NEW YORK - Nations must have three pillars in place to thrive economically, said former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan at the National Retail Federation's 102nd Big Show today (Jan. 14). During his keynote address, Annan highlighted the role that a prosperous economy plays in building strong nations.
"I have come to the conclusion that stable, dynamic and democratic societies have to be built on three pillars: peace and stability, development, and rule of law and respect for human rights," Annan said in his speech, titled "Building Strong Nations: The Three Pillars to a Prosperous Society."
"Each reinforces the other. If you do not have a stable environment where people can invest and get return on investment, why would they invest and how do you develop the country?"
Creating that peace and stability, however, is not simply the job of governments and political leaders. Instead, Annan says that businesses must use their influence to join the conversation and ensure those pillars are in place.
"Businessmen and women do have influence," Annan said. "You do have influence in the communities in which you operate. You do create jobs. You do bring prosperity to your local communities. You also have the influence to be able to talk to political leaders."
Going forward, Annan says, businesses will play even greater roles in helping to grow the global economy. In particular, he says that several industries will drive that growth.
"We will see quite a bit of expansion in infrastructure development and energy," Annan said. "There are 1.3 billion people without any access to electricity. They are going to want electricity. [I also expect] innovation in greening of the economy, which can have an impact as important as the industrial revolution. We need to create millions of jobs to be able to keep young people busy."
Annan also highlighted the current and future role of small businesses in the growth of the global economy.
"Small businesses have lots of clout, particularly in today's world, where everyone wants to see job creation," Annan said. "Small and medium-sized companies create lots of jobs. Governments will have to create the right regulatory systems and incentives to encourage these companies to do what they do best.
"They [governments] need to make sure they do not come up with measures of red tape that dissuade these men and women from going out and employing their small and medium-sized contingents."