Innovative financing needed to counter stalled SDG progress

Photo by: Sofila / CC0

Innovative sources of financing are necessary to advance stalled progress on eradicating global poverty by 2030, United Nations ambassadors said Tuesday, cautioning that governments alone do not have the required funds to meet the Sustainable Development Goals on poverty, health, environment and justice.

Member states gathered early this week at the U.N. for the second annual forum on financing for development, almost two years after the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, which established a framework for implementing the 2030 development goals. Their agreement etches out a range of issues — including gender equality and infrastructure investment — that require further investment in a bid to make good on the SDGs.

U.N. member states reached an agreement on SDG financing on Tuesday, reaffirming their commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development but also recognizing “the global trajectory will not deliver the goal of eradicating poverty in all its forms by 2030,” said Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve, Belgium’s U.N. permanent representative.

The agreement specifically calls for government approaches to improve national tax systems, development banks to consider the impact investments could have on women and girls, and work to strengthen data collection on the value of unpaid work, among other measures.

This week’s meeting, which runs through May 25, occurs, however, in the shadow of the news that slow economic growth will leave about 6.5 percent of the world’s population extremely poor in 2030, according to a U.N. Inter-agency Task Force on Financing for Development report issued Monday.

Least developed countries will fall the farthest behind under the current projections, influenced by a slow rate of economic growth in 2016 — the worst since the 2008 global financial and economic crisis. Unemployment is also on the rise. An estimated 200 plus million people are expected to go without work in 2017, at least 3.4 million more than were unemployed in 2016.

The report echoed the global economic findings released last week by the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, which also oversees the inter-agency task force.

The agreement, which countries settled on prior to the meeting, briefly encourages multilateral development banks and development finance institutions to “use their capital in a catalytic way to mobilize greater volumes of private sector finance” — but also stresses effective use of domestic government resources. Countries alone, though, cannot fulfill the 17 SDGs, Jerry Matthews Matjila, South Africa’s U.N. permanent representative, told Devex at a Tuesday press briefing.

“In our current environment, until we tap all sources of finance, we are not going to realize the SDGs.”

— Matthews Matjila, South Africa’s U.N. permanent representative

“In our current environment, until we tap all sources of finance, we are not going to realize the SDGs,” Matjila explained.

“We are told that we need $7 to $8 trillion annually by 2030 [to reach the SDGs]. We don’t have those resources. So there is an idea now we have to go to the private sector, local and national, regional, development finance institutions to tap those resources. And you go to philanthropic organizations, you go to other entities that have those funds. You have to create an environment for those to come in,” Matjila added.

Private sector funding for development finance has nearly doubled from 2012 to 2015. And official development assistance increased 8.9 percent from 2015 to 2016, when it reached $142.6 billion. But escalating humanitarian needs and protracted crises have led to unmet financial gaps.

Countries will next meet in April 2018 to assess their progress on SDG financing and implementation, Pecsteen de Buytswerve said.

“In the meantime it is up to each and every country to work on these and also some international organizations are mentioned, of course. Some work has to be done,” he said.

Over 10 weeks Devex and our partners will take an in-depth look at the innovative financing mechanisms driving forward the 2030 sustainable development agenda. We’ll explore how the funding gap can be filled, ask how cross-sector collaboration can lead to improved global health care, and look at what it takes to build successful partnerships for change. Join us as we examine the innovative financing powering the Global Goals by tagging #Going4Goals and @devex.

About the author

  • Amy Lieberman

    Amy Lieberman is the U.N. Correspondent for Devex. She covers the United Nations and reports on global development and politics. Amy previously worked as a freelance reporter, covering the environment, human rights, immigration, and health across the U.S. and in more than 10 countries, including Colombia, Mexico, Nepal, and Cambodia. Her coverage has appeared in the Guardian, the Atlantic, Slate, and the Los Angeles Times. A native New Yorker, Amy received her master’s degree in politics and government from Columbia’s School of Journalism.