Voice of America (Washington, DC)

Africa: UN, Businesses Collaborate On Long-Term Plan to Help Developing Nations

The United Nations has begun laying the groundwork for initiatives that will help improve the lives of some of the world's most vulnerable people after its 15-year plan, called Millennium Development Goals, ends in 2015.

The U.N. launched the Millennium Development Goals project in 2000. Member states agreed to work together on efforts to significantly reduce extreme poverty, hunger illiteracy and disease.

"There is nothing inevitable about inequality," said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "Our shared goal should aim at taking practical steps to remove this formidable barrier to development and human dignity," he said.

Ban commented in a February 20 message marking World Day of Social Justice. In his statement, he underscored that social justice is crucial to continued efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and shape a post-2015 agenda.

Visions Beyond 2015

Government, businesses and international organizations have joined the U.N. in formulating the post-2015 agenda, which focuses on issues including economic development and sustainability.

Ban laid the groundwork for the new agenda in January 2012 when he established a U.N. Task Team that would support plans for a post-2015 agenda.

In a June 2012 report, the team put forth recommendations that include establishing an integrated policy approach to ensure inclusive economic development and working to ensure inclusive social development in countries.

Government, Businesses Collaborate to Implement Plan

U.N., government and business leaders discussed those goals at a recent meeting hosted by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

At the meeting, U.S. presidential advisor John Podesta said a much better job needs to be done in connecting the "poorest of the poor" to economic and social resources.

"We cannot expect the poor to raise themselves up if they cannot open a bank account, if they cannot hold their inherent land, if they have no legal identity or if they are cut off from crucial infrastructure, like schools, roads, electricities, access to primary care," he said.

Podesta said poor people are in need of what he called "connectivity."

"Connectivity broadly encompasses issues like access to health care, education and job opportunities, connections to physical, financial and energy infrastructure and the opportunity to actively participate in the civic and economic lives of their countries," he said.

Georg Kell is executive director of the U.N. Global Compact, a corporate initiative that seeks to align business operations with efforts to support human rights, labor, the environment and anti-corruption initiatives.

Kell said responsive governing is a key component of efforts to help developing countries.

"This is the big catalytic thing," he said. "If we miss out on this one, I think, we miss out on the historic opportunity that we have," he said.

Kell said private companies are becoming increasingly interested in supporting post-2015 goals because they realize that public interests and private businesses' interests are becoming more intertwined.

He said businesses realize their opportunities for growth will be limited in regions where there is a poor skills base or basic natural resources are at risk.

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