Amidst COVID-19 regulations, the 76th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) kicked off with the 2nd annual Uniting Business LIVE; a three-day online event. It was an event packed with dignitaries that included more than 7,000 registrants, seven Heads of State, government officials, 34 CEOs, the UN Secretary-General, heads of 21 UN agencies and many civil society organisations in attendance. 

These global leaders came together to discuss the rebuild following the COVID-19 pandemic and to drive corporate ambition towards climate action and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It should come as no surprise that actionable market-based solutions on COVID-19 vaccinations, gender equality, global food systems, climate change, and renewable energy were high on the congregation’s agenda. 

Notably, H.E. Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón, President of Spain at the start of the Private Sector Forum remarked that: “This edition is special for everyone as it marks the beginning of the return to normalcy and the turning point to a new development and transformation”. 

After 2020 revealed the need for interdependence, the post-COVID-19 era is bound to revive businesses globally. The key investors that make up the UN Global Compact Taskforce have committed to invest more than $500 billion over the next five years in order to achieve this goal. Adding this to the commitment of almost 50% of all corporate financing to sustainability performance, with plans to issue new sustainable finance instruments, including sustainability-linked bonds.

Some other key takeaways included the launch of the Ocean Stewardship Coalition by Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg, UN leaders, senior business executives, trade union heads and several other government leaders. This is a global and cross-sector initiative designed to address the twin crises of the loss of biodiversity and climate change by empowering the private sector to help deliver on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals and a net-zero, resilient and equitable ocean economy. 

Also, some of the other sessions included the SDG Business Forum, the Global Impact Forum, the Private Sector Forum. The session titled ‘Introducing the African Strategy’ saw Sanda Ojiambo (the CEO and Executive Director of the UN Global Compact’s new Africa Strategy 2021-2023) galvanise large and small companies across Africa to uphold the Global Compact principle-based approach to business to operate in ways that, at a minimum, meet fundamental responsibilities in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption.

In conclusion, as the UN General Assembly closes today, we hope that the series of commitments served at the event are well absorbed amongst the leaders. It will be rewarding to see these market-led actions delivered as we build a better post-2020 and push for SME growth, pro-business strategies and sustainable innovations. With these, we will begin to march through the beginning of the return to a different kind of normal.

By Funmi Obieze Okorro

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