Responsible investment critical for peace and stability in Great Lakes region

17 Jun 2014

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The participants of the Great Lakes Private Sector Responsible Investment Roundtable overwhelmingly agreed last week on the critical role that responsible private sector investment can play to support peace, stability and sustainable economic development in the Great Lakes Region. This joint effort paves the way for an inter-ministerial level Regional Consultation meeting to be held in Angola in September and a Great Lakes Private Sector Investment Conference to be held in the region in the following months.

Convened by the UN Global Compact and the Office of the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region, more than 100 representatives from business, civil society, the United Nations and Government took part in a day-long discussion on how the private sector can help realize the objectives of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the region (PSC Framework) – focusing specifically on preparing the ground for increasing responsible investments.

In a welcome address, H.E. Hailemariam Dessalegn, Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, expressed support of the event and its objectives, stating that, “it is only responsible investments that will have equitable distribution of resources – not just profits – as an ideal. This will go a long way in taking away the incentives for people to engage in the fomenting of violence as the route to riches. This will obviously contribute to the implementation of platforms meant to promote peace and stability."

Opening the meeting, Mary Robinson, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region, underscored the positive catalytic role of the PSC framework in exploiting the economic wealth and potential of the region and argued for the involvement of youth and women at every step of the process. “At the root of all these efforts lies a unique and powerful opportunity: Include women as part of the solution – it is not business as usual.” She also said “Dialogue, regional ownership, and solid research are all key ingredients for the success of this important undertaking and your (Private Sector’s) voices count”. She challenged the private sector to ‘seize the opportunity’ for regional economic development created by the PSC Framework, and stay engaged to contribute to peace and development in the Great Lakes.

Discussions focused on the top challenges and actions needed for private sector growth and investment in key sectors: finance, ICT and mining, energy and infrastructure, and agribusiness. Corruption, rule of law, security and infrastructure were identified as major challenges for business in the region. At the same time, participants called for smart regulation, opening of markets and borders for trade, skills training, and public-private dialogue in order to improve the ground for private sector investment.

Also addressing the audience was the Minister of State for Investment from Uganda, H.E. Dr. Aridru Gabriel Gedison Ajedra. Other high-level government representatives actively participated in the event, including H.E. Abrahao Gourgel, Angola’s Minister of the Economy and several Ambassadors from the region. Governments recognized that the private sector must be part of the solution to lasting peace in the region, and invited them to participate on an ongoing basis in their deliberations and actions to realize their commitments under the PSC Framework.

At the conclusion of the meeting, private sector participants expressed willingness and readiness to engage responsibly to help build markets and societies in the region. The clear role for responsible investment will be carried forward to the upcoming Inter-ministerial Regional Consultation meeting and subsequently to the Private Sector Conference in support of the implementation of the PSC Framework.

The Great Lakes Private Sector Responsible Investment Roundtable was held with technical support from the UNDP African Facility for Inclusive Markets. The event took place as part of a week-long conference, Africa: Advancing Partnerships and Responsible Business Leadership, co-hosted by the UN Global Compact and partners – UN Economic Commission for Africa, UN Development Programme, UN OCHA and WIPO – to promote responsible business in Africa and to explore activities and partnerships between companies, the UN, civil society, Governments and Global Compact Local Networks to advance sustainable development.