Entrepreneurship for Development
Delivered by Ambassador Ron Prosor on 13 November 2014.
On behalf of the 102 co-sponsors, I thank all of the delegations that voted in favor of this resolution.
The co-sponsors and supporters of this resolution include nations from all five regional groups, representing hundreds of millions of people from both developing and developed nations.
The overwhelming endorsement of this resolution reflects the growing understanding that empowering entrepreneurs advances sustainable development. Or to put it more simply - creating opportunities for entrepreneurs leads to greater opportunities for everyone.
Michelangelo once said: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” Where other people saw a cold, hard slab of rock, Michelangelo saw an angel trapped in stone.
This is the essence of entrepreneurship – the ability to see beyond how things are to how things could be and should be. The world is filled with young men and women who view opportunities in challenges and possibilities where others can only see the impossible.
Joel Mwale saw opportunity all around him. He grew up in a remote Kenyan village that lacked access to clean water. When he was 14, Joel and others in his village fell ill with dysentery from drinking unclean water. As he lay in hospital he thought to himself, “Something has got to be done.”
When he recovered, Joel transformed an old bicycle wheel into a pump and dug a borehole to provide clean water for his village. But he didn’t stop there. When Joel didn’t have enough money for school fees, he collected rainwater from the gutters of a local factory, purified it, bottled it and sold it to local people during the dry season. He then transformed this simple idea into a successful business. Today, Joel sells inexpensive bottles of purified drinking water across Africa.
Another inspiring entrepreneur is Kiki Katese from Rwanda. Kiki understood that as much as food and clean water are basic needs, happiness is also a basic need. In her own words, Kiki explained: “We must do more than rebuild roads, we need to rebuild the people and prove to them that life is worth living.”
And what better way to taste the sweetness of life than with ice cream? Kiki worked with local women to open Rwanda’s first ice cream shop, called Sweet Dreams. The project has given women the chance to learn a skill, earn a wage and contribute to the local economy by supporting local suppliers.
Both Joel and Kiki saw opportunity all around them. They are courageous dreamers. When they faced hardships, they refused to give up until they realized their dreams.
These are values that we should be championing. And yet, I note that once again the Arab nations have voted against this resolution. In doing so, they have not just cast a vote against a resolution; they have cast a vote against opportunity, a vote against economic prosperity, and a vote against their own people.
Today’s vote is yet another attempt by the Arab Group to delegitimize Israel. The truth of the matter is that the Arab states would sooner keep their citizens shackled by hardship than accept the key to unlocking progress - so long as Israel is one of the locksmiths.
Few countries know more about reaping wealth from entrepreneurship than Israel. We are a tiny nation with few natural resources, difficult farming conditions, and very little water.
Despite these overwhelming challenges, in just six decades Israel transformed from an impoverished newborn state into a prosperous member of the OECD and a global leader in innovation.
We have more start-ups per capita than any nation on the planet and the third-highest number of patents per capita in the world. Thousands of products enjoyed by tens of millions of people throughout the world - from drip irrigation to solar panels and from flash drives to driving navigation systems - were born in Israel.
You may find this hard to believe – but Israel even exports wine to France, caviar to Russia and gluten free pasta to Italy.
The State of Israel is living proof that if you want stability, empower your people. If you want prosperity, invest in your citizens. If you want sustainability, engage every member of society – particularly women and youth. These are the messages of today’s resolution.
The adoption of this resolution does not mean that our work is done. Far from it. It is up to us to ensure that every person has the opportunity to contribute to his or her community.
One of the world’s most famous artists, Pablo Picasso, explained the secret of his success saying: “My mother said to me, 'If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.' Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso.”
Two years ago when we adopted the first Entrepreneurship for Development resolution we prepared the canvass. Today we mixed the colors on our palette. Now we must go out into the world and hand each person a paintbrush so that he too can create an original masterpiece.