Press Releases

                                                                                                                            31 March 2004

    At European Forum, Secretary-General Says “Corporations Can Be Agents of Change” by Offering Support to Developing Countries

    NEW YORK, 30 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message, translated from French, to the Third European Forum on Sustainable Development and Corporate Social Responsibility, delivered in Paris on 29 March, by Zéphirin Diabré, Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP):

    I take great pleasure in conveying to all of you my warm greetings on the occasion of this Third European Forum on Sustainable Development and Corporate Social Responsibility.

    I congratulate the organizers of Les Échos Group on their efforts to mobilize decision makers in the corporate world and public opinion in the developed countries around this important issue.

    At the Millennium Summit in September 2000, world leaders adopted the Millennium Declaration, which outlines a set of common goals focusing on the major problems of our time.  The eight Millennium Development Goals, which form the core of the Declaration -- and which must all be attained by 2015 -- deal with reducing poverty and hunger, fighting AIDS, establishing universal primary education and protecting the environment, among others.

    Achievement of these Goals depends on many factors; none, however, is as important as creating a truly global partnership for development, which in itself is one of the Millennium Goals.

    The Monterrey and Johannesburg conferences on financing for development and sustainable development were opportunities to make specific commitments to such a partnership.  It falls primarily to States, of course, to make good on these commitments and to lay the groundwork for a sustainable development that benefits the greatest number.

    But the private sector and corporations also have an important role to play.  For this reason, I have been striving for several years to engage the private sector in the search for solutions to the problems of our time, and to encourage corporate social responsibility.

    In 1999, I launched the Global Compact, which brings together business, labour, civil society and United Nations agencies around nine universal principles relating to human rights, labour standards and environmental protection.  I am happy to note that more than 1,000 corporations, including many French corporations, are now participating in the Global Compact.

    In June 2003, I established a Commission on the Private Sector and Development.  In its recently published report, the Commission emphasizes the need to stimulate entrepreneurship and creativity in developing countries, in order to quicken the pace of sustainable development and reduce poverty.

    This Forum is an opportunity to show the way.  Corporations can be agents of change, by forging ties with small entrepreneurs in developing countries, offering them advice and technical support, and helping them to grow their businesses.

    A world which makes no progress towards achievement of the Millennium Goals -- a world imprisoned by hunger, disease and poverty -- cannot be a world of peace.  I am convinced that together we can meet the many challenges before us and hold out the prospect of a better world for all people.

    I wish you every success in your deliberations.

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