Closing remarks of HE Peter Thomson, President of the UN General Assembly at High Level SDG Action Event “SDG Financing Lab”
18 April 2017
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to thank you for your active engagement during this High-Level SDG Financing Lab.
Throughout the day, I have been struck by the quality of the discussion between Member States and partners, as we explore ways to foster the development of a sustainable financial system that will support the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
I have been particularly encouraged by the frank and practical nature of the dialogue, on how we can pursue our shared goal of elevating efforts at the national and international levels to achieve the SDGs.
Throughout today’s opening session, high-level segment, plenary debate, and workshop discussions, speakers emphasized the need to increase the speed and scale of our actions.
They recognised the magnitude of the challenge before us – the volume of resources needed to achieve the SDGs, and the importance of strategic partnerships to addressing this challenge.
They acknowledged the criticality of aligning global financial systems to sustainable development and for providing a framework for channelling investments towards sustainable development.
They underlined the exponential social, economic and environmental gains that this transformation will present, with sustainable investments generating decent work, spurring technological advances, promoting inclusive prosperity, fostering social inclusion, and protecting the environment for future generations.
Today’s speakers have affirmed the ongoing importance of reliable and predictable Overseas Development Assistance for catalysing much-needed changes, including to strengthen domestic resource mobilisation, and to create enabling environments that attract investments to national development priorities.
And they encouraged the World Bank and other multilateral development banks to ratchet up and leverage their investments to develop financial systems.
Throughout the discussions, business leaders confirmed that with the right policy mix, major asset holders can be incentivized to divest underperforming investments and direct funds towards green and sustainable, long-term projects.
They detailed the steps they were already taking to align their business practices with sustainable development, noting that investments in the SDGs in many cases already make sound economic sense, with reputational gains improving their bottom lines. Nevertheless, they said, more needed to be done to de-risk sustainable investments, and bridge understanding between the public and private sectors of their shared interests and goals.
The important role of the United Nations in bringing together the public and private sectors and facilitating meaningful dialogue received wide support, including a proposal to bring the top 100 financial sector actors to the UN to continue discussions on how to catalyse the exponential changes needed to the financial system at both the national and global levels.
Support was also expressed for further exploration of the ‘sweet spot’ the UN could occupy by serving as a policy space between Members States and global financial system actors, by giving guidance on financing the SDGs, and encouraging the development of SDG-consistent certification standards and ‘SDG ratings’ by credit rating agencies.
Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
As we look to conclude this SDG Financing Lab, it is crucial that our discussions today become a basis for an ongoing dialogue on how – together – we can build a sustainable financing system:
one that involves and benefits all stakeholders – Governments, consumers and businesses alike;
one that spurs investments into technology, so that global development gains reach those left furthest behind;
and one that supports achieving a sustainable world for us all.
To assist this process, in coming days my office will be preparing a summary of today’s event, which will be circulated to all Member States and placed on the website of my Office.
I will also be travelling to Washington DC later this week to participate in the World Bank Spring meetings, where my office and I will be conveying to Finance Ministers and other senior officials the central messages of today’s discussions
I would like to seize the moment to thank all those who worked to make today’s event possible: the moderators, panellists and all of the participants, the UN Secretariat, and, of course, the Member States for contributing so actively throughout. I would like to close with a special word of thanks to the excellent workers at the Office of the PGA, in particular to Tomas Anker Christensen, Fernando Zelner and Albena Melin, for conceptualising, organising and delivering today’s event for our communal benefit. I would also like to make special mention of the support and help we have received from the UNEP Enquiry, Brookings Institution and Johns Hopkins University, thank you Simon, John and Irv.
I hope you have all found today’s dialogue as useful as I have.
I thank you.