New instruments of social finance

The topic of new instruments of social finance took centre stage last week at the special event of the UN General Assembly’s Second Committee exploring how impact investing and new instruments of social finance could contribute to achieving sustainable development goals, both in emerging and developed markets.

Organized by the Permanent Mission of Italy and UN DESA’s Financing for Development Office (FfDO), the event was hosted by Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, Chair of the Committee. “In order to achieve sustainable development, countries must make full use of all financing flows in a holistic way. The objective should be the optimization of contributions coming from all flows, public or private, domestic or international,” Ambassador Cardi said as he opened the event.

In what areas would impact investing be most effective and what changes in public policy would be needed to scale up its adoption and effectiveness in delivering sustainable development outcomes? These were some of the key questions raised during the event. Other queries took aim at social-impact bonds (SIBs) and their potential benefits and risks, trying to shed light on when they would prove most useful.

Susana Malcorra, Chef de Cabinet in the Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General, addressed the event as the keynote speaker, calling for a reestablishment of a common agenda to move forward and highlighting the importance of innovation. “Coming to an agreement for sustainable development is a testimony to the validity and value of the United Nations,” Ms. Malcorra said.

Through a video message, Ms. Amina Mohammed, the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on post-2015 development planning, conveyed that it was encouraging to see a broad consensus emerging on sustainable development. According to her, “private financing need to be unlocked and massively directed to long-term investments that deliver results for sustainable development.”

Shari Spiegel, Chief of the Policy Analysis and Development Branch in FfDO, also moderated an interactive panel discussion as part of the event, featuring a number of prominent speakers. Ms. Spiegel highlighted that the sustainable development financing needs are so large that all financial streams are needed, both public and private.

Addressing the topic of impact investment, Ambassador Cardi also pointed to the role it plays in providing capital to support private sector solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. “Social impact investment is able to catalyze private sources of finance and, at the same time, reduce financial stress on public current expenditure and negative impact on public debt. It can also support employment by encouraging the start-up of micro-enterprises and self-employment,” he said. 

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