Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the luncheon of the High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development in New York on 26 September:
It is my pleasure to join you for this discussion. I thank Canada and Ghana for their work as co-facilitators. I would also like to acknowledge the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the Task Force on Digital Financing of the SDGs, the Global Partnerships Forum and Ecology International.
I hope that when we look back on this week, we will see it is an inflection point for financing climate action and sustainable development. The private sector is increasingly committed to the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement.
I am encouraged to see the progress being made by the private sector to align your investment strategies with the SDGs. Last Sunday, 130 banks from 49 countries holding assets of over $47 trillion signed the Principles of Responsible Banking, committing to align their business strategies with the SDGs. Earlier this month an SDG-linked bond valued at $1.5 billion was issued for the first time. This was oversubscribed by almost three times, signalling that the market is ready for sustainable investing.
To scale these investments and go from the billions to trillions we need to achieve the SDGs, we need greater collaboration and the necessary enabling environment. More needs to be done. We have the knowledge, tools and the wealth. We have to put all this together to meet the scope of the challenge. Change requires leadership and partnership. Governments need to create incentives for long-term market investment in sustainable development and align economic and financial policies, and trade and investment agreements and regulations, with the SDGs.
It is absolutely crucial to end illicit financial flows, which rob developing countries of more money than they receive. We also need to face the new challenge of taxation in the digital economy, and we look to you to scale up green and sustainable financial instruments. We count on the financial industry to engage with fossil fuel companies, divest from those unwilling to shift their business models towards a low-carbon trajectory, and increase investment in renewable energy. Financing must be front and centre as we begin the Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs by 2030.
We look forward to working with you to seize the opportunities of the digital revolution. Digital advances have helped us to make real progress in reducing poverty and advancing prosperity.
The benefits must be equally shared. Half the world’s population still lacks access to broadband Internet. The more prosperity becomes dependent upon connectivity, the more they risk being left behind. Financial technology has expanded financial services to hundreds of millions of previously unbanked people, most of them low-income people in developing countries. The Secretary-General’s Task Force on Digital Financing of the SDGs is exploring how to do even more, and you will hear more about its work from Achim Steiner and Maria Ramos today.
Your presence here for this year’s high-level week sends a powerful signal, confirming the growing interest of the private sector in sustainable investing. To seize this opportunity, the Secretary-General has established a CEO-led initiative – the Global Investors for Sustainable Development Alliance – which will be launched on 16 October in New York. The Alliance aims to harness the insights of business leaders to identify solutions.
I look forward to hearing more about how each of you is contributing to make the SDGs a reality for everyone, everywhere.
Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s closing remarks at the luncheon of the High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development in New York on 26 September:
I am inspired by the determination to act and the spirit of collaboration that has been displayed in this room today.
We have heard governments, the private sector and civil society commit to act without delay on mobilizing financing to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. All are united by the common objective to realize the future we want.
We must do this with a strong sense of urgency. Global growth remains subdued amid unresolved trade tensions, high international policy risks, and softening business confidence. Prolonged uncertainties and the accelerating effects of climate change could inflict significant damage on development progress.
Multilateral cooperation is the only solution to the many challenges of our time. But we must work harder to ensure the multilateral system delivers inclusive and sustainable growth for all.
The series of high-level meetings convened at the United Nations this week has once again signaled the centrality of multilateralism in fighting climate change, building a healthier world, and above all delivering the SDGs. Yet we will need significant public and private investment to bring this vision to life for all people, everywhere. The most vulnerable countries such as small island developing states must be at the center of our efforts.
Governments cannot achieve the SDGs alone. Private investors have a key role to play in closing the financing gap. The business case for investing in the SDGs is clear.
Governments can and must use public policy to incentivize greater and more rapid alignment of private investment with sustainability, and to create an enabling environment for the longer-term investment flows that are needed. Private sector actors, for their part, also need to increase the positive impact of their activities on sustainable development, and act on the incentives that promote a long-term orientation and value creation.
Catalyzing positive change in the private sector and financial systems is a hallmark of the Secretary General’s Strategy for Financing the 2030 Agenda.
Today’s interactive dialogues have highlighted the importance of mobilizing and effectively using domestic resources for financing sustainable investments, including for human capital and infrastructure. At present, however, many countries are struggling to collect enough revenues to finance their own development.
Enhanced efforts to increase government revenues must go hand in hand with a stepped-up global effort to fight illicit financial flows. Tax havens cost governments between $500 billion and $600 billion a year in lost corporate tax revenue alone. Of that lost revenue, low-income economies account for some $200 billion—a larger hit as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product than advanced economies, and more than the $150 billion they receive each year in foreign development assistance. Governments must do more to prevent illicit flows, assist in repatriating such funds and prosecute perpetrators.
Official development assistance is critical in complementing these efforts, especially in the Least Developed Countries and other vulnerable countries.
Today’s dialogue has also highlighted the importance of systematically addressing the SDG investment gap. We must understand what is needed to finance the SDGs in each country, identify what resources are available and where there is a gap, and devise consistent and coherent policies to mobilize additional resources, public and private, at the scale needed.
The United Nations is stepping up its work to help countries close this gap. As chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group, I have made this a priority. Through enhanced coordination and integrated programming, the reformed UN development system is better equipped and ready to respond your requests for assistance in this regard.
Today’s dialogue highlighted the need for accelerated action. The concrete commitments we have heard today will be vital in taking our efforts to scalre.
Moreover, this Dialogue must not be seen as a one-off event. The drive and commitments demonstrated today must be built on and go further.
The next ECOSOC Financing for Development Forum will aim to rally policy makers to tackle the systemic challenges in all action areas of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.
I look forward to working with all of you to translate our joint commitment into action in the year ahead and beyond.