Roundtable of Experts on 
Financing Sustainable Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond

United Nations Financing Sustainable Development

19 August 2020 – 8:00am-12:30pm

On 19 August 2020, the Deputy-Secretary General, the Permanent Representatives of Canada and Jamaica and the Special Envoy for Financing the 2030 Agenda, convened more than 35 eminent experts to discuss and enhance the draft menu of options developed for recovering from the deepest crisis in near a century and mobilize the means to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and invest in an inclusive, resilient and sustainable future. Participants included the co-leads and focal points of the Discussion Groups that are developing the menu of options in six areas:

  1. External finance, remittances, jobs, and inclusive growth.
  2. Recovering better for sustainability
  3. Global liquidity and financial stability
  4. Debt vulnerability
  5. Private sector creditor’s engagement
  6. Illicit financial flows

Professor Ricardo Hausmann, Director of the Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development, delivered keynote remarks that emphasized just how early on we are in the pandemic, hence the need to be deliberate and concrete in devising solutions for the near and long-term. While many developed countries are looking ahead to recovery, most of the world is still reeling from costly and ongoing social distancing rules. He recommended generating country-specific social and epidemiological data as a cheap and efficient means of avoiding the looming “triple whammy” of banking, currency and debt crises.

Suggestions from experts included a regionalization of solutions given the differences among the world’s regions, with a focus on the poorest, including African countries; and establishing a metric that would measure the extent to which individual investments are “SDG-compliant.” Experts also suggested investing in social safety nets and use of diaspora savings as a potential financial resource. Experts supported involvement of private sector actors in financing agreements and issuance of more SDRs, as well as reallocating them. Several experts stressed the need to provide debt relief that ensures future investments can take place, extending the DSSI for at least 2 years, involving the private sector in debt relief initiatives, and innovative approaches such as debt-for-climate swaps. Other ideas included setting up a dialogue on credit ratings, re-profiling of debt, debt buy-backs, and debt swaps. Finally, ideas on capacity building, transparency, asset recovery, information sharing, vigorously implementing the UN Convention Against Corruption and a UN Systemic Economic Reconstruction and Reform Summit were also put forward.

Experts also offered ideas to maximize the impact of the work through three main suggestions: First, given the rich range of ideas and suggestions, a shortlist of options could be prioritized. Secondly, a balance should be found between short-term, medium-term and long-term options. Focusing on short-term recommendations could compromise efforts to mobilize resources to implement the Sustainable Development Goals; conversely, emphasizing long-term recovery risks setting aside the urgency of addressing immediate survival needs of the poorest while the pandemic continues to rage. Thirdly, experts agreed on the need to identify tailor-made solutions to the specific needs of each country while paying special attention to the most vulnerable, including least developed countries, small island developing states, and landlocked developing countries.