BIG Money BIG Promises!

The 68th General assembly of the United Nations.

Not only governments are fully committed to meeting the Millennium Development Goals — the private sector also wants to step up to the challenge.

World leaders on Wednesday agreed on how to kick off the debate on the post-2015 framework through a common set of goals for both rich and poor nations. The outcome document that will set the agenda for the next two years envisions a multi-stakeholder approach that includes the private sector and philanthropy to boost total investment in achieving the MDGs to $2.5 billion.

The document adopted at a special event during the 67th session of the U.N. General Assembly calls for “a strengthened global partnership” that will draw from all resource pools, public and private, and specifically calls on firms “to engage in responsible business practices” for sustainable development.

Private sector development has long been considered a key driver for achieving the MDGs, with the EU in particular keen to provide support to reduce barriers to doing business, build capacities and improve the business environment in developing countries.

In its Council conclusions on the 2011 communication “An Agenda for Change,” for example, the EU pledged to help developing countries attract foreign direct investment, recognizing the need to work more closely with the private sector as its role in development grows.

Calls for the private sector to provide funding, employment opportunities and support in the form of training to improve skills and encourage the transfer of know-how and technologies have seemingly not gone unheeded.

Indeed, during several meetings in New York this week, the private sector has made a number of important commitments to help achieve the MDGs before the 2015 deadline. Here are our top 5:

1. The IKEA Foundation will provide $80 million over the next five years to fund UNICEF programs in India focused on improving child survival and educating and protecting children.

2. Energia, the international network on gender and sustainable energy, will give $10 million to strengthen work on gender equality and women’s empowerment in the energy sector — particularly for universal energy access — as part of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative also supported by the national development agencies of Finland, Norway and Sweden.

3. British media group Pearson plans to double total investment in innovative education solutions that deliver improved learning outcomes to $30 million, from $15 million in 2011. By next year, the firm is expected to establish a multi-year, flagship partnership focused on opportunities to employ ICTs and other innovative approaches to overcome learning barriers in Africa and other regions, particularly in marginalized communities. Five years from now, Pearson will directly help 20,000 new graduates from across sub-Saharan Africa find jobs through the CTI Education Group.

4. French oil giant Total will provide low-cost access to solar lamps through its service station networks, an initiative developed in partnership with IFC Lighting Africa. Total hopes to distribute over one million energy-efficient and environment-friendly solar lamps to citizens in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Uganda and Senegal by 2015.

5. Youth Empowerment & ICT Foundation, a Nigerian private foundation, is to offer seed funding for up to 50 innovative ICT projects run by young entrepreneurs, as well as 250 jobs for young people and $2.5 million in funding for start-ups in the technology industry by 2016..