DFID's MDG Conference: Scratching The Surface Of Business Engagement

By Zahid Rahman-Torres, Director, Business Fight's Poverty

Speaking at DFID’s MDG Conference this week, Helen Clark, head of the United Nations Development Programme and former Prime Minister of New Zealand, highlighted the importance of business in meeting the MDGs. However, she said we were still only “scratching the surface” of what is possible. She highlighted the need to promote inclusive business models and “win-win” solutions for business’ bottom line and development outcomes.

Also speaking at the event, which was entitled “Agenda 2010: The Turning Point on Poverty”, Miguel Pestana, Unilever VP for Global External Affairs (and Chair of the network I am Director of, Business Action for Africa), also highlighted the importance of practical partnerships between businesses and other development actors. He gave the particular example of small holder farmer development – where Unilever buys a large amount of inputs, and looks to non-government organisations and donor agencies to bring the expertise needed to ensure a reliable and quality supply.

These were two important business-focused points made at a conference which was otherwise disappointingly lacking in business perspectives and business representation.

The final conference statement did make one reference to the importance of innovating around partnerships – the need to work in new ways to partner with the private sector, among others.

If we are to reach a “turning point on poverty”, we need to do think differently. And a key part of that is thinking more creatively about how the private sector can be engaged as a partner on the ground.

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