Making finance work for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific

As delivered

Statement by the President of the United Nations General Assembly, H.E. Peter Thomson, at the High-level side event of the 2017 ECOSOC Financing for Development Forum on “Making finance work for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific” 


23 May 2017


Honorable Ministers,
Your Excellency, Ms. Shamshad Akhtar, USG and Executive Secretary of ESCAP
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is pleasure to join today’s discussion on financing sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific, and I thank the organizers of this event for inviting me to make a few remarks.

The focus of today’s discussions is particularly timely, as partners across our world move to scale up efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Taken together, the 2030 Agenda, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change provide humanity with a universal plan for people, planet and prosperity. They are our best hope of securing a sustainable future for our children and grandchildren.

Our task as a global community is to maintain fidelity to these agreements and to set about the transformation work of implementing them.

The Addis Ababa Action Agenda sets out a global framework for financing for development, and implementing the 2030 Agenda.

Critically, it also recognizes the importance of regional-level engagements, including through the UN regional commissions, for mobilizing the expertise and mechanisms needed to achieve these ends.

It is in this context that the work of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), and indeed the discussions held during the recent 4th High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development in Asia and the Pacific, are so important.

The particular areas of focus of those discussions – namely on public policy and regional tax cooperation; on sustainable infrastructure financing and the role of public-private partnerships; and on the challenges of financial inclusion – could not be more pertinent to our times.

These were areas that were closely addressed during the High-Level SDG Financing Lab that I convened here at UN Headquarters, in April.

The SDG Financing Lab brought together Member States, the UN system, private investors, civil society, and academia, to take forward discussions on how to mobilize the estimated US$5-7 trillion in annual investments needed to achieve the SDGs.

Throughout the discussions at the Financing Lab it was clear that regional institutions, and regional cooperation, have a vital role to play in driving the action needed to achieve sustainable financing.

Three key findings that emerged throughout the day:

Firstly, the financing needed to achieve the SDGs already exists around the world, but global financial systems need to be aligned to sustainable development. This includes putting in place the right incentives and regulatory frameworks to shift investments towards sectors that advance SDG implementation.

In this regard, capacity-building and technical assistance is essential to enable countries to strengthen domestic resource mobilisation, mobilize sustainable investments, and package their development needs into bankable projects that attract investors. This is an area where regional efforts will be key to directing support to capacity gaps.

Secondly, with estimates suggesting that SDG implementation has the potential to generate trillions of dollars in market opportunities, the SDGs make economic sense for business.

However, despite support for sustainable investments, the availability of financing, and the ongoing development of bankable and sustainable projects, a market failure continues to hinder the flow of financing towards sustainable investment options.

To this end, regional efforts to improve transparency, good governance, rule of law and access to information, can help to de-risk investment opportunities, and connect the resources of investors and inventors with the needs of end-users.

And finally, it is important that all possible opportunities are pursued to bring together key stakeholders, and build the public-private partnerships needed to achieve the SDGs.

In this regard, both the United Nations and ESCAP have central roles to play in providing platforms to bring the public and private sectors together. The goal is to bridge understanding of shared interests and goals, to catalyse new and innovative strategic partnerships, and strengthen coherence between implementation efforts taken at national, regional and global levels alike.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Making financing work for sustainable development requires an unprecedented transformation to take place in the global financial system. We must embed sustainability into financial decision-making; re-orient financial flows to environmentally, socially and economically viable investments; and shift the large pools of funds currently invested in underperforming assets towards sustainability.

To this end, we must all work together – at global, regional and national levels – to mobilize the resources necessary to implement the SDGs and transform the world for the better.

I thank you.

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