Mr. Eliott Harris Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development and Chief Economist

World Economic Forum
Sustainable Development Impact Summit
Roadmap to SDGs Investment: Financing SDGs/country roadmaps

Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Mobilizing financing remains a major challenge for achieving the SDGs in many countries, one that goes well beyond the issue of whether there is enough public finance available – there isn’t.

It is the challenge of financing a wide range of interventions and investments of differing natures, for which different types and sources of funding may be appropriate.

Since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda – the global framework for financing sustainable development – countries have made some progress in implementation, and interest in sustainable financing is growing.

There is a widening array of financial instruments available, and an equally impressive array of new initiatives that each proposes a potential funding solution. Various forms of blended finance, green bonds, social impact bonds, crowdsourcing options—these are some of the innovative instruments on offer. The World Bank/MDB Country Platforms and various other sector-specific funding initiatives are also being made available.

Enough finance is available from private sources. But all our global assessments demonstrate that what we have done so far is not enough. We are not on track to meet the SDGs by 2030, and we have not yet achieved the fundamental transformations in financial systems that we so urgently need.

A big part of the problem in my view, is that these offerings and potential sources of funding have not yet been translated into country-specific financing solutions. The 2030 Agenda is a universal one that must be localized for effective implementation. The financing offer must be equally country-specific, and must propose the right mix of sources and instruments for each country’s financing needs.

But we still lack a coherent approach—one that brings together the various initiatives and opportunities and avoids the potential fragmentation that competition among these initiatives could cause.

This is why I warmly welcome the ‘Country Financing Roadmap’ initiative by the World Economic Forum. The Roadmap could provide a platform for coherence among the different financing options. The WEF’s ability to convene, leverage and help align the contributions of a wide range of stakeholders, particularly from the private sector, can play a critical role in advancing SDG financing.


Allow me to stress two issues where I see the need for progress and where this initiative can make a positive contribution – national financing frameworks and strategies; and mobilization of private investment for sustainable development.

First, let me start with financing strategies.

From the Voluntary National Reviews at the High-level Political Forum, we have learned that many countries have not yet put in place detailed plans to finance their SDG efforts. A recent study found that 79 out of 107 national development plans and strategies did not spell out in detail how they would be financed.

In response, the Secretary-General’s Strategy for Financing the 2030 Agenda has identified the enhancing of sustainable financing strategies and investments at the regional and country levels, as one of its three key objectives.

The Inter-agency Task Force on Financing for Development, in its 2019 Financing for Sustainable Development Report, has put forward an approach to operationalize integrated national financing frameworks.

Such integrated financing frameworks, a concept introduced in the Addis Agenda, can be a tool to help national authorities in identifying, mobilizing and aligning all financing flows necessary to meet the SDGs. They can help spell out how a national sustainable development strategy will be financed and implemented.

The Task Force identified four building blocks to operationalize them:

  •  assessment and diagnostics,
  • a financing strategy,
  • mechanisms for monitoring and review, and
  • governance and coordination frameworks.

Since the publication of the FSDR, a number of countries have stepped forward and announced that they would pioneer this approach, with support from the UN, the European Union, and other partners.

The Country Financing Roadmap Initiative can make an important contribution to unlocking capital at scale and engaging the international financial community in this country-led process.

Second, on private investments, the Addis Agenda recognizes that public policy needs to create an enabling environment that encourages a vibrant domestic business sector. Public policies can unlock private investments and provide incentives to align business activities with sustainable development objectives.

Public-private dialogues at the country level should help government assess bottlenecks and identify options to promote investments linked to sustainable development. This could be done, for instance, by adjusting investment incentives. and through carefully structured risk-sharing instruments. It is not only important to increase the volume of private financing flows, both domestic and foreign, but also their quality and developmental impact.

Strengthening national capacities is another priority in efforts to mobilize private capital at scale. For example, public-private partnerships can frame the private sector’s contribution to infrastructure investments but structuring such partnerships—including their critical regulatory component—is complex and requires expertise often lacking in public administration. Building national capacities is key to enable governments to engage effectively with the private sector and ensure that these partnerships deliver value for money.

Countries may need additional support on the ground for this. The repositioning of the UN development system – with strengthened UN country teams – should help countries in working with all development partners, in preparing investment strategies and identifying the appropriate finance mix for achieving the SDGs.

At the global level, we need platforms where experiences with successful policy and financial instruments can be shared and where norms can be set. This is precisely what the United Nations provides through its intergovernmental platforms on financing for development. We need to leverage these platforms to scale-up successful initiatives and promote appropriate policies for financing the SDGs. Financing is key to the SDGs, and the UN system as whole is fully committed to strengthening its support in this area.

We can also use these platforms to frame discussions on how to create and preserve conducive global conditions for mobilizing SDG finance.

I look forward to our discussions today.

Thank you.

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