U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation at the 74th United Nations General Assembly

October 2, 2019

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation was in New York to host several events alongside the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), which brought together leaders from the government, civil society, and the private sector to address the world’s most pressing issues. With just over a decade left to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, we were excited to facilitate important discussions on how to accelerate progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the role of business in advancing a sustainable, prosperous, and inclusive future for all.   

Take a look below for key highlights from our events and discussions during UNGA week.

Latin American Business Summit on Refugees

We kicked off the week with a high-level event on business and refugees in Latin America organized in partnership with the Tent Partnership for Refugees and the Inter-American Development Bank. As a result of rapid migration from Venezuela, Latin America today is facing the largest refugee crisis in its history. Featuring discussions with Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO of Chobani and Founder of the Tent Partnership for Refugees, and Luis Alberto Moreno, President of the Inter-American Development Bank, as well as leading members of the business community, the event highlighted the unique role businesses play in not only alleviating the crisis, but also providing opportunities to build a better future for refugees in the long term.

As part of the event, companies including Mastercard and Telefónica announced new commitments to support refugees in Latin America, ranging from addressing water and sanitation needs in Colombia to providing telecommunications services to 10,000 Venezuelan refugees. On the heels of the Summit, Tent Executive Director Gideon Maltz penned an article for our blog on how businesses can help. Read the article.

Transforming Global Health: Cross-Sector Partnerships to Advance the SDGs

Energized by the private sector commitments to Latin American refugees, we continued the day with a high-level dinner on transforming global health, held in partnership with Abbott. The event featured introductory remarks from Dr. Hala Zaid, Minister of Health and Population in Egypt, and a cross-sector panel discussion with corporate, industry and nonprofit leaders. With only ten years left until the 2030 deadline, participants discussed the importance of engaging multiple sectors to deliver sustainable solutions and provided real-life insights from the public-private partnerships they have built to advance the SDGs and improve lives. Damian Halloran, Abbott’s Vice President of Infectious Disease in Emerging Markets and Rapid Diagnostics, highlighted how a successful partnership with the Egyptian government led to increased screening for hepatitis C, with the prevalence of the virus declining from 7% to less than 1% today in the country.

Workshop on Measuring and Evaluating Global Health Improvement

While the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda set specific, measurable targets, tracking our progress toward the SDGs has been challenging due to the lack of reliable and comparable global data. To tackle this issue, we partnered with Abbott and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) to hold a workshop on how to measure progress toward health-related SDGs through effective analysis of global health data. In his presentation, Dr. Christopher J. L. Murray, Director of IHME, explained why there is variation in global health data, key approaches to data synthesis, and how businesses can contribute to improved measurement and reporting.

Empowering Girls to Code for Good

At our next event with Infosys Foundation USA and the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA), participants focused on the need to engage more girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Alongside representatives from business and civil society, the speakers included two inspiring Girl Scouts who talked about their passion for STEM and how they decided to pursue STEM careers in the future. Participants highlighted the importance of making STEM classes relevant to students’ everyday lives and how girls’ interest in STEM increases when they use it to help the world. That’s why GSUSA created the Coding for Good badges, which teach girls the basics of coding and also detail how every stage of the coding process has opportunities for girls to use their skills for good. We left the event inspired and full of hope for the next generation’s ability to change the world through the power of technology.

Innovating Solutions to Meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Our final event during UNGA week served as a testament to the role the private sector plays in finding creative solutions to the world’s biggest problems. The breakfast discussion, held in partnership with Stanley Black & Decker, featured representatives from companies at the leading edge of innovating for social good. Moderated by Forbes senior editor Amy Feldman, panelists from Caterpillar, Qualcomm, and Medtronic highlighted the importance of tying the SDGs to business objectives to drive real, long-term progress, and how companies need to be bold in their approach to partnerships, acknowledging the interconnectedness of the issues they address. UN Global Compact’s Sue Allchurch called for immediate action on the SDGs and expressed that lack of progress is not because we lack engagement, but because we lack ambition and scale needed for true transformation.

What’s Next?

At the outset of the UNGA week, the UN Secretary General António Guterres asked leaders “not to come with fancy speeches, but with concrete commitments.” The business community delivered on this request by highlighting the specific actions they will take to make significant progress toward the 2030 Agenda.

If you are interested in learning more about how the private sector will continue to drive social and environmental impact through its innovative practices, join us at the 2019 Corporate Citizenship Conference: Solve Together. The conference will bring together business leaders and cross-sector visionaries to share insights and best practices on how to create a greater impact through collaboration.

We are also looking for innovative stories of how businesses are taking concrete steps to help achieve the SDGs. Contact us to submit your story.