Sustainable Development is essential to achieving more peaceful and just societies and the United Nations counts on the private sector to help in this effort. The BBVA Microfinance Foundation (BBVAMF) has contributed its experience in the finance sector to the report entitled “Business and SDG 16: contributing to peaceful, just and inclusive societies,” drawn up by the Sustainable Development Goals Fund and the University of Pennsylvania.
The study presents the practices of the members of the SDG Fund’s Private Sector Advisory Group in attaining Sustainable Development Goal number 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions). The report stresses that companies should not limit themselves to the preventing corruption and promoting transparency. Actions such as inclusion in employment and the defense of human rights should be part of their planning.
That’s why making them part of the SGD project is “very necessary,” said Ana María Salazar, Gender Advisor for the UN SDG Fund. During the report’s presentation in Madrid, three cases were shared with the audience, to underline the importance of the private sector’s involvement in the promotion of peace and justice.
Entrepreneurship for Peace
The BBVA Microfinance Foundation (BBVAMF) works directly on the SDG 16. Tula Ducasse, Head of Institutional Relations of the Foundation, shared some details of her organization’s work in Colombia, a country that has endured a five decade-long armed conflict. “We already are in most of the municipalities which have been named priorities by the Colombian government for building peace.” In 2018, the Foundation expects to provide support to thousands of vulnerable entrepreneurs that have been affected by the conflict, with financial services and training.
Tula Ducasse underscored that there cannot be sustainable development without peace, nor peace without sustainable development. “BBVAMF has been promoting sustainable development for the past decade. Over this period of tim,e it has lent over $10 billion in small productive loans to vulnerable entrepreneurs in Latin America. “Last year, the profits of these vulnerable entrepreneurs grew 18% on average,” said Ducasse.
BBVAMF’s work attests to how the private sector can contribute to peace and justice. In a video, one of the victims of the Colombian conflict narrated her experiences and told how the Foundation’s Panamanian branch helped her to rebuild her life. Silvana was a teacher in Cali working in a resource-deprived community to try to prevent children and teenagers from joining the guerrillas. She and her co-workers started receiving threats, before being declared military objectives. After that, the kidnappings and killings started. When they came for her, her assailants didn’t recognize her and she managed to escape by pretending to be a deaf-mute, but only after being severely beaten.
Silvana went into exile with her son to Panama. She couldn’t work as a teacher there because she lacked a work permit. After three years in the country ,she applied for a loan with Microserfin, which allowed her to start a baking business. With a second loan, she expanded her business and started selling costume jewelry. “They offered me the opportunity to reinvent myself,” Silvana says in the video.
Water for peace
Another project showing how the private sector can contribute to SDG 16 is Ferrovial & Save the Children’s joint venture. They carried out a project to develop freshwater infrastructures in Cauca, a south-western region in Colombia especially affected by guerrilla warfare.
According to sources from both institutions, building the infrastructure wasn’t the hardest part of their project. The hardest part was getting the two opposing sides, which had been fighting each other for generations, to strike a deal for the common good and strengthen local leadership.
Lucila García, General Deputy Director General of Seres Foundation, announced that her organization is working on a corporate responsibility guide in connection with the Sustainable Development Goals. According to García, a responsible company capable of identifying what’s important for a society will be essential. In this way, it can reassert its importance by generating value. She noted that companies play a key role as agents of change, as they are capable of reducing disparity and thus preventing conflict.
The SDG Fund recognizes “the need to innovate so that peace contributes to the achievement of other fundamental goals such as gender equality (SDG 5) or economic growth (SDG 8)”. That’s why the BBVA Microfinance Foundation has ingrained the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into its DNA, as a necessary way to change the world without leaving anyone behind.
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