By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
Sri Lanka yesterday saw a progressive step being taken towards reaching the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the inking of a strategic Public Private Partnership (PPP) agreement between FMCG giant Unilever Sri Lanka, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Global Compact (UNCG).
The partnership is an initiation towards collaborating the public sector, private sector, academia, and non-government development agencies in assisting the island nation realise the key priorities related to the 2030 SDGs.
Through this initiation, the UNDP together with Unilever Sri Lanka and UNGC will annually host a high-level private sector forum on sustainable human development, starting 2018.
Following the inking of the PPP agreement, a series of sustainable business projects are slated to be rolled out. Assisting the projects would be Commercial Bank PLC, Aitken Spence Holdings, and Dialog Axiata, MAS Holdings, alongside Unilever Sri Lanka.
The event highlighted that although the SDGs were designed for and approved by governments they are also a roadmap for business opportunities.
While acknowledging the goals cannot be achieved through the efforts of any single entity acting alone, Unilever Sri Lanka Chairman Carl Cruz urged the need to “rally each other up”, move outside the comfort zones and collaborate to realize the broader vision.
“We firmly believe that adopting sustainable models, both in civil service and business, while mobilizing collective action will help bring longer lasting, wide spread positive change. This is the only way in which we can ensure that we can move ahead as one, without leaving anyone behind,” said Cruz during a press briefing on the partnership.
Reflecting similar sentiments, the UNDP asserted that by connecting business with governments and the development partners, it is hoped that the outcome would be a policy environment that unleashes the potential of the private sector.
“Achieving the 17 SDGs is a great ambition. They form a blueprint for addressing the most significant challenges facing our planet and its people. But I am optimistic and we are ready to continue to work with in partnership for a sustainable future “When governments understand the needs of business, and businesses understand the development priorities of governments, everyone stands to benefit,” expressed UNDP Sri Lanka Country Director Jorn Sorensen.
Meanwhile Additional Secretary to the President, Sustainable Development, Jayantha Wijerathne noted that the ‘concept’ followed by the government in moving forward is to work hand in hand with the private sector, also acknowledged as the engine of growth.
“For us this initiative is very encouraging and in the future we can look forward to work together, and that is the only way to reach the set goals as expected,” he said.
The SDGs have set out to shape and transform the global development landscape over the next 15 years. Compared to their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the SDGs lay out a more comprehensive approach in terms of the goals’ scope and the actors responsible for delivering them. The SDGs essentially set out a substantial role for the private sector.