Guest Article #27

Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development in a Post-2015 World

In designing the new global framework that will create the world for our future generations, the international community has an extraordinary albeit daunting opportunity at hand. While poverty reduction is still the central challenge to the world's people, for the first time in history we effectively have the means to eradicate extreme poverty within a generation.

Thankfully, we are not starting from scratch. There are many good examples to build on and success stories to share. Many countries have achieved higher levels of sustainable development in all its dimensions – economic, social and environmental – for the benefit of their people. It is crucial to learn from those who succeeded, study their ideas and policies, and intensify our efforts to end poverty.

Whether we look at the early advances of the European countries, the United States or Japan, or those that caught up with the global trend in the latter half of the 20th century such as the Republic of Korea and the many Asian 'tigers' and 'dragons,' it was industrial development that shaped their success. In fact, no country has ever progressed from low- to middle- and high-income status without industrializing.

Clearly, future strategies for poverty eradication need to be 'economically empowered.' This is the only way to generate the income needed to empower individuals, households, and governments to pursue their own development priorities, meet related social goals, and support their path to self-reliance - the ultimate goal of our efforts and the only way to achieve sustainable development in all its dimensions.

The global financial crisis has taught us many lessons. One is the realization that industry is a key component to making economies less vulnerable to rapid changes in economic conditions and more resilient to confronting related shocks. This holds for all countries, including the traditionally industrialized ones.

Since assuming office as Director General of UNIDO in June this year, I have visited many countries and talked to leaders from the public and private sectors. In discussing what matters most to them, the answer has been two-fold: how to advance the well-being of their people in an inclusive and sustainable manner; and how to create the necessary jobs for the millions that are still excluded from decent employment, let alone the millions to come.

I strongly believe that the promotion of inclusive and sustainable industrial development can greatly contribute to solving these challenges and to achieving higher levels of prosperity for all peoples. Least-developed and vulnerable countries can often find substantial employment opportunities by shifting from agriculture to labor-intensive industries. Middle- and high-income countries can grow jobs by shifting towards more technologically advanced industries, and expanding the services industries surrounding them. With industry expanding, the demand for more and improved primary goods from agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining is also growing, as is the demand for banking, insurance, communications, trade and transport services.

However, progress will be short-lived if we do not succeed in addressing the crucial link between the need for economic growth and action on environmental sustainability. Humankind is using natural resources and producing waste at a rate that is ecologically, economically and socially unsustainable. The importance of promoting green manufacturing and green growth pathways therefore cannot be emphasized enough. In the final analysis, manufacturing industry is the primary sector in which environmentally-friendly interventions must be implemented to achieve maximum results. The drive for innovation and process efficiency that lies at the heart of industrial upgrading has the potential to provide the necessary solutions to realize cleaner production, efficient resource management and reductions in waste and pollution.

It is for all of the above reasons that poor people, thought leaders, and stakeholders have demanded a stronger integration of the economic dimension and the role of industry and manufacturing into global development priorities. The transition to inclusive and sustainable industrial development will entail nothing less than a new industrial revolution. But in contrast to previous revolutions, this one will be characterized by partnership, where government, the private sector and other actors will need to work together to create the enabling environment needed for a transformative change. I am convinced that UNIDO will make a major contribution to the achievement of this new industrial revolution, and that this new vision for UNIDO will harness the full potential of industry for sustainable development and lasting prosperity for all. Our challenge now, and our historic opportunity, is to recognize this potential and to combine our efforts for the common good.