Last week members of the UN High Level Panel met in London to discuss the successor to the Millennium Development Goal framework. The meetings, co-chaired by PM Cameron, President Yudhoyono of Indonesia and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, represent a unique opportunity to reflect on what new framework could drive poverty eradication when the MDGs expire. The world has come a long way since the current goals were set, but many stubborn challenges persist and deserve our attention and thought more than ever.
This first set of meetings focused on individual and household level poverty and the key issues confronted day after day by the poorest all over the world. From the car mechanic in rural Kenya to the smallholder potato farmer in Peru, microenterprises run by poor people in developing countries make up a large part of the private sector. At every level of the business spectrum – from the lone trader to the multinational – business is creating employment, generating incomes and delivering essential services for the poorest individuals and households. As a principal source of tax revenues for country governments, business is also the largest component of the economy and a key driver of economic growth.
My Department’s core focus is to reduce poverty through helping to drive economic growth and create jobs for the poorest and most vulnerable people. Working with businesses both big and small forms a crucial part of this mission. The Coalition Government has over the last two years intensified its work with business in the battle against poverty. Our work recognises this important dynamic with two complementary approaches to business and development:
Firstly, we work directly with businesses to create shared value within the developing world by aligning businesses’ core activities with broader development objectives. This entails providing the technical expertise and the credibility they need to adopt inclusive business models that create jobs or deliver products and services of value to poor people. This includes our work to ensure that financial institutions have the appropriate skills and product lines to provide appropriate credit and savings products to poor people and small companies. We also work with retailers here in the UK to support African food producers to get their products onto our local supermarket shelves.
Secondly, we work on improving the investment climate to make it easier for companies of all sizes to operate in new places. By focusing on improving infrastructure, market knowledge, access to finance and regulatory frameworks, we seek to provide businesses with the solid foundations that they need to operate. We also focus on improving property rights, personal security and access to justice to enable poor households to pursue livelihoods and enjoy better living conditions. In Bangladesh, our work to reduce the business registration process from 35 days to 1 day resulted in about 19,000 new registered enterprises being created and a doubling of revenue collection over two years.
It is in all our interests for countries around the world to be free of conflict and insecurity, to have educated and healthy populations and to have growing economies, which provide work opportunities for people to become financially independent. It’s also good for us in the UK because it will ultimately mean more countries that we can trade with, more jobs that we can create and a better, safer world.
I am excited that households are being brought to the centre of this High Level Panel process and applaud the High Level Panel’s commitment to an extensive consultation process. We cannot afford to exclude anyone from the next stages of the MDG agenda and I believe we all have a crucial role to play. I look forward to hearing your ideas on ways for us to work more collaboratively to improve the lives of the worlds’ poorest.