With Government preparing for a comprehensive review of its progress in achieving the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Foreign Minister Senator Jerome Walcott has challenged businesses to do more to join the effort.
His call came during the opening of a private sector dialogue at UN House on Tuesday, the first of its kind for Barbados.
That meeting was intended to seek commitments from private sector representatives to contributing more to the attainment of the 17 SDGs the country agreed to back in 2015.
Senator Walcott said the partnership between Government and the private sector was critical
He told business leaders: “We believe that it is not enough today for the private sector to focus solely on profits.
“They must seek to contribute to the development priorities of Barbados and the region, and to uplift and improve the lives of Caribbean people by incorporating the SDGs into their operations.
“In fact, the private sector should recognize that they too have to be engaged in the global fight to save the planet, and they must act locally to adopt sustainable practices and contribute to national development efforts.”
He said Government was in the process of doing its review of its efforts to implement the SDGs within its development policies, and a report would be presented to the UN in July outlining the achievements and the challenges.
Promising to include the private sector in the review, Walcott also suggested projects – either driven by business or in partnership with Government – that could be undertaken to enhance the country’s development efforts.
“Areas such as improving water supply methods; developing alternative energy sources; investment in healthcare/retirement institutions; providing decent work conditions and profit sharing opportunities for workers; beautifying the environment through tree planting; vocational and entrepreneurial training; and agri-food projects, to name a few,” said Senator Walcott.
He added: “The Barbados Government therefore urges the local and regional private sector to give due consideration to the United Nations Global Compact which encourages businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies, and to embrace the stated principles which relate to best practices in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption efforts.”
UN Resident Coordinator Didier Trebucq agreed that the efforts was “not only the Government’s responsibility”, adding that “in the case of the Caribbean the private sector actually has the potential to be more in the lead in contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals”.
He suggested that the Caribbean Community Single Market and Economy (CSME) could be an avenue through which a lot of the goals could be developed.
He said despite the challenges facing the regional development strategy, it needed to be “maximized to expand economies to bigger scale, to create policies and institutional frameworks that respond appropriately to the characteristics and special needs of the model of business of the Caribbean and mainly for the small medium enterprises sector”.
Trebucq said he was aware there were several limitations ranging from lack of adequate access to finance to correspondent banking issues and climate change impact.
But he said despite the challenges, there were “a lot of great opportunities and lots of low-hanging fruits where the private sector can contribute” including more enabling environment for investment, use of technology and innovation, more private/public sector partnerships and greater support for business incubators.
Chairman of the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) Edward Clarke touted the business community’s role in the country’s social, economic and environmental development.
But he agreed there needed to be a more focused attention on each goal if Barbados was to reach them in a decade.
“The question really is how much can we really do as small island developing states, how much can we do within the constraints of where we are in Barbados at this time under a Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation International Monetary Fund programme?” said Clarke.
Describing the 17 goals as noble, Clarke said there was need for greater awareness of the goals, adding that financing will play a critical role in the private sector assisting the country in reaching the goals.
Clarke identified the areas of health, education, agriculture and food security and renewable energy as those that could be readily targeted for more focused approach through collaboration between the private sector and government.
“We must focus our energies and resources on specific areas and don’t try to be scatter shot,” he said.
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are: no poverty; zero hunger; good health and well-being; quality education; gender equality; clean water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; decent work and economic growth; industry, innovation and infrastructure; reduced inequality; sustainable cities and communities; responsible consumption and production; climate action; life below water; life on land; peace and justice strong institutions; and partnerships to achieve sustainable development.