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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

16 September 2020

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to address the Third Social Enterprise Advocacy and Leveraging (SEAL) Asia. I am very pleased to join forces with The Institute for Social Entrepreneurship in Asia (ISEA) to co-convene this important Conference in a virtual setting.

Governments are working with all stakeholders to overcome the unfolding health and socio-economic crisis caused by COVID-19 pandemic in our region. With a view to bring meaningful change in our societies through social entrepreneurship and innovative business ideas, youth are trying to juggle between coping with the constrained economic activities and social commitment.

Yet, it is heartening to see that social entrepreneurs have stepped up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. From providing educational technologies and e-health services for the most vulnerable, to developing community tracing initiatives, the key role of social entrepreneurs in providing market-based solutions to social and environmental challenges is more critical than ever.



Asia and the Pacific governments are leading globally the promotion of social entrepreneurship and have spearheaded national policy innovation in varying degrees.  

Let me highlight three policy priorities for your deliberations and considerations in that:

We must prioritise and promote social values for social goals. Governments can enable substantial opportunities for youth to engage in social entrepreneurship through innovative ideas and solutions to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development or SDGs.  

We need to scale-up innovative financing solutions to support the growth of social enterprises.  Policymakers need to encourage youth to be part of impact investing, so that sustainability principles can be aligned with financial viability of projects.

And let us support FinTech start-ups to leverage the potential of technology.  Decisionmakers need to develop digital finance solutions for young entrepreneurs, including women, to grow their business.  In particular, as women entrepreneurs are experiencing greater challenges than men in starting and growing their businesses, governments need to prepare women centric solutions to further catalyse women’s entrepreneurship. These solutions include digital savings and lending, e-commerce and payment solutions, accounting tools, and digital financial literacy.

These policy priorities can serve as a timely reminder to the Governments in our region, to address the socio-economic recovery strategy that must focus on social goods, innovative financing, and digital technology.

Dear Colleagues and friends,  

The United Nations family, certainly ESCAP, we are strengthening the social enterprise advocacy and leveraging through regional efforts to develop social enterprise, inclusive business and impact investing policies and facilitate knowledge-sharing across member States through our programmes and projects.

In view of this, let me focus on the role of ESCAP in moving forward this agenda:

First, we are at the forefront in creating space for policy innovations and enabling eco-system to encourage social enterprise to flourish through:

  1. research and analysis to support evidence-based policymaking,
  2. capacity-building activities,
  3. hands-on policy advisory services, and
  4. regional knowledge sharing.

Second, we are closely working with ASEAN member States, through the ASEAN+3 Conference on Social Enterprises that promoted social enterprise architecture. The development of ASEAN regional guidelines for inclusive business to steer policy parameters are notable advancements.

Third, we are directly assisting member States in conducting social enterprise landscape studies, for example in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. The advisory services further supported the initiation of strategy and national plan policy for social enterprises for the Governments of Bangladesh, China, India, and several ASEAN members States.  


Colleagues and friends,

This Conference is timely to develop practical and manageable social business solutions to expand the scope of strengthening regional responses to COVID-19 crisis, and to bring young entrepreneurs in the platform to shape the future.

Going forward, ESCAP stands ready to collaborate and leverage the energy and outreach of social enterprises, civil society, businesses, along with member States to build back better.

I urge all stakeholders to forge a stronger collaboration for scaling-up social enterprises in delivering the 2030 Agenda.

Thank you. I wish you a successful and productive conference.

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