UN and British Council promote social enterprise in Asia

The British Council and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) have agreed to jointly promote the growth of social enterprise and social impact investment across the Asia-Pacific region as a means of supporting progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

The British Council and ESCAP will cooperate to conduct research, disseminate analysis, provide training, host policy dialogues and offer guidance to support policy makers and other stakeholders in formulating and implementing policies and strategies that foster social enterprise and create enabling environments for social impact investment. They will work to increase collaboration and participation by all stakeholders in Asia and the Pacific and to design programmes and policies that are contextually relevant to the region.

Their aim will be to support countries to promote social innovation, inclusion, sustainable job creation, and address some of the social and environmental challenges the region faces through private sector models.

Social enterprises harness trade, investment and business activity towards social and environmental objectives and are increasingly recognized as critical drivers of innovation for sustainable development. A growing body of research indicates that social enterprises are creating jobs for disadvantaged groups, empowering women and young people, and addressing social exclusion across the Asia-Pacific region. 

Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, Executive Secretary of ESCAP, said, 'The concepts of social enterprise and social impact investment have been gathering momentum in the region. The three dimensions of sustainable development embodied in the SDGs – economic, social and environmental – underpin the transition to a sustainable future. Several governments in the Asia-Pacific region as well as the United Kingdom Government have been at the forefront of innovative policymaking on this agenda. The partnership between ESCAP and the British Council will pool this rich expertise and share effective practices more broadly to shift this movement from the margins to the mainstream.'

Sir Ciarán Devane, the British Council’s Chief Executive, said, 'We are delighted to partner with ESCAP to foster social enterprise and social impact investment across the Asia Pacific region. By supporting policy makers to create conditions in which social enterprise can thrive, we aim to jointly promote innovative solutions to entrenched social and environmental problems, spur sustainable and inclusive development, and provide further evidence of the critical roles that social enterprise and social impact investment can play in support of the Sustainable Development Goals.'

Mark Walker, the British Council's Director East Asia, said, ''Since we first piloted our social enterprise programme in East Asia in 2009, we have shared the UK's experience of the value that social enterprises bring to our economy, and the policies and frameworks the UK has put in place to support this. At the same time, the UK has learnt about the different approaches to and experiences of social enterprise in countries across East Asia. This sharing and learning has been extremely beneficial to all our countries.'

He added, 'Partnering with ESCAP presents us with an invaluable opportunity to enhance the scope and impact of such activity. Both our organisations are able to convene those with the influence, resources, ideas and passion to support the growth of social enterprise and social impact investment and continue this sharing and learning to maximise the benefits social enterprise can bring to societies.'

About the Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

These 17 Goals build on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals, while including new areas such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace and justice, among other priorities. The goals are interconnected – often the key to success on one will involve tackling issues more commonly associated with another. 

Find more information on the SDGs here.

About the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is the regional development arm of the United Nations for the Asia-Pacific region. Made up of 53 member States and 9 associate members, with a geographical scope that stretches from Turkey in the west to the Pacific island nation of Kiribati in the east, and from the Russian Federation in the north to New Zealand in the south, the region is home to 4.1 billion people, or two thirds of the world’s population. 

Established in 1947 with its headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand, ESCAP works to overcome some of the region’s greatest challenges by providing results oriented projects, technical assistance and capacity building to member States in the areas of macroeconomic policy, trade, investment, transport, environment, social development, energy, information communications technology and disaster risk reduction.

ESCAP provides a forum for its member States that promotes regional cooperation and collective action, assisting countries in building and sustaining shared economic growth and social equity. In addition, ESCAP gives stronger participation to the smaller and often left out voices of the region, the least developed countries, the small island States and landlocked States.

Visit the United Nations ESCAP website.