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Connecting Business initiative: Progress report 2019

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"The Connecting Business initiative (CBi) was set up to encourage private sector engagement before, during and after natural or man-made crises, or disease outbreaks."

We are confronting some of the greatest challenges of our time. In 2019, 167.6 million people needed humanitarian assistance. This represented one in about 45 people in the world, and is the highest figure in decades. As a consequence of climate change, natural disasters occur more frequently and are more intense and destructive. In 2018 alone, they affected 68 million people.

Countries around the world have committed themselves to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development including Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) pledged to "Leave No One Behind". However, 2030 Agenda Global Goals cannot be achieved if communities are not well-prepared for disasters that threaten to reverse hard-won development gains. Every year, an estimated 26 million people are pushed into poverty by disasters.

Disasters also have a profound effect on economic welfare. Between 1998 and 2017, affected countries by disasters reported direct losses of US$2.908 trillion. Several Post Disaster Needs Assessments have shown that most of the losses are experienced by the private sector. In addition to material losses, business disruption puts further pressure onto businesses, and many may not recover from disasters. There is a clear business case not only for companies to ensure their own operations can withstand shocks but also for them to contribute to the resilience of their sector and society at large.

The Connecting Business initiative (CBi) was set up to encourage private sector engagement before, during and after natural or man-made crises, or disease outbreaks. It works with the private sector at the intersection of the humanitarian, development and peace agendas.

In 2019, CBi supported 19 business networks. Nine CBi Member Networks, along with their partners, addressed a total of 31 crises. These included cyclones and a measles epidemic in Madagascar, earthquakes and typhoons in the Philippines, and the Easter Sunday attack in Sri Lanka. CBi Member Networks, including those that did not experience disasters in 2019, also engaged in preparedness and resilience activities. They organised simulation exercises, engaged in advocacy, contributed to national dialogues, built information and communication systems, and provided business continuity planning trainings, especially to micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). More CBi achievements and examples of the business networks’ activities are presented in the report.

Partnerships are not easy in crisis setting; they require sustained commitment and investment. We are impressed by the successful examples of coordination emerging from the work of these networks. As humanitarian needs keep rising, collective action is critical: We need to build on each other’s expertise and experience to better anticipate, prepare for, respond to and recover from crises.

The enormous success of CBi would not have been possible without the support of our global and local partners – Boston Consulting Group, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, United Nations Global Compact, The UPS Foundation and United States Agency for International Development. These partners provided much-needed financial and in-kind contributions, expertise and guidance to the initiative. Furthermore, the activities would not have materialised without the business networks and their members in the 19 countries that CBi supported in 2019.

With the support of Boston Consulting Group (BCG), we completed a strategy refresh process in 2019 that allowed us to take stock of what has or has not worked. While feedback from our stakeholders has been overwhelmingly positive, we have identified areas that need to be further explored, such as addressing complex emergencies, minimizing the impact of climate change-related hazards, and providing further support for the business networks to innovate. CBi will focus more on these areas in the future.

The complex and multidimensional nature of today’s crises requires collective action. We look forward to continuing our fruitful collaboration in 2020 and beyond.

Marcos Neto
Director, Finance Sector
Hub, United Nations
Development Programme

Ramesh Rajasingham Director, Coordination
Division, United Nations
Office for the Coordination
of Humanitarian Affairs

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