Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Can Businesses Do Well By Doing Good?

For years, the public sector and the private sector were seen as fundamentally different arenas. Today, that perception is changing. The United Nations Development Program's (UNDP) new Growing Inclusive Markets Initiative explores opportunities for cooperation between the public and private sectors, and presents strategies for developing partnerships between the two. The first report of this series, "Creating Value for All: Strategies for Doing Business with the Poor," illustrates ways that businesses can profit by focusing on poor, developing markets. UNDP launched this inaugural report on Capital Hill in Washington DC with a panel of congresswomen, development experts, and private sector analysts who reflected upon the important contributions of this report.

UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis emphasized his organization's commitment to incorporating the private sector into their development policy. UNDP hopes increased investment in the developing world can accelerate movement towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The private sector can assist economic development by overcoming traditional barriers such as a lack of information or business regulations. It can also provide financial services for entrepreneurs and physical infrastructure to transport goods to market.

US Representative of Missouri, Jo Ann Emerson, spoke of the private sector's important role in bringing expertise to developing markets. She has witnessed this contribution in her efforts to fight hunger and poverty both in the U.S. and abroad. US Representative of New York, Nita Lowey, also praised the private sector's ability to create opportunities, improve economies, and create jobs. Representative Lowey reflected on her efforts to fund education initiatives in developing countries, and the power of education in preparing the poor to enter the market and become successful entrepreneurs.

Jean-Michel Severino of the Agence Francaise de Developpement and James Kunder of USAID both highlighted the substantive nature of the report. It breaks down what Severino called "artificial distinctions" between the private and public sectors, and shows how business profits and poverty reduction can occur simultaneously. John Sullivan, Executive Director of the Center for International Private Enterprise, spoke of the private sector's ability to create the political will for reform in countries that do not have democratic governments. Business leaders can create civil society organizations, fight government corruption, and advocate for policy changes. His examples illustrated additional ways that the private sector can help the poor.

The Growing Inclusive Markets initiative is extremely relevant for every country who participates in the global market. The business model of the 21st century includes an increasingly large emphasis on developing markets and, as Mr. Sullivan warned, countries and corporations who do not embrace this trend will surely be left behind.

Sponsor: United Nations Development Program
Date: July 9, 2008
Time: 4-5:30 pm
Representative: Kate Lonergan

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