German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Presidents of Botswana, Colombia, Costa Rica and Ethiopia joined the President of the UN General Assembly and UN Secretary-General alongside dozens of Chief Executive Officers and UN chiefs at the United Nations Global Compact Leaders’ Summit to address the private sector’s response to three unprecedented and interconnected global crises — health, inequality and climate change. 

Over 26 hours of continuous virtual programming — including more than 100 global, regional and local sessions — the Summit was the UN’s largest, most inclusive and most sustainable convening of purpose-driven business leaders committed to tackling societal challenges and advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). More than 20,000 business and sustainability leaders from over 180 countries participated in their local time zones and languages

Under the theme of “Recover Better, Recover Stronger, Recover Together,” the event marked the 20th anniversary of the UN Global Compact, providing a platform of platforms where leaders from business, civil society, Governments and the UN were challenged to reflect on the importance of collaboration and public-private partnerships, and increase their ambition to achieve the SDGs. 

“I am encouraged to see so many companies, of so many sizes and from so many sectors and countries, recognizing the urgent need for global unity and international cooperation. Our shared aim is to see businesses integrating the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact into their core strategy and operations, taking strong steps to support the SDGs, and reporting publicly on progress,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in his opening remarks from UN Headquarters in New York. The Leaders Summit marked the transition to new leadership for the UN Global Compact, with Sanda Ojiambo of Kenya taking over from Denmark’s Lise Kingo as Executive Director. 

“While the COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented global crisis, let us not forget that climate change and growing inequalities continue to shake the very foundations of business and of humanity. Now more than ever, business can and should play a central role in societal transformation,” said Ms. Ojiambo. 

The UN Global Compact Sri Lanka Network hosted a breakout session as part of the Summit titled “Best Foot Forward: Global Solutions for Two Major Roadblocks: Climate and Gender”. 

“We are emerging from COVID into a new norm, …defined by chaos and volatility. It is defined by the key issues that have been highlighted earlier …and what we have clearly understood here is that without clear understanding…of gender balance of a more appropriate, inclusive role for women - there is no way we are going to achieve any of that. Without an understanding of nature-based solutions, there is no way we are going to achieve where we are going to be” said Dilhan C. Fernando, Chairman of the UN Global Compact Sri Lanka in his concluding remarks of the panel discussion.  

The panelists for the Sri Lanka Network session were as follows; Mr. Dilhan C. Fernando – CEO of Dilmah Ceylon Tea Company PLC. and Chairman of the UN Global Compact Sri Lanka Network, Ms. Sonali Peiris - Group Lead, Sustainability and Risk Management of John Keells Holdings PLC., Ms. Thanuja Jayawardene – Deputy General Manager, Women’s Empowerment, Advocacy and Code of Conduct of MAS Holdings (Pvt) Ltd. and Ms. Nadeesha Wijesingha – Senior Leadership Development Manager & HR Business Partner Marketing of Unilever Sri Lanka. 

“My colleagues would agree with me when you talk about failure not being an option it extends from the climate, it extends through health through inequality it extends through every single area but critically requires gender equality. It is that, that will allow us to harness the true potential of humanity..”, said Dilhan C. Fernando.

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