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Speech by UN Resident Coordinator a.i., Dr Kristan Schoultz at the Viet Nam Corporate Sustainability Forum 2016

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Date: 08 November 2016
Event: Viet Nam Corporate Sustainability Forum 2016
Venue: Sheraton Hotel

Excellency Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam,
Excellency Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Tran Hong Ha,
VCCI Chairman and President Dr Vu Tien Loc,
Excellency Giles Lever, British Ambassador to Viet Nam,
Ladies and gentlemen:
I am delighted to be here today for this year’s Viet Nam Corporate Sustainability Forum. And I’m so pleased that the focus of this meeting is related to Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.

As you are all aware, Agenda 2030 sets out a vision for tackling some of the most pressing challenges the world has ever faced.

I believe that this agenda presents us with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to end poverty, tackle climate change, fight inequality and justice, and realize human rights.

We must seize this opportunity!

The SDGs are wide-ranging, ambitious and complex – much more challenging than any framework of development goals ever set before.

They are highly aspirational.

They also challenge us in the way they stretch our thinking, and the way that they call for us all to move out of our traditional comfort zones. The ‘business as usual’ approach to development is simply not good enough if we want to achieve SDG success. And part of this is that we must no longer think – and act – in silos.

This is because much of the complexity of the SDGs lies in the way the framework recognises the interconnectedness of so many issues.

The SDG framework recognizes that sometimes there are natural synergies between development solutions, but at other times our development efforts may actually conflict with each other.

For example:
Investing in people may be good for the economy.
But economic development may present major risks to the environment.
And major risks to the environment can threaten people’s health and well-being.

Every day we see these tensions play out across the world. And these tensions serve as a reminder that, in our drive for progress and prosperity, no one must be left behind.

Ladies and gentlemen:
The SDGs call on us to dig deep, to propose creative solutions, and to work together across sectors more effectively than we ever have before.
And one thing is very clear.

We will not achieve the ambitious transformations promised by the SDGs, if we don’t adopt new approaches, and reach out beyond the usual development actors.

Everyone has a role to play in meeting today’s complex development challenges –not only Government and State actors, but civil society, the media and the private sector. This is what we mean when we say that the SDGs are a “whole of Government, whole of society” effort.

And our job at the United Nations is:

  • to support the Government in its overall coordination of SDG action;
  • to help facilitate strong, open, and effective partnerships; and,
  • to help create the strong “whole of society” ownership that will be so vital to our success.

It is clear that one of the most important partnerships moving forward will be the partnership between the public and the private sector.

Historically, many development actors have seen the private sector only in terms of providing resources for existing projects. But more recently, there has been a growing emphasis on the role of the private sector as a true partner in development.  We now know that public-private partnerships hold the key to tackling environmental, social and ethical challenges, and this provides a foundation for a much more integrated, and much more effective, approach to our work.

As many of you already know, there is also a solid business case for greater social responsibility.

And we are all aware that ‘doing well by doing good’ is a growing trend among businesses seeking new markets in the developing world.

Research shows a significant shift to these dual objectives over straightforward philanthropy or charitable giving.

We define this as ‘inclusive business’.
The UN has developed a set of “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights”.

These globally agreed - and widely supported - principles give us both an instrument and a framework to help engage the private sector in a more meaningful way.

We hope to initiate a dialogue on these principles here in Viet Nam as soon as possible, with the aim of leading to a national action plan.

We in the UN also want to work together with private sector partners to create opportunities for the next generation.

By supporting child rights, not only will businesses have better access to skilled labour and improved employee satisfaction, you will also help to improve the communities in which you work. And this means that “doing good” for children and young people is an investment, not a cost.

Today’s children are your future labour force, your future investors and customers – but only if they are healthy, educated, and equipped with the right skills.

That’s why the UN and Save the Children were delighted to launch the Child Rights and Business Principles together with Deputy Prime Minister, Vu Duc Dam, the VCCI, and the Chambers of Commerce from Europe, the US and Korea earlier this year.

We believe that such a partnership with the private sector to realise child rights is a great example of the kind of “game changing” partnerships that will lead to truly sustainable growth.

Ladies and gentlemen;
Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak today.
Exciting times lie ahead!
We have a bold and ambitious agenda. But this agenda holds the key to Viet Nam’s ambitions as a globally integrated, forward-looking nation.

We at the United Nations believe that businesses and the private sector are an extremely important partner in the effort to achieve sustainable development.

As was noted in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, only by ‘unlocking the transformative potential of businesses to apply their creativity and innovation toward solving sustainable development challenges as partners in the development process’ will we stand a chance of achieving Agenda 2030 and the SDGs.

We very much look forward to working with you to make this happen!