The United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday hosted an Israeli-led conference on entrepreneurship attended by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, General Assembly President Vuk Jeremić, and representatives from around the world, including Kuwait, Tunisia, and Bahrain.
The conference — which is the result of the passing last year of an Israeli resolution calling on member states to promote entrepreneurship — is part of an effort by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to steer away from conflict-oriented issues and brand itself as a world-leader in using innovation as a means of battling poverty, creating jobs, and increasing growth.
“Israel is a young, dynamic, and creative state. We have decided to go public, not on Wall Street, but at the UN Headquarters on 1st Avenue,” said Israeli envoy to the UN Ambassador Ron Prosor. “This initial public offering has 141 signatories. It is important that the whole world can enjoy Israel’s knowledge, technology, and innovation.”
“There’s a Hebrew expression that says, ‘Success has many parents, but failure is an orphan.’ While most people fear and avoid failure, entrepreneurs know that it’s impossible to live without failing. The spirit of entrepreneurship is to challenge conventional wisdom, break the status quo, and persevere until you’ve changed the world,” Prosor added.
In December 2012, the General Assembly passed the Israeli-drafted resolution 67/202 with a tally of 141 in favor, 31 against, and 11 abstaining. The resolution campaign was accompanied by a diplomatic effort to thwart attempts by Arab member states to have the resolution tabled.
In a statement, the Israeli delegation to the UN noted that the Arab states attended the conference despite opposing the resolution.
Representing Israel at the conference was Nobel Prize Laureate Professor Dan Shechtman.
Attendees, including experts from around the world, heard of Israel’s successes in the fields of agriculture, solar energy, and medical equipment, and of the entrepreneurial spirit that enabled them.
“[Entrepreneurs] must be encouraged to stand at the frontline of socio-economic change, in the service of sustainable development,” Jeremić, said at the conference. “They are the ones who are often best-placed to take the first crucial steps towards breaking the cycle of poverty in their surroundings.”
“I believe governments should see the promotion of socially conscious entrepreneurial spirit as a basic duty,” he said, adding that entrepreneurs must be given the means to leverage new technologies that will help move away from an economy that depends on carbon-based energy systems.
“This year, some 73 million young people will be unemployed. Between 2016 and 2030, an estimated 425 million young women and men will join the labor force. That means the world will need about half-a-billion jobs by then,” Ban told participants. “To help meet this challenge, we should encourage, educate, and empower young entrepreneurs.”
Countries should focus not just on creating better conditions for entrepreneurship, but also invest in education and nurture young people, Ban said, adding that they will be the ones creating jobs and innovative solutions in the future.
“I call on all partners to support youth entrepreneurship, self-employment, and youth-led businesses. The United Nations system will do its part. Our Global Compact initiative will continue mobilizing and supporting young entrepreneurs in advancing a more sustainable future,” he said, adding that the World Bank, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the UN Capital Development fund are also working to foster youth entrepreneurship.