First IOE-KAS Workshop on UN Engagement with the Private Sector

Enhancing Cooperation between UN Resident Coordinators and Employer/Business Membership Organisations, and strengthening collective Action to address COVID-19 Impacts

The International Organisation of Employers (IOE) and the Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) Foundation share a common mission of supporting a rules-based, social market economy and contributing through robust partnerships to the global goals set out in the 2030 Agenda. To this end, IOE and KAS joined forces to host a virtual conference to explore opportunities for partnerships between United Nations Resident Coordinators (UNRCs) and IOE member organisations and their company affiliates with a view to enhancing cooperation for the delivery of the 2030 Agenda, as well as measures to address the socio-economic impact of COVID-19.


The exchange was a follow-up to an IOE communication addressed to UN leadership on behalf of IOE’s global membership in early April 2020. This communication expressed the willingness of IOE to engage with UN RCs at local level and set out IOE’s added value as a partner, particularly in the context of UN Reform, the Decade of Action and COVID-19 response. Chief among IOE attributes are its global representativity of businesses, large and small, across all sectors and in almost 150 countries; experience and expertise in socio-economic policy advocacy at the international level and on the ground; and in-depth knowledge of the specific challenges and needs of the local business community.

For the New York office of KAS the cooperation with IOE falls into the broader context of not only promoting the concept of a social market economy, but also to support a multi-stakeholder approach in striving to further the SDGs, and in particular Goal 16. The latter’s aim to provide rule of law as well as policy and governance frameworks conducive for sustainable development are key for a private sector that has taken on its social responsibilities.

Key Takeaways

The private sector and its representative EBMOs at national and international level were closely involved in the elaboration of the SDGs and remain deeply committed to contributing to the 2030  Agenda, including the Decade of Action, particularly through multi-stakeholder partnerships, including  with actors in the multilateral system. Many examples were given of private sector initiatives that evidence this commitment, though it was agreed that much more could be done if the right policy frameworks and dialogue structures were in place to support private sector efforts, and if more buy- in could be secured from SMEs. The latter requires more effective outreach and communication in plain business language of the value of engaging in the 2030 Agenda. While the financial contribution of the private sector to the SDGs is highly valued, developing and transferring technology, sharing innovation, engaging in advocacy, and nurturing skills and talent are also sought. Enhanced visibility should be given to joint efforts in progressing the SDGs with a view to creating impact and inspiration.

Within the context of the reform of the UN Development System and the unprecedented socio- economic challenges created by COVID-19, there is no time to lose in setting up structures for regular dialogue forums between the UN RCs and local EBMOs, and other stakeholders, and in stepping up joint advocacy to governments for conducive policy frameworks and measures to restore and accelerate progress towards the 2030 Agenda, and to meet the post-COVID needs of the private sector, especially SMEs.

The “new normal” offers a window of opportunity to approach the world’s challenges differently, including re-imagining business and societal models that align more closely with the 2030 Agenda, that contribute to “greening” the economy, and to re-orienting skills development towards the needs of the digital economy. Addressing pre-COVID issues of inequalities, which are exacerbated by the crisis, and climate change remain high priorities globally.

The UN Global Compact, with which IOE enjoys a longstanding and constructive relationship, provides a valuable network for engagement between the UN system and business. However, the Global Compact does not engage in work on policy, legislative and regulatory frameworks that are crucial for the system changes that are required as we move from advocacy to implementation of the SDGs, i.e. the Decade of Action. Also, while an important convenor, the Global Compact is not present in every country and cannot provide the bridge to the SME sector that is needed to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the sector’s needs in response to COVID-19. This is called for in the UN Secretary- General’s Response and Recovery Fund initiative. Such a bridge is provided by IOE’s member network, which represents around 50 million companies in close to 150 countries.  



Sebastian Borchmeyer

Sebastian Borchmeyer bild