Introductory Statement at the Ninth Meeting of the ESCAP Business Advisory Council

Delivered at the Ninth Meeting of the ESCAP Business Advisory Council (EBAC) in Bangkok, Thailand.

Chair, Datuk Seri Mohamed Iqbal Rawther,
Vice Chair Mr. Chote Sophonpanich,
Distinguished Business Leaders,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to the ninth meeting of the ESCAP Business Advisory Council (EBAC).

In May last year we suggested three priorities for EBAC: recruiting a wider range of Asia-Pacific business leaders to deepen ESCAP’s engagement with the region’s corporate sector; raising awareness of the mechanisms and modalities for promoting sustainable development; and spearheading private sector resource mobilization efforts for sustainable development across the region.

Progress has been made on many fronts:

ESCAP and our development partners have convened a large number of high-level consultations and deliberations, to define Asia-Pacific regional priorities for sustainable development, as well as on financing for development, and to ensure that these perspectives are reflected in the global negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda.

In these consultations there have been calls for private finance to support implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), enhance financial inclusion, promote financial innovation, and expand both trade finance and SME finance to achieve inclusive, resilient and sustainable development in the region.

The Asia-Pacific Business Forum (APBF) and the eight task forces of the Sustainable Business Network (SBN) have helped develop:

  • Internet-based business platforms;
  • New approaches to business financing for development as well as for disaster risk management;
  • Technical programmes to boost the capacity of Government officials and business;
  • Improved trade and transport business systems, which have boosted regional integration;
  • Programmes such as the one which has seen thousands of solar lights delivered to the benefit of disadvantaged rural people, and
  • Policy guidebooks, for instance our handbook on sustainable banking which uses Asia-Pacific examples to demonstrate how the principles of responsible banking can be applied.

Going beyond these notable results, the task forces need to be further focused to support green businesses, decent jobs, innovation, social and environmental action.

Your participation in the Regional Conference on Aligning Corporate Sustainability with the SDGs, organized tomorrow by ESCAP in collaboration with the OECD, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), and EBAC, will be very valuable. The Conference will focus on what the SDGs will mean for business, and how business sustainability and its strategies can be aligned to support their implementation. Your business perspectives will then be fed into the deliberations of the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development, which will be held over the following two days.

As we look to the work of the EBAC in the year ahead – during this critical period for global and regional development, there are a number of key issues on which we would appreciate receiving your perspectives and support:

  1. Enhancing the role of Asia-Pacific business in achieving sustainable development, especially through the SDGs and their associated targets;
  2. Strategies and tools to improve corporate sustainability;
  3. Practical examples of responsible and inclusive business initiatives from the Asia-Pacific region;
  4. How to effectively link SDGs to existing initiatives and instruments to advance corporate sustainability and responsible business practices (such as the Sustainable Business Network and the United Nations Global Compact);
  5. Private sector initiatives to coordinate advocacy and action consistent with sustainable development and the capacities of EBAC; and
  6. Most importantly, working with the finance industry to catalyze development finance and sustainable technologies for people.

As you agree on your action plans for the year ahead, please let us know how the secretariat can facilitate your work with us even further. Our partnerships with business are crucial for every single area of sustainable development, as we work for a more open, vibrant, prosperous, inclusive and business-friendly region. Together, we can achieve these goals.

Before concluding, I would like to express my appreciation to Ms. Barbara Meynert, Chair of the EBAC Task Force on Digital Economy, who will kindly host a dinner reception for all of us at the British Club this evening.

I now have the pleasure to request the Chairman of EBAC, Datuk Seri Mohamed Iqbal Rawther, to make his opening remarks.

I thank you.