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UNDP official stresses role of private engagement in development, new era demands more knowledge-sharing and expertise

WashingtonMajor changes in the multilateral landscape have paved the way for new partnerships and a concrete, recognized role for the private sector in development, UNDP Assistant Administrator for External Relations and Advocacy Sigrid Kaag said here.

“The geopolitical and multilateral landscapes have changed, creating new opportunities to partner and co-create,” Kaag told a panel discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Feb. 24. “The development experiences and approaches coming from emerging economies provide new examples and new insights.”

“Meaningful, equitable, inclusive growth requires the active engagement of all partners, and the private sector is critical to job-rich economic growth,” she said. “In many countries, the private sector shares its expertise, access to technology, and innovative practices and tested business models.”

“UNDP’s experience in working with the private sector, in growing inclusive markets, has given us ample experience to build on and apply in our work with all development partners,” she said, citing “tremendous momentum” for accelerating progress toward the anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

UNDP draws on its legitimacy, neutrality, and global reach to further promote trilateral cooperation and private sector engagement, she said, adding that the agency seeks to foster inclusive markets with jobs and services for the poor, predictable economic bases, and good governance.

‘Revolution in development’

In 2005, UNDP, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and Government of France launched a study of the role of the private sector in development, Daniel Runde, director of the CSIS Project on Prosperity and Development, said.

The resulting report, “Creating Value for All,” was published in 2008, launched in more than 50 countries, and translated into seven languages. It also prompted UNDP’s “Growing Inclusive Markets” initiative.

“You have something [here] that has caused a real revolution in development,” Runde said. “Having the UN say that private sector-led development is important really means something, because the UN can reach folks other people can’t.”

The Growing Inclusive Markets initiative comprises 28 business schools in developing countries along with other partners to build and share knowledge related to private sector effectiveness among low-income populations and to develop capacity. UNDP also hosts a multi-partner initiative, the Business Call to Action(BCtA), which challenges companies to develop innovative business models with commercial and development outcomes.

Emerging economies play a key role

The 34-member Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) now includes Mexico, Chile, Israel, the Republic of Korea, and Turkey. Such emerging economies are now partners in shaping and implementing development policy, Kaag said.

Middle-income countries with growing economies are clear in their demand for cutting-edge knowledge and tested expertise to develop equitably and create opportunities for the present and future, she said. “The Arab Spring has taught us a number of valuable lessons in this respect. Employment and employability remain driving forces in society,” she said.

In March 2011, UNDP and the Government of Turkey opened the Istanbul International Center for Private Sector in Development. The Istanbul center supports inclusive, competitive markets and business models that engage poor people into value chains as producers, employees, consumers, and entrepreneurs, with the end goal of economic development.

Opening the center, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark cited “outstanding examples of inclusive approaches in Turkey and other countries in the broad UNDP region of transition in Europe and Central Asia,” such as a textile industry entrepreneur who invested in poorer regions.

“Through lower labor costs, and with government incentives, this business became profitable and generated new jobs and opportunities, especially for local women,” Clark said. “The private sector itself has a critical role to play in fostering inclusive growth.”

UNDP has meanwhile signed new partnership agreements with Brazil, China, Turkey, Mexico, and South Africa, committing to work together to support other developing countries to meet development challenges.