High-level Dialogue on FfD Identifies Actions to Fill SDG Funding Gaps
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
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Four interactive dialogues convened on: putting public resources to work for more equal, sustainable societies, including by combating illicit financial flows; financing the SDGs and climate action against rising debt burdens; moving the money to fill the climate action and SDG financing gaps; and announcements and new initiatives.

The UN Deputy Secretary-General said the interactive dialogues had highlighted the importance of mobilizing and leveraging public and private finance, increasing efforts to fight illicit financial flows, and systematically addressing the SDG investment gap.

26 September 2019: The High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development (FfD), the first such dialogue since the adoption of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) in July 2015, considered ways to accelerate progress in the implementation of the AAAA and financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The High-level Dialogue took place at UN Headquarters in New York, US, on 26 September 2019, as part of the UN’s “high-level week,” which also included the Climate Action Summit, the SDG Summit, and a high-level meeting to review progress on the SAMOA Pathway for SIDS.

In the opening session, UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, said the USD 2.5 trillion annual financing gap for the implementation of the SDGs needs to be addressed. UN Secretary-General António Guterres described his ‘Roadmap for Financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ for aligning the international financing system behind the SDGs. He announced the launch of his Global Investors for Sustainable Development (GISD) alliance in October 2019, with members collectively managing almost USD 16 trillion.

In a keynote address, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana, said aid was never meant to be the only solution for development in Africa, but unbalanced contracts between African governments and investors are a key barrier. Bill Gates, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, emphasized the need for equitable tax collection systems, and called for being more realistic about the gaps that private financing can, and cannot, fill. He recommended targeting specific needs, geographies and groups of people.

In an interactive dialogue on combatting illicit financial flows (IFFs), speakers explained how IFFs hinder SDG achievement and undermine development progress. Manuel Montes, South Centre, pointed to the role of existing rules and standards in allowing IFFs to continue, with Dag-Inge Ulstein, Norway’s Minister of International Development, calling them as a “systematic injustice to those left behind.”

In the discussion on financing the SDGs and climate action, speakers called for political will, collaborations to bridge the funding gap, and “climate action for debt swaps.” Moderator Matthew Bishop, The Rockefeller Foundation, highlighted that financing trends are “mostly going in the wrong direction,” and underscored the importance of focusing on States that experience fragility. Danny Faure, President of Seychelles, highlighted the introduction of sovereign blue bonds in his country as a “pioneering way” to raise capital to finance oceans-related projects.

On moving the money, moderator Gillian Tett, Financial Times, said the funds needed to implement the SDGs exist but “are in the wrong place.” Highlighting that nearly 70% of individual savers in the UK want people and planet to be considered in pension investments, Matthew Rycroft, Permanent Secretary, Department for International Development, UK, emphasized the need for common standards to measure development impact. Maurice Tulloch, Aviva, called for a new Marshall Plan for the planet, noting the need for: governments to allocate 5% of pension funds and sovereign wealth funds to the SDGs and shape fiscal incentives for insurers; public league tables to rank companies on their sustainability performance; redirecting subsidies towards the SDGs; and spending public money on areas that have difficulty attracting private finance. Speakers also highlighted, inter alia: the need for scalability and special attention for fragile States; techniques and tools for moving trillions of dollars “into the right place,” including the importance of using blended finance to overcome obstacles; and the importance of better regulatory structures and investor education.

In the closing session, UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, said the interactive dialogues highlighted the importance of both public and private finance, fighting IFFs, and closing the SDG investment gap. Muhammad-Bande said that while public finance remains the backbone of sustainable development, private funding is also essential. President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Mona Juul, pointed to three urgent areas for action: tackling IFFs; promoting fair and predictable taxation; and responsible borrowing and lending.

Juul said the next ECOSOC Forum on FfD, which is scheduled for April 2020, will review progress on the initiatives and commitments outlined during the High-level Dialogue. [IISD RS Coverage of the High-level Dialogue] [IISD RS Summary of the High-level Dialogue] [UN News Story] [UN Meeting Summary] [Statement of UN Secretary-General] [Remarks of Deputy Secretary-General]


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