UN leaders look to private sector for sustainable development goals cash

By on 20/04/2017 | Updated on 27/01/2022
Senior United Nations officials have called for greater efforts to meet the global sustainable development goals.

Senior United Nations officials have called for greater efforts to marshal the resources needed to meet the global sustainable development goals (SDGs).

At the opening of a one-day event on financing the SDGs yesterday, the UN deputy secretary-general Amina J Mohammed urged governments and investors around the world to tap into new sources of capital to finance the SDGs.

In 2015 world leaders adopted the 17 SDGs to shape sustainable economic and social development efforts around the world to 2030.

Mohammed said realising the global vision embodied by the SDGs will require “significant resources” and a “strategic approach” by governments that “makes the most of all the investments we can garner”.

She alluded to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, an agreement adopted in 2015 that provides a framework for global cooperation on financing and implementing the SDGs by mobilising public and private sources.

Mohammed said that while financial flows and investments are increasingly being aligned with the SDGs, more effective mobilisation of large pools of capital such as pension and insurance funds would help realise “even greater wins for everyone”.

“Sustainability should guide how we shape incentive structures. Sustainability should inform consumer preferences. Sustainability should shape the interests of shareholders. Collectively, these forces can generate unstoppable positive momentum,” she said.

Her call to action was echoed by UN general assembly president, Peter Thomson, who highlighted the scale of the resource challenge in realising the SDGs.

“Estimates suggest that financing the Sustainable Development Goals will require annual investments of around US$6 trillion [€5.6tr/UK£4.7tr], or US$90 trillion [€84tr/UK£70tr] over 15 years,” Thomson said.

“While these sums may seem enormous, and the complexity of reforms needed to mobilise these funds may seem prohibitive, the fact is that the cost of inaction will ultimately be far greater.”

To meet the challenge, Thomson said, an “exponential transformation” in the global financial system is required. “As the Addis Ababa Action Agenda recognises, we must tap into all sources of funding,” he added.

Thomson reiterated the importance of engaging the private sector in meeting the SDGs, in particular institutional investors that in the OECD alone are valued at over US$80 trillion.

“Shifting the investment behaviour of just this category of private sector actors has the potential to transform our global efforts to establish sustainable financial systems promoting long-term investments, fostering social inclusion and environmental stewardship, and generating economic growth,” he said.

Thomson said governments and other actors have taken some positive steps forward in resourcing the SDGs but further work is required to reform policy and regulation, and to leverage public and private financing for sustainable development.

“We must create incentives to embed sustainability into financial decision-making, to stimulate investment in the sectors most crucial to driving sustainable development, and to re-orient financial flows into clean, long-term, socially-conscious and economically viable investments,” he said.

Key to this is long-term cooperation between government, business and academia, Thomson said: “We must forge public-private partnerships that bring policy-makers together with economic analysts, institutional investors, civil society representatives, union leaders and academic experts, to shape the financial systems of the future and to help manage risk.”

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See also:

New World Bank framework could help governments implement Sustainable Development Goals


Rolf Alter, Director for Public Governance and Territorial Development, OECD: exclusive interview

World Bank to offer free online course on good governance

About Ben Willis

Ben Willis is a journalist and editor with a varied background reporting on topics including public policy, the environment, renewable energy and international development. His work has appeared in a variety of national newspapers including the Guardian, Daily Telegraph and Times, as well as numerous specialist business, policy and consumer publications.

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