28 May 2004
Private Sector Has Huge Responsibility, Potential Influence in Search for Peaceful Solutions to Conflict, Secretary-General Tells Bogota Global Compact Meeting
NEW YORK, 27 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annans message to the Global Compact Policy Dialogue meeting and launch of the Global Compact in Colombia, which was delivered today in Bogotá by John Renninger, Director, Americas and Europe Division, United Nations Department of Political Affairs:
I am pleased to send my greetings to all who have gathered in Bogotá for this Global Compact Policy Dialogue on The Role of the Private Sector in Conflict Prevention and Peace-Building and for the launch of the Global Compact in Colombia. Given the challenges facing Colombia, I applaud your efforts in coming together to address such critical issues in the quest to build peace.
The Compact is a voluntary initiative. It relies on the vision and commitment of leaders in the private sector to make its principles an integral part of their day-to-day operations. Its mechanisms are not regulation, sanction or confrontation -- but rather dialogue, learning and projects. Aligning business operations to universally shared values and principles can strengthen a companys ties with responsible counterparts in the global economy, as well as with the United Nations and the international community.
Private companies operate in many conflict zones or conflict-prone countries around the world. Their decisions -- on investment and employment, on relations with local communities, on protection for local environments, on their own security arrangements -- can help a country resolve conflict, or exacerbate the tensions that fuelled conflict in the first place.
Private companies also manufacture and sell weapons and other hardware used in conflict -- from tanks to small arms, anti-personnel mines and even machetes. And private enterprises are involved in the extraction and sale of lucrative natural resources -- resources which have helped governments and rebel groups alike to finance and sustain military campaigns. In many situations, the chaos of conflict has allowed resources to be exploited illegally or with little regard for equity or the environment. When local populations are excluded from discussions on access and control of natural resources -- and see little benefit for communities -- this can also cause conflict.
Therefore, the private sector has an enormous stake, responsibility and potential influence in the search for peaceful solutions. After all, companies require a stable environment in order to conduct their operations and minimize their risks. Their reputations -- with the public, with their own employees and with their shareholders -- depend not only on what product or service is provided, but very much on how it is provided. The bottom line can no longer, and should no longer, be separated from some of the key goals of the United Nations and the responsible global community: peace, development and equity. All of these are compelling reasons why business should play an active part in tackling these issues, without waiting to be asked.
In that spirit, I thank every one of you for your engagement, and wish you a successful meeting. Above all, I hope the Global Compact will thrive in Colombia and prove a valuable asset in the search for peace.
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