When the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were announced in 2015, there was enormous optimism throughout the world, that much could be achieved by the 2030 target.
We are now more than halfway through the allotted time span and there is still a great deal to be accomplished.
At the opening last month of the 2023 ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated ‘the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals are turning into a mirage of what might have been, as communities and governments struggle to meet immediate needs’.
The world is in crisis, leading to ever increasing inequality, causing a devastating impact on the poorest and most vulnerable.
- The scars of the Covid 19 pandemic run deep in developing countries that suffered terrible losses in lives and livelihoods.
- The war in the Ukraine is contributing to a global cost of living crisis.
- Climate disasters are becoming more frequent, deadly, and expensive.
- More than 40 per cent of people in extreme poverty live in countries afflicted by severe debt problems.
Inequalities within some countries are regressing towards early 20th century levels – to a time before women were allowed to vote, and before widespread acceptance of the concept of social protection.
Inequality is already leading to social unrest at the local and national level, and rising tensions and risks at the global level.
Delay will only make these problems worse, as the climate crisis gathers pace and inequalities continue to grow.
It is against this background that the Secretary General is putting a proposal to G20 countries for an SDG Stimulus to scale up affordable long-term financing for all countries in need, by at least 500 billion dollars a year.
The SDG Stimulus has three main areas for action:
- Firstly, it needs to boost investments in the transformations we need to achieve the SDGs: renewable energy, sustainable food systems, and the fourth industrial revolution.
- Secondly, to tackle the high cost of debt by providing ambitious debt relief initiatives that enable countries in distress to exchange short term debt for longer term instruments at lower interest rates.
- Thirdly, contingency financing must be expanded – there needs to be a robust system to ensure that in future crises, funds are issued promptly and automatically. Based on current quotas, developed countries received 26 times more than Least Developed Countries. Something is fundamentally wrong with the rules and governance systems that produced this outcome.
Antonio Guterres goes on to say that in the longer term, today’s challenges will not be solved by relying on the financial system that caused them. The global financial architecture was created for a world that no longer exists.
It is now widely recognised that we need an economic system that is coherent and coordinated and reflects today’s global economic reality. A system that supports stable economic conditions and helps countries to invest in the SDGs.
As custodian of the SDGs and Paris Agreement, the United Nations brings together diverse views and expertise across all dimensions of sustainable development and financing.
Engagement and support from all corners of the world is needed to renew the international financial architecture and make it able to face the challenges of today and tomorrow.
SIGBI President 2021-2023