Time to walk the talk on Agenda 2030

Frankly Speaking

Picture of Shada Islam
Shada Islam

Managing Director at New Horizons Project

Last year’s adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was an important milestone in the struggle to create a better world. The rhetoric was uplifting and many promises of quick action were made.

It’s now time to start walking the heroic talk.

As the great and the good of the global development community prepare to meet in Brussels in mid-June for the “European Development Days”, a massive brain-storm on new ways to deal with the world’s most pressing development challenges, the focus must turn from words to action.

Implementing the transformative Agenda 2030 for social, economic and environmental development agreed at the United Nations last November requires money – loads of it. And the funds must start flowing fast.

Financing of the earlier Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed in 2000 was mostly a traditional affair. Yes, there were some efforts made to be creative, but the focus was largely on Official Development Aid (ODA), disbursed by traditional Western donors. The flows were from the north to the south.

More than they do today, governments will have to work with business in so-called public-private partnerships to get things moving

The world in 2016 is a different place. Aid budgets in industrialised countries are under pressure. And in any case, financing for the 17 SDGs and 169 targets will require much more than traditional aid.

That’s because the SDGs are ambitious. They are not only about ending poverty and hunger, improving health, education and gender equality, but also about reducing inequality, making cities safe, addressing climate change and promoting peaceful societies.

The goals are universal, for rich and poor nations alike. And implementing them will require action by everyone. Traditional ODA will remain crucial but governments and other donors need to start demonstrating creativity and innovation to find more money – and get more bang for their buck.

So where is the additional money going to come from? Public, private, domestic and international funding sources need to be tapped. There must also be increased scrutiny of aid utilisation and a stronger focus on aid effectiveness.

Fortunately, as traditional donors struggle to maintain aid flows, countries like China, India, Turkey and Korea are emerging as an important source of funds for poorer countries. The China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is working hand in hand with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to finance desperately-needed infrastructure in developing countries.

South-south cooperation plays a pivotal role in helping countries to share experiences and promote common development. The new actors must therefore be made part of the global conversation on development, not excluded as outsiders.

More than they do today, governments will have to work with business in so-called public-private partnerships to get things moving.

Foreign direct investments (FDI) in emerging countries are on the rise as are impact investments, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities and philanthropy.

The goals are universal, for rich and poor nations alike. And implementing them will require action by everyone

Remittances from workers abroad are a huge boon to their countries of origin. However, the cost of remitting funds remains extremely high. These barriers must be reduced.

Meanwhile at home, governments must be put under additional pressure to increase domestic resource mobilisation through more effective tax collection and anti-corruption measures.

International tax rules and practices should ensure the fair treatment for developing countries and strengthen the ability of developing countries to prosecute tax evaders and renegotiate contracts.

Innovative financing includes taxes on carbon, air travel and financial transactions are worth exploring.

Official development assistance remains a critical funding source, particularly for low-income countries and fragile states.

If implemented fully, the SDGs could change the world. While not all of the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were successfully translated into reality, the MDGs have contributed, among other things, to reducing extreme poverty and halving the number of annual deaths of children under five.

Implementing Agenda 2030 will not be easy. It will require money, certainly, but more than that it will need political will and determination.

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