Press Releases

    31 October 2002


    NEW YORK, 30 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the regional meeting of the International Chamber of Commerce, delivered on his behalf by Anwarul K. Chowdhury, High Representative of the Secretary-General for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, Yaoundé, 30 October:

    It gives me great pleasure to send my greetings to all the participants in this important meeting of the International Chamber of Commerce.

    Business leaders understand that entrepreneurship and sound investment are among the leading factors in helping countries to overcome poverty and become fully integrated with the global economy. One key question for you to consider is how to liberate the entrepreneurial energies of Africa’s people, and how to promote foreign investment in African countries, and in particular the least developed among them.

    Clearly, sustainable business activities require an enabling environment, and governments have an important role to play in building the necessary infrastructure, institutions and regulatory frameworks. Often, however, that is not enough. All too often, countries that are both small and poor find themselves bypassed by investors even if they are adopting the right policies.

    It is in all our interests to make fresh efforts to overcome this dilemma. The New Agenda for Africa’s Development provides one possible vehicle, as does my own Global Compact initiative. Individual companies can make sure that their investments build up local skills and create a vibrant network of suppliers, thereby contributing to long-term development. They can show that offering decent working conditions is good for productivity, and that addressing the impact of HIV/AIDS is likewise essential for sustainable markets and business. Companies can make a massive difference even with very small investments.

    In an age of interdependence, global citizenship -- based on trust and a sense of shared responsibility -- is a crucial pillar of progress. At a time when more than 1 billion people are denied the very minimum requirements of human dignity, business cannot afford to be seen as the problem. Rather, it must work with governments and all other actors in society to mobilize global science, technology and knowledge to tackle the interlocking crises of hunger, disease, environmental degradation and conflict that are holding back the developing world.

    This meeting is a timely opportunity to focus such efforts on the special needs of Africa. It is also a chance to strengthen still further the partnerships between the United Nations and the business community in our common pursuit of economic and social development and global corporate citizenship. In that spirit, please accept my best wishes for a successful meeting.

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