Donor agencies publish joint statement on importance of business to development

Business Fights Poverty

In an historic move, 11 of the world’s largest bilateral donor agencies have published a joint statement “in support of private sector partnerships for development”.

The statement, launched at the UN Private Sector Forum on 22 September, is striking in two ways. First, it is the first time that so many donor agencies have been so collectively vocal about the important role business can play: “As members of the international bilateral donor community, we recognize the tremendous impact that private sector actors can have on development and we commit to working together to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).” This is in stark contrast to the situation as recently as five years ago, when many donors viewed business’ role with skepticism at best.

The second striking fact, is that the focus of the statement is on the contribution that business can make through its core business operations, as opposed to philanthropic CSR: “We recognize that the private sector is the engine of economic growth and development – creating jobs, goods and services and generating public revenues essential to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.”

That is not to say all is rosy within the donor community, but such a bold public statement, signed off by their respective political leaders, is highly significant. Their commitment to “recognize the private sector as equal partners around key development issues and…enter into partnerships with local and international companies of various sizes” should be warmly welcomed.

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