Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed’s remarks as prepared for delivery at the High-Level Meeting on Financing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in New York today:
I deeply appreciate the President of the General Assembly for giving us this valuable opportunity to focus on the crucial issue of financing.
Today I will look back briefly on the historic events that brought us to this point. I will look ahead at our vision for the future. And I will make what I hope is a strong appeal for real commitments to turn these hopeful ideals into solutions on the ground.
Many of you were part of the remarkable process that led to the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change. One of the most important stops on that journey was the adoption of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. In Addis, Governments clearly promised to invest in a sustainable future. Now it is all about implementation.
Countries are now in the process of defining national priorities and carrying out their own action plans. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda provides the framework for global cooperation to finance and implement the SDGs by mobilizing public and private sources. It sets out clear steps. It prioritizes domestic resource mobilization. It calls for aligning public spending with sustainable development. And the Action Agenda stresses the value of public policies that set the “rules of the game” for private action.
The Agenda also calls for tapping the creativity of businesses to solve sustainable development challenges. They are our partners in realizing a new future. It is in the interest of all countries, companies and people to tap the wealth of good that sustainable development will bring in environmental, economic and social terms.
We need significant resources to realize this global vision to leave no one behind. That is why it is so important to take a strategic approach that makes the most of all investments that we can garner. This new paradigm for development comes with action to meet long-standing commitments on official development assistance (ODA) — as well as a new approach to maximizing its impact.
The first imperative is for ODA commitments to be met on a consistent and predictable basis. Once this happens, we can aim to use ODA in a catalytic manner that intensifies progress by developing domestic resources and activating local investor bases.
The United Nations can help countries achieve the critical shift from international to domestic sources for financing the SDGs. More and more financial flows and investments are being aligned with the SDGs — but we can realize even greater wins for everyone if we mobilize pension funds, the insurance sector and other large pools of capital.
Sustainability should guide how we shape incentive structures. Sustainability should inform consumer preferences. Sustainability should shape the interests of shareholders. Collectively, these forces can generate unstoppable positive momentum. The dividends will reverberate far and wide.
Success on the Sustainable Development Goals will trigger beneficial results that will feed project pipelines leading to progress on gender, economic growth and climate action. Investing in a world of dignity and opportunity generates secure markets, thriving consumers and protected natural resources.
One study by the UN Foundation showed that closing gender gaps in access to products and services could expand economic activity by $300 billion annually by 2025. That is an impressive statistic that would represent empowerment of millions of women to generate their own income, support their families and participate in markets.
Sustainable economic growth stabilizes countries. This will directly support what the Secretary-General has identified as our priority concern: preventing conflicts. Where people have decent jobs, enough food and good opportunities for their children, there is greater social cohesion. The next generation is even more educated, more democratic and more interested in a peaceful future for their children.
This is the virtuous circle we are trying to set in motion. Now is the moment to seize invaluable opportunities to leverage funding and innovation. We are already seeing exciting examples. The World Bank and French bank BNP Paribas are cooperating around an SDG-linked bond. They are showing the powerful role of capital markets in connecting savings with development priorities, while offering investors an attractive risk-reward profile.
AVIVA Investors has also been promoting SDG benchmarks. This allows individual investors to reward companies that perform well against sustainability goals, creating a clear commercial and reputational incentive for businesses to improve their sustainability credentials.
Let us also remember the youth who are on the cutting edge of innovation. If you want to see our sustainable future, look at the young entrepreneur installing solar panels in Kenya, the student creating an app for the SDGs in Brazil, the traders using data to anticipate economic shocks in India. These youth are doing more than innovating – they are networking.
Leaders can provide oxygen to this spark of innovation by securing rights and freedoms. And that will light the way for even greater breakthroughs. In the developing world, we can facilitate this progress by supporting South-South cooperation and working to close the digital divide. The more we can help countries of the South to learn from each other, the more we will engender self-reliance and the ability to mobilize domestic resources. And the more we can link energetic and creative young people to each other and society, the better our chances of success and peace.
The critical ingredient in this recipe for success is leadership. Leadership that requires the integrity to stand for what we believe and back it with action. The United Nations is doing its part to live up to the expectations and trust that you and the global public place in us. The Secretary-General has asked me to lead a comprehensive review of the UN development system. I am open to your ideas for how we can do more to support your efforts and optimize our common contributions to development.
That is why the United Nations is advocating a strong commitment to maintaining and increasing contributions to ODA and to South-South cooperation. It is also critical to maintain and increase funding to the Green Climate Fund and, may I say, the way it releases funds to where it is much needed. We are also widening the circle to match the scale of financing. The United Nations is joining forces with Governments, philanthropists and private investors to stimulate sustainable investment at all levels.
The agreements we adopted in 2015 need resources to become reality. By scaling up all sources of financing — public and private — countries will earn respect, investments and results in the form of progress for their people and stability for our world.
I call on all of you here to give real meaning to this High-Level Meeting by acting on your responsibility as leaders in your different capacities to live up to your promises and do what is right. This is a call on behalf of the working mothers, the unemployed fathers, the young people who have an education but cannot find a job.
Let me leave you with the words of one man who returned from Chad to the Central African Republic a few years ago. He got a boost from an SDG project. And he said: “Thanks to this path, I found my dignity.”
Ladies and gentlemen, let us realize this life of dignity for all and that we should in no way leave anyone behind.