© 여성신문 홍수형기자
On May 25th, Chairman Ban Ki-moon attended the 2020 Annual General Meeting of UN Global Compact Network Korea, held in Seoul. Here the chairman made a speech on “COVID-19 and UN Global Compact.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the UN Global Compact (GC) works on achieving sustainable and inclusive global economy by encouraging companies to operate responsibly and follow UN GC’s strategies. The UN Global Compact Network Korea (UN GCNK) started in 2007.
© UN GCNK
In his speech, Chairman Ban encouraged business owners to build a sustainable and green work environment. COVID-19 has put the world into chaos, causing economic recessions and unemployment. More than that, global issues like xenophobia and racism are arousing. World leaders must step forward to take action to help those in need and to create an inclusive society.
Through this pandemic the mature citizenship of the Korean people gained the world’s attention. Business and industries have supported Korea’s fight with the coronavirus by providing financial and technical support with its innovative ideas and civil spirit. But we mustn’t forget about the climate crisis.
© UN GCNK
Even before COVID-19, climate crisis has always been there. Chairman Ban mentioned that scientific researches show that climate change and pandemics are related. Thus we need a sustainable and long-term plan to adapt to the climate. By moving towards green economy, we can reduce uncertainties, create new work spaces and ensure clear skies.
Chairman Ban also stressed the importance of an inclusive and family-friendly work environment. COVID-19 has changed the working space. Increased virtual meetings and improved child care services will take place as a ‘new normal’ after the corona crisis is over. Both men and female employees need a balance between work and life. Chairman Ban emphasized the importance to strengthen gender equality to achieve this.
Below is the translated transcription of the speech:
Honorable President Dong-Kurn Lee of UN GCNK, members and personnel of the UN GC,
Since its beginning in 2000, the UNGC has faced its 20th anniversary. We must be grateful of UNGC’s effort during the last 20 years on mainstreaming the 10 principles of the 4 areas(human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption) into organizations and cooperating with businesses to build a more sustainable environment by embracing UN’s agendas, including the SDGs.
I also want to send a round of applause for the UN GCNK that is improving day after day since its start in 2007. I especially thank President Lee and many others who worked so hard.
I hear that the UNGC’s 20th anniversary event, that was meant to be held in New York this June, was replaced by an online summit due to COVID-19. If the situation stays the same, the UN General Assembly, which is bound to be held in September, is also likely to be held online. It is an unprecedented happening for the UN as well.
The spread of the exceptional coronavirus is putting the whole world into chaos.
First, many lives were unfortunately taken. I show my deepest condolence to all the patients and their families, who have lost their lives from this pandemic. The wide range economic depression is also a problem. The global supply chain is unstable and limits on movement of people and objects are causing failure in business continuity. Since businesses are risky, many people who were working have lost their jobs. Moreover, this pandemic has revealed inequality within and among nations, and the fear of infection has led to other global challenges like xenophobia racism.
We are all on board a single ship called Earth. To respond to the COVID-19, solidarity of all humanity is more important than ever. To do this, world leaders must act first. I have recently sent a letter to G20 and succeeded in drawing emergent support of G20 to deal with the coronavirus. Global leaders must step forward to take action to help their people, who are vulnerable faced with global crisis.
The same is for Korea. This pandemic and showed the world how mature Korean citizenship is. Korea is doing better than any other States at responding to the COVID-19 with ‘transparency’, ‘creativity’, and ‘solidarity’. I’ve been told that COVID-19 response casebook of UNGC members is to be released today. I encourage everyone here to take a step further and develop our advanced citizenship into ‘global citizenship’, to deal with global issues enthusiastically.
The wisdom of businesses that are fighting the pandemic with creative ideas and mature citizenship, will improve the health of all humanity and be used to help those in dire need.
We can first think of the financial support of businesses. Businesses that have the technology, capital and know-hows can help with keeping up with the spread of the virus, cure patients, and provide supplements for workers in the frontier. They can also provide COVID-19 test kits and support vaccine and cure development.
If businesses are considering spot good support, WHO has released ‘COVID-19 Disease Commodity Package’(DCP) which is a list of all the commodities that are needed for preventing COVID-19. By using this, businesses can figure out what is needed the most.
Lastly businesses can participate in joint advocacy activities. More can be achieved by coming together, joining unified activities, and encouraging other companies to participate, than by acting alone. Furthermore, you can also work together with UN organizations depending on your field of work, area and interests. Please take part in sharing and developing innovative solutions under the cooperation of the UN, governments and civil societies.
Unprecedented united cooperation and global solution will be needed to solve the fundamentally changing problems of the globe, including COVID-19. As a part of humanity, work on broadening social inclusion and developing economy by partnership, solidarity, and being benevolent and understanding of others and other cultures.
Today I especially want to stress the importance of preparing a practical and long-term solution toward environment. Even before the COVID-19, we were facing the climate crisis. Moreover, many researches prove that coronavirus has a clear relevance with climate change. Considering that climate change provides advantages for the spread of epidemics, we must prepare a sustainable and long-term fund for climate adaptation program.
Antonio Guterres, the UN SG, has recently stated that “Saving lives and livelihoods, and building a prosperous, inclusive and sustainable future, are at the heart of our efforts to recover from COVID-19”
By driving toward green economy, we can fight off the virus, deal with climate change and in the meantime, create new work spaces.
Oxford research proves that policies that include climate goals will reduce future uncertainties, create new quality jobs, diminish polluted gas emission, and ensure clean air.
In fact, many leading companies are already showing that it is possible and profitable to adopt sustainable emission reduction plans. Through UNGC’s “Business Ambition for 1.5°C – Our Only Future” campaign, more than 180 companies have pledged to limit global temperature increase to less than 1.5°C compared to before industrialization, and to achieve Net Zero by 2050. The combined market capitalization of these companies is more than $2.8 trillion, and their annual greenhouse gas emissions are close to France’s total annual CO2 emissions. Recently, 155 of them have urged to minimize carbon emissions and tried to link economic aid and recovery efforts for COVID-19 to the latest climate science. In times of crisis like COVID-19, sustainable growth will soon prove to be the best growth strategy.
The other thing I want to emphasize is that companies need to be inclusive and family-friendly for everyone. COVID-19 has increased child care services and changed working environment such as increased video conferences. This will become the ‘New Normal’ in the post-COVID era. This means that both women and men workers need balance between work and life.
To achieve this, above all else, gender equality in businesses needs to be strengthened. In that sense, I support the launch of Target Gender Equality (TGE), UNGC’s new initiative to promote women’s representation and leadership in the enterprise. I hope this program will reduce the gender and economic gap, and establish more comprehensive and inclusive business practices in Korean society. The UN Global Compact is the largest corporate sustainability initiative in the world. With this initiative, 14,000 companies and institutions, including more than 10,000 companies, have already pledged to adhere to the ten principles of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption.
I am very proud to have developed and mainstreamed the UN Global Compact during my term as UN Secretary-General, so that the business can be carried out in a sustainable and responsible way with the development of SDGs. In particular, I am very grateful to the Korea Network and our member businesses for their participation in the resolution of these international issues.
No one is safe until everyone is safe. Remember that most of the progress we’ve made want’s possible without cooperation and partnership. I especially would like to ask the people of industries here to gather hands around the UN Global Compact for a sustainable world, in crises like today’s COVID-19. Based on my experience and as honorary chairman of the UN Global Compact Network Korea, I will actively make efforts to help Korean businesses demonstrate leadership in the international community.