On behalf of UNIDO, I want to thank you for being here today at the European Global Compact Local Networks Meeting to prepare for the coming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, in sight.
The United Nations Global Compact is now consolidated as a strategic platform that aligns the interests and objectives of the international community and those of the economic and private entrepreneurial world. The common engagement of public and private economic actors is a key factor to foster sustainable development, sensitive to some thematic priorities such as human rights, employment, the fight against corruption, and environmental sustainability.
The role played by economic productivity in the development process is now recognized as fundamental for achieving the Millennium Development Goals and for the implementation of Agenda 21, the plan of action for sustainable development of the 21st century.
However, sustainable economic and industrial development cannot happen without considering to environmental protection and social inclusion. It is with this spirit that we meet here today, with the goal of promoting and coordinating our efforts to eradicate poverty and hunger in the world, through the development of clean and efficient productive activities.
In this context, to operate in developing countries means, first and foremost, addressing demands like food security, access to water resources, as well as the development of adequate education and health systems. Nevertheless, eradicating poverty also demands common action aimed at the development of local entrepreneurial communities, so as to generate profits and a greater number of job opportunities.
If we want to successfully achieve the objectives that we have set for ourselves, we have to focus our efforts on a few key points, namely access to energy and the development of renewable energy resources, the strengthening of human capital at the local level, and ensuring food security.
Since 2003, UNIDO has been one of the UN Agencies that participates in the Global Compact. This initiative strengthens the role of UNIDO as an agency concerned with the specific demands and needs of Small and Medium Enterprises in developing countries. In fact, they play a key role in the development of the green economy and, thanks to their size and dynamic nature, they can quickly adapt to environmental standards and local contexts.
The main objective of UNIDO is, therefore, to promote economic growth and sustainable industrial development in the private sector of developing countries, through the transfer of sustainable models of production, technology, and management.
Due to the critical role that the manufacturing sector plays in the development of the green economy and the eradication of poverty, UNIDO is actively engaged in the process leading to Rio+20. Enterprises must learn to produce using less, in particular by minimizing waste and optimizing resource use, while increasing the efficiency of the production system. In fact, if companies aim at becoming competitive on the global market, they have to increase output, reduce production costs, and, more importantly, capitalize on the new opportunities offered by technological advancements, especially in the energy sector.
Nevertheless, at the global level, a model based on the exploitation of energy resources has been adopted, which is no longer sustainable. It is in this context, therefore, that the UNIDO “Green Industry Initiative” provides the international community and national governments with a useful platform for sustainable development. This framework needs, however, strong public and private support, aimed at fostering clean energy for the promotion of a development that is sensitive to emissions. In addition to this, the “Green Industry Initiative” needs to be presented as a fundamental element for the eradication of poverty.
Within this initiative, there are other equally important international meetings organized by UNIDO, such as the “Vienna Energy Forum 2011” (Vienna, June 21-23) or the “Green Industry Conference of Tokyo” planned for November 16-18. These events are aimed at stimulating global private-public debate on the role of industry in the green economy, as well as to provide important inputs for the coming Rio+20.
Finally, I want to mention a key element for the development of emerging economies that is important today, namely the fight against hunger and the increase in food security.
UNIDO recognizes the importance of a significant increase in agricultural production, sensitive to the efficient use of natural resources and capable of responding to the growing challenges associated with the increase in the global demand for food. In 2050, in fact, the world population is estimated to reach nine billion people. Based on this information, agricultural production will have to increase, within that year, by 70% at the global level and by 100% in developing countries. Additional efforts will have to be undertaken to significantly reduce food losses in the pre and post-harvest phases, as well as throughout the entire productive process.
This scenario, therefore, requires an investment increase both at the private and public level, as well as the development of an agro-food industry in developing countries capable of competing in the global market. This form of development, in particular, would mitigate the risks related to the volatility of the agricultural food prices, which have disastrous consequences for the populations of low-income countries.
The initiatives of UNIDO ITPO Italy are, therefore, framed in the two sector priorities that I have been dealing with, namely agro-industry and energy and environment. In this context, UNIDO ITPO Italy has developed specific programs with the collaboration of the Italian Development Cooperation and the Ministry of Environment, Land, and Sea, aimed at fostering sustainable development to provide food access and supply in the developing countries where we operate.
These programs take place in a number of African countries, with the goal of promoting sustainable industrial development of local entrepreneurship.
In fact, Africa is the continent on which the future growth perspectives will be measured. Some African countries are proving to be new potential partners for collaboration, by offering several investment opportunities. Africa represents one of the most interesting markets for the future of economic development, especially considering the dynamic, economic and human potential available.
With our initiatives and programs, we try to develop Small and Medium Enterprises, through direct investments and fostering economic relationships based on win-win cooperation.