Ringfencing corporate sustainability gains in an era of fragile globalization

25 September 2020

Written by Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General, UNCTAD



Just over 20 years ago, Kofi Annan called on the global business community to “give a human face to the global market”. In the last two decades, the UN has been forging smart partnerships and leveraging the respective talents of the UN and business to address some of the world’s most challenging issues.

This has involved leveraging the know-how of business as well as its global resources. And leveraging the policy advice and technical assistance of the United Nations helps to expand opportunities for global business by supporting a more peaceful, sustainable and prosperous planet for everyone.

The good news is that the United Nations have gone a long way to fulfill the vision of the former Secretary General toward a world where the UN and global business work together to create an “age of global prosperity” for all.

The fragility of globalization

The fragility of globalization however continues to challenge us all. While we have made much progress, we still have a number of key development factors where we are failing – not least of which are reducing poverty and inequality. All of us rely on global markets for our success. And yet, the global markets on which we rely cannot be taken for granted. As Kofi Annan said 20 years ago: “Globalization is a fact of life. But I believe we have underestimated its fragility.”

Today we see this more clearly than ever. Extreme weather, natural disasters, social upheavals and a global health crisis are disrupting global value chains like never before. In what is now a very prophetic statement, Kofi Annan warned us then that “if we do not act, there may be a threat to the open global market, and especially to the multilateral trade regime.”

And today multilateralism faces enormous challenges. This is a bleak image, but we have hope. For the first time in history, we have agreed objectives in the form of the Sustainable Development Goals. And we have a strong foundation for global partnerships.

Partnership opportunities

I want to encourage all global corporate leaders to deepen their partnerships with the UN system. For our part at UNCTAD, we are streamlining our processes to improve our ability to engage in multi-stakeholder partnerships. We are strengthening our knowledge systems to provide practical and actionable policy advice not only to our member States but also to major global enterprises.

  • We host the World Investment Forum, a unique platform for global policy debate between CEOs and Heads of State involving thousands of stakeholders from around the globe.

  • Our World Investment Report engages with policy makers and CEOs alike to provide them critical data and analysis on the foreign direct investment practices of global companies. Including updates and assistance in navigating the complex web of international investment agreements.

  • Our Sustainable Stock Exchanges initiative is partnership with 97 stock exchanges worldwide with over 50,000 listed companies.

  • These are just a few of the partnership opportunities we host. Other partnerships we have include the accounting industry, a global network of entrepreneurs, and work with large institutional investors.

For those who are committed to seeing a more prosperous world, to achieving the SDGs, our doors are “open for business”.