UNCTAD confab debates private sector role
Geneva: Governments in the world’s poorest countries face difficult
choices – how to fund essential services and at the same time ensure
quality, accessibility and affordability.
The World Investment Forum organised by UNCTAD, brought government
and business leaders together in Geneva recently to address that
question at a high-level summit.
The role of the United Nations in this process was highlighted by
Speaker of the House of Representatives of New Zealand, David Carter.
“The United Nations has an important contribution to make as an
enabler of sustainable development,” he said.
One of about 50 events that comprise the Forum, speakers at the
second session of the World Leaders Investment Summit debated how
investment could be increased in critical areas, such as infrastructure,
energy, health and education.
Demand is growing for such services, as are challenges linked to
climate change adaptation and control. While public authorities take the
lead in assuring these services, budgetary constraints have led to calls
for increased private funding.
The speakers agreed that it is not always a question of a lack of
“As strange as it may seem, there are investors who are sitting on
cash that they cannot invest for lack of adequately packaged or large
enough projects,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said.
In its World Investment Report 2014, UNCTAD identified almost $200
trillion in assets in the global financial system, some of which could
be reoriented to sustainable development outcomes.
The discussion focused on ways to mobilise finance and package
investment, even on the smallest scale, to channel it to infrastructure
and public services in developing markets. This point was emphasised by
Speaker of the House of Representatives of Australia, Bronwyn Bishop.
“Investment does not have to be large-scale. Small investments can
have a huge impact on development and on people’s lives,” Ms. Bishop
Chair of the Group of Eight task force on impact investment, Sir
Ronald Cohen said, “The issues we face won’t be solved by exhortations
to do more. We need innovation in finance and investment approaches.”
Participants, including President of the Fondation pour Genève, Ivan
Pictet, discussed how to change mindsets and mobilise finance into what
are perceived to be high-risk sectors in often unfamiliar markets.
One solution, according to the Chief Executive Officer of the Japan
Exchange Group, Atsushi Saito, is to adopt regional approaches to
infrastructure development which can help reduce risks for investors
From the perspective of countries seeking investment in crucial areas
of need, it is important to ensure that investment contributes to
President, China Minmetal, Zhou Zhongshou said, “Transnational
corporations must do their best to recruit local staff and preserve the
"Working with local communities is key for investment projects, so
that ‘one plus one’ is more than two.”
United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmed Alhendawi,
said that investment must target the developing world’s burgeoning youth
“Investment in youth is crucial for peace and stability, which are a
prerequisite for sustainable development goals,” Alhendawi said.
The Forum, which brings together over 3,000 people from across the
global investment community, addresses the world’s development financing
challenges and puts sustainable development and responsible investment
at the centre of policy discussions. The event is the largest
international conference devoted to the issue of investment for