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How Eni and UNIDO are pioneering public-private co-operation

An interview with Li Yong, director general of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization.

by Eni Staff
06 November 2020
4 min read
by Eni Staff
06 November 2020
4 min read

Eni and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) have signed a joint declaration to work towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through projects in areas such as youth employment, agricultural value chains, renewable energy and energy efficiency. This work will bring together the public and private sectors to create a better future for people and the planet, with a particular focus on Africa.

The SDG no. 17 – Partnerships for the Goals – is of crucial importance as it can be a driver to help achieve the other SDGs. In what way do you think the private sector can contribute to the development of the Countries and create added value for a sustainable local development? 

While adopting the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the global development community also realized that traditional Official Development Assistance was wholly inadequate to fuel this ambitious plan: the 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda sees innovative partnerships – across Countries, amongst multilateral and bilateral development practitioners and, most importantly, between public and private actors – as key to the success of the 2030 Agenda. The November 5, 2019 was a defining moment for our Organization, because the UNIDO Member States have adopted the Abu Dhabi Declaration, which clearly highlights the important role of the private sector in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Private firms can bring about technological change, invest, share know-how, demonstrate sustainable practices, raise local skills, support vocational training, and facilitate market access through their supply chains. By virtue of its business-oriented mandate, UNIDO has a long tradition of partnerships with private firms, predicated not on charity or philanthropy, but on an alignment of corporate goals and development objectives: the approach is to define this common ground with the prospective partner, clearly articulate the shared objectives and the path to reach them, negotiate a fair distribution of the costs of the joint action, and set in place the metrics that will help both parties monitor the progress of their association. 

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Private firms can bring about technological change, invest, share know-how, demonstrate sustainable practices, raise local skills, support vocational training, and facilitate market access through their supply chains.

Li Yong, Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)

What role does industrial development have in the growth and development of a Country? In what way are these factors connected to peace and migration issues?

Industrial development has a multiplier effect on labour productivity, innovation, economic growth and, most importantly, employment. That is particularly true in developing Countries where a large share of the labour force lives off low productivity agriculture, while the rapid demographic growth makes for a rapidly expanding, youthful labour force. Offering decent work and attractive employment opportunities in small and medium enterprises contributes to reduced migration pressures by stabilizing not only the one employed, but the extended family s/he typically support. In Countries marked by endemic unemployment, the youth are easy targets for various groups engaged in civil disturbances, criminality or terrorism. As part of its mandate of promoting Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development, UNIDO focuses in particular on the rural hinterland and on vulnerable segments of society, such as the youth and women. 

Eni and UNIDO’s joint declaration is a new, pioneering public-private cooperation model aimed at helping reach the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. What is the added value of such collaboration? How can this joint declaration become fruitful in a timely manner?

Eni and UNIDO signed in July 2019 a Joint Declaration, and I am very encouraged to see today, hardly six months later, a range of initiatives in the agro-processing sector to diversify local livelihoods and in the renewable energy space. Both partners will bring to these common enterprises the best of their respective resources: the vast corporate experience of a diversified group such as Eni SpA joining force with the field practice and development outreach of a UN partner such as UNIDO. 

Access to energy is an indispensable prerequisite for development. How do you think energy can impact the growth of the communities and the Countries?

No economic activity, let alone industrialization, can thrive without access to reliable, affordable energy sources. The world has accumulated enormously valuable experience, science and technology bring every day new discoveries, new technologies that can help produce more, with less pressure on energy, water, resources and materials. The hindsight of decades of industrialization and the lessons learnt along the journey must be brought to bear on aspiring Countries keen to grow in an inclusive and sustainable way. This is the goal that Eni and UNIDO have set themselves when deciding to walk together towards the 2030 Agenda.