Alex Nkosi (ITUC-Africa) at the launch of the OECD Development Co-operation Report 2016

On 18 July 2016, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) launched its 2016 "Development Co-operation Report: The Sustainable Development Goals as Business Opportunities" at a side event in the framework of the HLPF2016. The report explores the potential and challenges of investing in developing countries, in particular through social impact investment, blended finance and foreign direct investment. It also provides guidance on responsible business conduct and outlines the challenges in mobilising and measuring private finance to achieve the SDGs.

To launch the report the OECD and the Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom to the UN convened a panel with the Government of Mexico, the International Chamber of Commerce, Alex Nkosi from ITUC-Africa and the UN Global Compact.

Luis René Martínez Souvervielle, President of the Specialized Technical Committee for the SDGs (CTEODS) in Mexico began the meeting by highlighting the Mexican Governments efforts so far towards SDG implementation. The Mexican representative suggested that there are no universal recipes to achieve the SDGs. With respect to the role for the private sector he offered that the private sector should incorporate the SDGs and targets into their own operations and initiatives and that in Mexico that they were working with companies to promote the “spirit” of the SDGs internally.

Louise Kantrow, International Chamber of Commerce Permanent Representative to the United Nations, suggested that both business and government need to change but said that business cannot operate in societies that are failing. She emphasised that the priorities for business are good governance, rule of law and capable and transparent institutions, which make up the “enabling business environment”.

Alex Nkosi, Policy Analyst at Africa Trade Union Development Network (ATUDN), African Regional Organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa), started by noting that Official Development Assistance(ODA) is increasingly being shifted towards or to the private sector through instruments like blended finance and public private partnerships (PPPs) as well as direct private sector involvement. He highlighted that there is a shift towards the partnerships approach, which was the basis of on the ground studies of PPPs in Africa, as assessed against international commitments, like ILO conventions. He provided some insights based on the findings of these studies concluding that labour rights are not being adhered to and that businesses were regularly exploiting weakness in government oversight of these conventions. He found that employees are not aware of their ability to organize or of their rights at work more generally. He suggested that the type of employment being created was not in line with the decent work agenda and there was a major gap in skills transfer from the multinational investors to local small and medium size enterprises. He closed by offering that private sector could make a positive contribution to the SDGs by focusing on job creation aimed at lifting people out of poverty, ensuring workers’ rights, promoting the social dialogue and providing adequate social protection.

Javier Cortés, Senior Manager, Local Networks - Latin America, United Nations Global Compact, made some positive contributions focusing on the need for wealth to create decent work while emphasising the strong tradition of social dialogue as a best practice for institutionalised multi-party dialogue. He suggested, however, that the nature and breadth of the whole SDGs agenda would need to go beyond the tripartite constituents.

The report includes contributions from Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, on private sector accountability, and from Pierre Habbard, Senior Policy Advisor at the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC), on a trade union checklist for holding public administrations to account in the design of public-private partnerships.