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United Nations Of Growth

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 At first instance, it is difficult to think of the United Nations and economic growth in the same breadth. The era of rapid globalisation that we live in has been shaped and driven by multinational corporations with some support from governments. 
 
UN agencies have played a limited role in globalisation, while other multilateral agencies like World Trade Organisation, World Bank and the International Monetary Fund had their moment in the sun. 
The last two decades saw globalisation peak and then falter. The world saw the best and the worst of globalisation. While the best remains, it is the worst of globalisation that is dominating debates on the future of growth and capitalism. 
 
At a time of continuing distrust between civil society, industry and government, an unlikely agency, the UN, is trying to bridge the disruptive divide. Will it work?
 
Exactly a year ago in 2012, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon set up a high level panel (HLP) of eminent personalities to prepare an agenda for growth. This agenda was to be created by the 27 member panel that included members of industry, government and civil society. This effort build on the Global Compact launched in 2000 to urge industry to adopt socially responsible policies. 
 
UN is stepping up its presence to bridge the trust gap between these three stakeholders. Since 2008, government and industry have been barely on talking terms worldwide. Political parties and industry leaders blame each other for the growing fiscal crisis across the globe. Civil society and citizens hold the government and business responsible for falling jobs and incomes. 
 
In this environment, the UN’s efforts hope to calm frayed nerves. The HLP finalized a report last month that sought five transformative shifts for global growth. These include sustainable development, open & accountable institutions, creating jobs through inclusive growth to ensure no one is left behind. 
 
These sound like slogans but gain importance if adopted by business. Industry leaders have been focused rapid increase in profit. For most, social issues were the government’s responsibility. Under the new framework, industry leaders will have to opt for sustained profits that benefit society and not just shareholders.
 
For the government, the new thinking involves closer cooperation with industry to ensure transparent processes that ensure sustainable development. This also means allowing civil society and local communities to have a say in policy making.  
 
Some of these ideals may slow the decision making process and reduce the pace of growth. But hopefully, this growth will be more consistent and less disruptive. 
 
If the UN can achieve this, it would reclaim its position as the premier body that guides global well-being. 
 
In the post world war era, United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, the International Labour Organisation and United Nations Development Programme supported industrialization of many countries. 
 
As global growth crawls, the UN’s efforts may again offer a slender chance to rebuild hope and optimism by bridging the trust deficit.  
 
 
(Pranjal Sharma is a senior business writer. He can be contacted at pranjalx@gmail.com)