8 June 2006

Business Has Vital Role, Responsibility to Help Address Poverty, Social Injustice, Says Secretary-General, in Message to Launch of Global Compact in Nigeria

NEW YORK, 7 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan's message on the occasion of the launch of the Global Compact at the twelfth Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja, 7 June:

I am pleased to send greetings to all participants in the twelfth Nigerian Economic Summit.  I am particularly delighted that your Summit marks the official launch of the Global Compact in Nigeria.

Today's inauguration represents a major step forward for the Global Compact in Africa.  I am grateful to the Nigerian Government for its endorsement and support.  I would also like to thank the African Leadership Forum and the Nigerian Economic Summit Group for introducing this initiative in your country.

As we all know very well, the rapid globalization of international markets has brought prosperity and wealth to many.  But a huge proportion of the world's population has not yet reaped its benefits.  We have a shared duty to do all we can to shape globalization, so that it spreads prosperity far more broadly among the populations of less developed countries.

The leading yardstick of progress today is the extent to which countries are achieving the Millennium Development Goals, which were adopted by world leaders at the Millennium Summit in 2000.  The goals -- ranging from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of major diseases and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015 -- are ambitious but achievable.

The business community has a direct stake in helping countries reach these goals and achieve broad-based, sustainable development.  Reducing poverty helps create stable and inclusive markets, as well as the purchasing power that allows markets to grow.  Supporting such progress makes good business sense, and it makes good development sense.

The Compact is an important part of efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  It is not an indictment of the business world.  On the contrary, it is based on the idea that business, as a major and powerful component of every society, has a vital role, and a clear responsibility, to help address the world's most pressing problems.  Through the Compact, business can join hands with other sectors to find solutions to the poverty and social injustice that blight our world.

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.  Rather than seeking regulation, sanction or confrontation, the Compact emphasizes dialogue, learning and projects.  Instead of interpreting existing norms and regulatory frameworks, the Global Compact focuses on finding practical solutions.

We at the United Nations feel we have a partner in the Nigerian business community that is ready to join us in carrying the Global Compact forward.  Your entrepreneurial spirit, willingness to take risks and commitment to good corporate citizenship can help your country realize the vision of the New Partnership for Africa's Development, and guarantee a better future for all Nigerians.

So I send the same message to both government and business leaders in Nigeria:  Your commitment and your leadership will determine whether the Global Compact will succeed in your country, and whether it will expand throughout the African continent.  I am confident that the Global Compact can take root and blossom in your country and in the region.  If it does, it can prove a new and practical source of hope for Africans everywhere.

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