HLPF Review of SDG 17 Warns Against Trade Barriers, Calls for Fulfilling Aid Commitments
Photo by IISD | Lynn Wagner
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The review session built on the outcomes of the ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development as well as recommendations from related processes, including the Development Cooperation Forum, the World Investment Forum, the UN World Data Forum, and the the Multistakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the SDGs.

Speakers addressed issues related to aid, trade, taxation and technology, among other issues.

13 July 2018: On Friday afternoon, the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) concluded its week of SDG reviews in New York, US, with a focus on SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals), which has 19 targets and is reviewed yearly. In their discussions, delegates noted some “positive momentum” as the global financial system strengthened, but warned that the threat of international trade barriers could undermine global economic growth.

Mahmadamin Mahmadaminov, Vice-President, UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), chaired the session, and Gillian Tett, US Managing Editor, Financial Times, moderated discussions.

Speakers addressed issues related to aid, trade, taxation and technology, drawing on an HLPF background note on SDG 17. The session aimed to build on the outcomes of the ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development (FfD Forum) that took place in April 2018 (E/FFDF/2018/3), and recommendations from related processes, including the Development Cooperation Forum (DCF), the World Investment Forum, the UN World Data Forum, and the the Multistakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) for the SDGs.

On foreign aid (SDG target 17.2), Yongyi Min, Statistics Division, UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), reported that official development assistance (ODA) declined between 2016 and 2017, and aid to the least developed countries (LDCs) grew just 1% in real terms during the same period. Viet Nam and the Asia Pacific Regional civil society organization (CSO) Engagement Mechanism lamented the decline in ODA, and Courtenay Rattray, Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the UN, called on ODA providers to fulfill their commitments. France announced plans to increase its contribution to support the SDGs. Belarus called for support for middle-income countries.

On mobilizing additional financial resources (SDG target 17.3), panelist Steven Waygood, Aviva, pointed to US$300 million invested in capital markets that could be leveraged for the SDGs. He called on the UN and civil society to support the development of rules and standards to make capital markets more sustainable and transparent. Finland welcomed diversification of financing for development, including leveraging private sector funds. The Dominican Republic also called for alternative sources of finance.

In 2017, only Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and the UK met or exceeded the UN benchmark for ODA contributions.

On debt sustainability (SDG target 17.4), Rattray further called for better debt management monitoring by national and international actors. South Africa cautioned that turning to innovative sources of finance could result in further indebtedness.

On the multilateral trade system (SDG target 17.10), Masud Bin Momen, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN, commented that economic globalization has suffered a setback with the rise of inward-looking and protectionist tendencies. Lead discussant Kavaljit Singh, Madhyam, warned that poor countries could become “collateral damage” in a global trade war, and the EU emphasized that an open, rules-based trade system can strengthen SDG implementation.

Several panelists commented on the role of technology in development (SDG targets 17.6, 17.7 and 17.8). Bin Momen pointed to its transformative potential. Panelist Robin Ogilvy, Special Representative, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), stressed the importance of researching how digitalization is influencing policy choices. Panelist Alfred Watkins, Global Solutions Summit, stated that, while cost-effective technological solutions to sustainable development exist, technology deployment measures are missing.

The HLPF Background Note further elaborates on the threat of trade barriers, noting these could have potentially large repercussions, especially for developing economies, and that persistently high levels of inequality also pose challenges for sustainable development. The background note reports a renewed increase in global carbon emissions in 2017, which, it argues, shows that the global system continues to be unable to align investment with long-term sustainable development objectives.

In 2017, ODA as a share of donors’ gross national income (GNI) was nowhere near the UN benchmark of at least 0.7% of GNI, with overall levels remaining low at 0.31%. Only Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and the UK met or exceeded the UN benchmark.

On improving domestic capacity for tax and other revenue collection (SDG 17.1), the background note reports that the rate of taxation has declined in LDCs and sub-Saharan Africa in recent years. Foreign direct investment (FDI) to LDCs declined by 11% between 2016 and 2017. Global remittances by international migrants to their countries of origin also declined somewhat, due to stricter immigration policies adopted by destination countries. [IISD RS Coverage of HLPF on 13 July 2018] [HLPF Background Note on SDG 17] [Report of FfD Forum Follow-up]


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