Virtual Side Event during the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

A Decade of Action on SDG Delivery: How to strengthen the partnership with the private sector?

The International Organisation of Employers (IOE), the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) and the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations held a digital conference side event to the UN High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on 16 July 2020 on how to foster partnerships, seek avenues for better collaboration and establish next steps in fulfilling the business community desire to ensure private sector engagement at local and global levels in achieving the UN Decade of Action and the SDGs.


The Covid-19 health pandemic has deep, far reaching and unprecedented economic and employment impacts, leading to a decline in working hours of around 10.7 per cent relative to the last quarter of 2019, which is equivalent to 305 million full-time jobs. 436 million enterprises in the hardest-hit sectors worldwide are currently facing high risks of serious disruption. This employment and economic crisis is threatening to undermine any progress made vis-à-vis Agenda 2030. Now is the time for bold action to meet the targets of the UN Decade of Action. The global employers’ community is ready to join forces with governments and the multilateral community to respond forcefully to this crisis while maintaining and increasing momentum towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In this regard, IOE and KAS have started a series of virtual dialogues between Resident Coordinators and Employer federations to foster local partnerships and to address the many social challenges.

In light of the above, on 16 July during the HLPF a high-level panel to discuss multilateralism, decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), the outcomes of the dialogues between employers and UN Resident Coordinators and Business and Human Rights was organised. Topics covered: multilateralism in crisis, decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), the outcomes of the dialogues between employers and UN Resident Coordinators and business and human rights. The intention is to foster partnerships, seek avenues for better collaboration and establish next steps in fulfilling our desire to ensure private sector engagement at local and global levels in achieving the Decade of Action. 


First, an introduction by IOE President, Erol Kiresepi, set the scene and highlighted the urgent need for joint action today due to the current crisis and to meet 2030 Agenda targets in the next decade. The Permanent Representative of Germany to the UN, Ambassador Dr Christoph Heusgen welcomed the participants and underlined the importance of partnerships in the current situation while commending this very diverse online dialogue as an example of the kind of exchange we will need more and more to achieve common goals. Ms Andrea Ostheimer, Executive Director of KAS New York, urged private sector engagement with the UN to move beyond simple funding and corporate social responsibility to a strategic and systematic collaboration based on capacity building, innovation and skills development on national level. The high-level event then kicked off with a series of panels where expert speakers discussed challenges and solutions. 

Panel 1: Multilateralism in Crisis - How can we work better together for the global good? 

  • Moderator: Roberto Suarez Santos, IOE Secretary General
  • Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
  • Hon. Dr. Ibrahim Mohammed Awal, Minister Business Development, Ghana
  • Sanda Ojiambo, Executive Director, UN Global Compact
  • Mthunzi Mdwaba, Vice-President to the ILO, International Organisation of Employers (IOE)
  • Renate Hornung-Draus, Managing Director, German Employers’ Federation (BDA)

The first panel focused on multilateral action and how diverse actors and stakeholders can work together on cross-cutting issues and bolster collaboration as well as the functioning of the multilateral system which is currently being challenged by the deep and various pressures on our societies. The speakers gave insights from their wealth of experience in international organisations, governments and business representative organisations and agreed that multilateralism is indeed in trouble. The current crisis has starkly exposed the deficiencies of collaboration frameworks and lack of clear and resilient collaborative response mechanisms, but it has also cemented the fact that this can be turned around through a powerful joint push on the 2030 Agenda. Leaders in the multilateral and international system need to now strengthen the bonds of their organisations and fulfill the engagements of the SDGs through a renewed collaborative push and social dialogue. 

Panel 2: Decent Work and Economic Recovery (SDG 8) post COVID-19. How do we bring the world back to work? A #BetterNormal

  • Moderator: James Pearson, CEO Australian Employers, ACCI
  • Maria Flachsbarth, Vice Minister, German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
  • Guy Ryder, Director-General, International Labour Organization
  • Monica Flores Barragan, President Manpower Group Latin America
  • Johnny C Taylor, CEO SHRM
  • Alexandre Furlan, IOE Vice-President and Brazil Employer Federation

The current crisis has seriously challenged the 2030 Agenda and in particular SDG 8, a key goal for development, to the point that today in many countries the question of decent work has become a question of any work at all. It is essential not to sacrifice the decency of employment and instead ensure employment for all women and men through a prosperous private sector. A sharp rise in unemployment, underemployment and poverty currently jeopardizes livelihoods and destroys incomes of households so it is imperative to defeat the virus together and restore economic stability because this situation has collateral effects across the board. Targeted and flexible measures, especially in the informal economy and SMEs, have to be quickly implemented through partnerships and collaboration; countries like Germany have been very active in developing such collaboration with partners.  Full use of the potential of digital technologies, alternative work models, new business models and rapid adaptation through skills development have to be part of the new normal if we want to recover sustainably. A key element is establishing trust in the protocols for coming back to work and regaining confidence of employees that they can indeed safely return to the workplace. The following months will be crucial and will show how financial institutions, national budgets, and global cooperation will resolve the enormous strain societies are currently experiencing. 

Panel 3: Working together UN, RCs and Employer Federations. How can we work better together on the ground both public and private sectors to ensure #No One is Left behind?

  • Moderator: Shea Gopaul, IOE Special Representative to the UN
  • Christian Salazar-Volkmann, Regional Director for Latin America, Development Coordination Office (DCO)
  • Siddharth Chatterjee, Resident Coordinator, Kenya
  • Krishnan Sharma, Chief, Strategic Engagement Unit, Financing for Sustainable Development Office, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs
  • Courtney R. Nemroff, Deputy US Representative, United Nations Economic and Social Council

Within the context of the UN Reform, the 2030 Agenda Decade of Action, and due to the effects of Covid-19 and responses to it IOE, with KAS, launched a collaboration project between UN Resident Coordinators (RCs) and national employers’ federation with the aim of developing synergistic partnerships to respond to these systemic challenges. Strengthening dialogue and action between state and non-state actors through public-private partnerships and targeted, concrete collaboration on achieving the SDGs is crucial. Socio-economic vulnerability of societies is not solely determined by the per capita income of a country but also by other factors like the size and external integration of economic sectors, the size of the informal sector, the levels of inequality, climate change vulnerability, and the debt burden. There are examples of successful partnerships for SDGs and now these best practices need to be adapted, scaled and systematically applied in different national contexts. Employers’ organisations are uniquely positioned to convene the private sector and create regular engagement through development and collaboration frameworks which integrate SDGs into new business models. Beyond collaboration on the ground, incentives for investment institutions and actors need to be adapted in order to scale up investment and capital flows into countries where it is most needed and into SDGs lacking funds (see GISD). 

Panel 4: Business and Human Rights UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights beyond 2021: What has worked, what hasn’t, and what needs to be done

  • Moderator: Matthias Thorns, IOE Deputy Secretary General
  • Dante Pesce, EXD Vincular Centre at Catholic University Valparaiso, Chile and V-Chair UN working group in business and human rights
  • Brent Wilton, Workplace Rights Director, The Coca-Cola Company
  • Gabriella Rigg Herzog, Vice-President, Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs, United States Council for International Business
  • Linda Kromjong, Global Labor & Human Rights Director, Samsung

June 21, 2020 marks the 10th anniversary of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and this occasion provides an opportunity to take stock, reflect on progress made and implement best practices and insights acquired through experience so far. The current situation presents a turning point for the future we want and through the SDGs a better world for people and planet can be achieved. The Covid-19 crisis is an immense challenge but also a test of resiliency and adaptation which, it is clear now, must be augmented in order to meet common goals and ensure prosperity towards 2030 and 2050. The UN Guiding Principles create synergies with sustainability and employment agendas and have been a driving force in raising the responsibility of business through inclusive action and due diligence. Governments need to provide further monitoring and engagement frameworks in order to catalyze action across supply chains and national contexts and recognize that business needs a practical enabling environment. The voluntary nature of the UN Guiding Principles provides flexibility for companies to adapt to the vast variety of different environments; on the other hand, state-owned enterprises as well as smaller enterprises like SMEs need to be further incentivized and brought on board fully. The driving force behind implementation has to be, and for many companies has been, continuous improvement, evaluation through benchmarks and knowledge exchange in order to strengthen the UN Guiding Principles across the board. 



Sebastian Borchmeyer

Sebastian Borchmeyer bild