Your excellency, Prime Minister Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh
Esteemed members of the Young Presidents Organization,
A very warm welcome to Mongolia!
I am delighted to see so many young, global business leaders here, exploring this “Blue Sky Country,” and embracing “Blue Sky Thinking ”– brainstorming without limits, as widely as Mongolia’s vast sky, for ideas that challenge assumptions and go beyond the ordinary in how we live, and how we do business.
Mongolia is truly extraordinary: a country of vast potential, with some of nature’s greatest gifts and highly adaptable people. It is also a country facing immense challenges, which Blue Sky Thinking could certainly help to solve. So your arrival, and this event – could not be more timely.
Mongolia is rebounding, growing at close to 7 percent in 2018 from merely over 1% in 2016. It is rich in natural resources, including minerals, solar, wind and livestock. It has also reached the “high” human development category, with a highly educated population. According to the UN Human Development Report 2016, at least 96 percent attended high school. And, at a time when the world is racing to support an aging population: Mongolia’s remains young. Over a third of Mongolians are under age 30, with potential to sustain growth here in years to come.
To unlock Mongolia’s potential, there are key challenges to overcome. Firstly, while its recent recovery may lure investors, it has not been felt by all Mongolia’s people – and progress remains fragile. Between 2014 and 2016, during the recent economic crisis, the number of Mongolians living in poverty leapt from one in five, to one in three. This shows how easily development gains can be reversed. It also highlights the risks of relying so heavily on mining, which contributes about 90 percent of Mongolia’s exports, but is vulnerable to boom and bust cycles. Diversification is the key to ensuring sustainable growth, and inclusive development.
Mongolia is also one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. Its temperatures have risen by three times the global average and already breached the 2 degrees centigrade rise the world is trying to avoid. This, coupled with overgrazing caused by ever-increasing livestock numbers, is drying up the spectacular landscapes that you have seen. One quarter of the country has now turned to desert. With hotter summers and harsher winters, Mongolia’s herds and nomadic way of life are under threat. Herders are leaving in droves for cities like UB. Many settle in UB`s ger district, without running water, sanitation or central heating. Forced to burn coal to keep their gers warm in winters colder than Antarctica, they endure some of the worst winter air pollution on earth. Many also face urban poverty, without the skills needed to get jobs in cities.
To overcome these urgent challenges presented by poverty, inequality and climate change facing many countries around the globe, world leaders agreed to a new global agenda for development in 2015. The Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, aimed at ending poverty by 2030, while ensuring the future of life on earth. These goals are about changing the way we live, consume, produce and invest. So, they aren’t just for governments. They are goals for all – including civil society, citizens and companies.
Businesses have the power, the knowledge, the funds and the responsibility to step up for the SDGs – in renewable energy, for example, as well as sustainable fashion and rural livelihoods. There are social and planetary arguments for investing sustainably – but also, increasingly, clear economic reasons too. The Network for Greening Financial Services warns the financial risks presented by climate change are “system-wide and potentially irreversible, if not addressed”. Already, growing droughts, wildfires and hurricanes are jeopardising land, water and food resources, including basic commodities, like rice. In the face of these unprecedented challenges, ‘business-as-usual’ is simply not enough. Because business is no longer ‘usual.’
We cannot stop future climate catastrophes with public-funds alone. The private sector has a critical role to play, in powering economies, creating jobs that benefit everyone, as well as developing technologies to reduce our environmental footprints while we still can. It’s estimated that meeting the SDGs calls for 5 to 7 trillion US dollars a year. And that developing countries face an annual gap of 2.5 trillion. By UN calculations, two thirds of the funds and technology needed must come from companies.
This goes beyond Corporate Social Responsibility. It’s not simply about doing good and giving back. It’s about putting sustainability at the core of business. And sustainable businesses make business sense. Green products and processes boost bottom lines, by cutting costs and long-term risks. They also help ensure the natural and human resources needed to keep growing in future. And they lift brand loyalty and open up new fast- growing markets for sustainable, rather than conventional goods and services. So any investment in the planet is an investment in your business.
There are plenty of exciting prospects for sustainable investments in Mongolia – and UNDP is helping to facilitate some of them, with the private sector also increasingly a partner for us in human development.
For example, our Activated 2030 project aims to improve the enterprising capabilities of young people. Encouraging them, to be creative, to take calculated risks and have drive and determination. This can be through, starting their own businesses or being effective employees, thereby reducing youth unemployment. With UNDP support and guidance, young Mongolians are generating the ideas, developing the prototypes and trialing these interventions. These 'by youth for youth' approaches with peer-to-peer-learning maximise impact, through interventions tailored to specific contexts.
We are also promoting sustainable practices in Mongolia’s cashmere sector, which is key for rural livelihoods but at the same time, causes land degradation. This includes working with herders to adopt more eco-friendly practices, connecting them with buyers interested in sustainably sourced materials, introducing technology to accelerate business model innovation and supporting private sector investment to catalyse finance into sustainable, inclusive value chains.
The UN stands ready to support all stakeholders interested in partnerships for the SDGs, in these areas, and many others.
The time has come to broaden our horizons beyond business-as-usual: enabling not only profits, but also the people and planet on which those profits depend.
I hope that Blue Sky thinking and experiences here inspire you towards this. Thank you.
 Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 will require a rough estimate of US$5-7 trillion dollars of annual investment across sectors and industries1 . This figure represents only 7 to 10 percent of global GDP, and 25 to 40 percent of annual global investment2 . However, only US$1.4 trillion are invested annually, from both the public and the private sector, in developing countries3 . The annual investment gap in major SDG sectors in developing countries alone has been estimated at around US$2.5 trillion per year. https://www.un.org/pga/72/wp-content/uploads/sites/51/2018/05/Financing-for-SDGs-29-May.pdf