering with the private sector in the areas of Health, HIV and AIDS, humanitarian interventions in the North East and poverty reduction efforts. The partnership between the Bank of Industry and UNDP on Renewable Energy, as well as the joint efforts with the Private sector and the UN during the 2012 flood are also worth mentioning.

But in order to achieve the desired level of, and results from, private sector engagement in the SDGs implementation, there is a need for a national policy and strategy that defines and guide such an engagement process.  In this regard, I am happy to note that UNDP Nigeria is currently supporting the Government to draw up a ‘National Strategy and Action Plan for the Engagement of the Private Sector and Foundations in Implementation of the 2030 Agenda in Nigeria’.  The Strategy, among other things, defines the institutional framework and organizational arrangement for engagement of private sector and foundations and importantly, gives full expression to the Private Sector Advisory Group (PSAG), being launched today.

It is my sincere hope, Your Excellency, that with the launch of the PSAG today and subsequent completion of National Strategy and Action Plan for the Engagement of Private and Foundations in Implementation of the Agenda 2030 in Nigeria, we will move, speedily to a new plan of engaging the private sector in the implementation of the SDGs in Nigeria.

I look forward to seeing the private sector occupying the ‘engine room’ of sustainable development in the country. On our part, I wish to pledge the continued commitment of UNDP Nigeria in helping to nurture this nascent engagement process and look forward to the private sector playing a greater role in the achievement of the SDGs, while ensuring that ‘no one is left behind’.

I thank you for your attention!




Communications Specialist

Lucky Musonda

UNDP Around the world

You are at UNDP Nigeria 
Go to UNDP Global