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(July 1, 2013)

Keynote Address for H.E. Mr. Nestor Osorio, President of the Economic and Social Council, for the World Forum on Ethics and Business


Distinguished participants,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to deliver this special address. Today's deliberations have provided an important opportunity for an exchange of views and to take a fresh look at the current political and economic paradigms through the lens of ethics and business. I believe it is important for us all to keep in mind the very fundamental meaning of ethics. As stated by Potter Stewart, former Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court: "Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do".

In the context of the current global economic crisis, leaders around the world have had to rethink the current parameters for engaging with the private sector. Now more than ever there is a need for governments to collaborate closely with business, through shared values, transparency and ethical approaches for ensuring a corruption-free environment and for achieving long-term development.

There is widespread recognition that the responsibilities of business stretch far beyond assuring financial return to stakeholders but to also benefit society at large. Value creation is perceived as a balance between earning wealth and doing public good. As the main source of economic activity, business is at the core of almost any extensive effort to improve sustainable development and the livelihood of people.

Making the best use of the contributions of the private sector is critical for achieving development objectives in a more strategic and harmonized approach. Together, governments and business can form the backbone that is needed through increased collaboration, sharing of values and building of partnerships.

In recent years, partnerships have become an essential part of the work of the United Nations. Collaboration with the private sector and foundations has increasingly become an integral part of the intergovernmental process and has played an increasingly important role for achieving the international development goals, including the MDGs. One example of this engagement is the annual Partnerships forum that ECOSOC holds in which leaders from the business and the philanthropic community join with governments to discuss collaboration in support of achieving the MDGs.

At this year's Partnerships Forum, the Council furthered its dialogue with the private sector and the philanthropic community, exploring partnerships to promote the use of science, technology and innovation and culture for development.

Looking ahead, and as we move towards a post-2015 development agenda, there is a clear need for new partnership for sustainable development. There is no doubt that the recipe for long-term success is to improve efficiency and effectiveness, while ensuring accountability and countering corruption. Corruption raises transaction costs, undermines fair competition and impedes long-term investments. To fully leverage future development efforts, corruption needs to be addressed. The UN Convention against Corruption aims to criminalize the most prevalent forms of corruption in both public and private sectors. It requires Member States to return assets obtained through corruption to their original owner. The UN Global Compact is also addressing corruption, and has, in its statement Call to Action, outlined specific anti-corruption measures, such as the need to fully implement the UN Convention against Corruption and to ensure transparent procurement processes as well as to support corporate efforts, innovative collective action, and public-private partnership initiatives to expose corruption.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to stress here the critical role that good governance can play. It requires transparency, trust and shared values among all people involved. Good governance can provide the institutions, protections and empowerments that allow us to effectively fight corruption and ensure sustainable development and growth that is equitable for all. If future development commitments are to be achieved, good and effective governance must form the backbone of these policies.

In 2000, the Millennium Development Goals were formulated to provide a framework and approach for development. However, it has been said that insufficient attention was given to governance principles, such as transparency and accountability, as well as the impacts of corruption on their achievement. It is imperative, therefore, that the notion of good governance be placed at the forefront of the development process. There now needs to be a commitment by everyone, including the private sector, as it is no doubt in the interest of the private sector to make sure governance and anti-corruption concerns are addressed as part of new development modalities.

The post-2015 development agenda will need a more structural, inclusive and systemic approach that can deliver on the transformative change needed to address current and emerging challenges and suggests credible strategies towards a secure, sustainable and inclusive pathway for global development. This agenda should put in place a development strategy capable of promoting an inclusive growth with job creation, while guaranteeing environmental sustainability. This is exactly what ECOSOC must achieve through a balanced integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development; in order to make the mandate established in the outcome document of Rio+20 a reality.

Distinguished participants,

Ethics in business requires transparency, accountability, integrity and participation. ECOSOC, for its part, has become a convening hub for such discussions, as it nurtures and strengthens its partnerships with the private sector to deal with the different and emerging challenges of sustainable development in an effective manner.

I thank you.

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