UN report underscores urgency of hefty financing to rescue SDGs


KATHMANDU, APRIL 10: At a time when only six years are left to achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs), global efforts towards sustainable development have witnessed severe setbacks resulting in a crisis. A UN report released yesterday asserted that financial challenges are behind the present sustainable development crisis, while countries are not only slow off the mark but also deviated from realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The ‘Financing for Sustainable Development Report, 2024’ prepared by the UN Inter-agency Task Force on Financing for Development, stated, “Countries are off track on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with around half of the 140 SDG targets for which sufficient data is available deviating from the required path.”

According to the report,  almost 600 million people- more than half of them women- will languish in extreme poverty in 2030. Importantly, the UN report has pointed to a dearth of finance to cope with pressing problems such as the climate crisis along with the SDGs. “The unmet financing needs for SDGs and climate action are estimated to be in the trillions of dollars annually,” the report reminded.

Moreover, acute financing needs are seen in developing countries in particular, the report argues, “They face higher costs of capital and significantly worse terms of access to financing. Due to misaligned incentives, both public and private actors still invest in brown activities and have not yet fully aligned their decision-making and financing with the SDGs.” Technological change, especially digitalization has been mentioned as a factor affecting the financial area. The fragmentation of the global economy is taken as an equally increasing threat.

The new trends, despite creating some development opportunities, are major stressors on national and international financial fronts. It is worth noting that the SDG Summit in September 2019 had called for a ‘Decade of Action’, promising to channel financing and boost national implementation along with the reinforcement of institutions to realize the goals. However, the global health crisis caused by COVID-19 and subsequent effects on the world economy resulted in slow progress toward this end.

Chair of the Inter-agency Task Force, and Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, UN, Li Junhua, observed, “Financing challenges—including an investment crisis, driven by a sluggish global economy and tight financing conditions—have hampered our progress, preventing the urgently needed investment push in the SDGs.” He, however, sees opportunity in the challenges, arguing, “Amid these challenges there lies opportunity. If we can address the big financing challenges of today— close the growing financing gaps, fix the international financial architecture, and create enabling environments at all levels to finance the ambitious transformations we need—then we can still succeed. It will be difficult, but it is doable.”

In this report, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres underlined, “Our proposed SDG Stimulus of USD$500 billion per year of additional investments in sustainable development and climate action includes concrete steps that global leaders can take right now.” The UN defines ‘sustainable development’ as: ‘Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ It underlines the need for concerted efforts so that an inclusive, sustainable and resilient future would be created for the people and planet.

After wrapping up the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the UN member states launched 17 SDGs in 2015. Since then, every UN member has been setting targets implementing action plans monitoring and evaluating these at the national level, and sharing achievements at regional and global forums. The national budgets and periodic plans are aligned with SDGs in order for their better localization. The 5Ps focused by the SDGs are- people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership.