11 June 2018

Long-Term Vision, Improved Governance Key to Breaking Investment Bottlenecks, Secretary-General Tells Session on Financing Sustainable Development Goals

Following are UN Deputy Secretary‑General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the high‑level event “Financing for Sustainable Development Goals — Breaking the Bottlenecks of Investment, from Policy to Impact”, in New York today:

I am pleased to be with you to discuss such an important topic.  Countries face huge financing needs and investment is crucial to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The United Nations catalyses financing for the Sustainable Development Goals in many ways:  through steering and using official development assistance, by advancing innovative financing that draws in private capital, and through the investment de‑risking effects inherent to our core business of advancing peace and security, and humanitarian and development assistance.

The Addis Ababa Action Agenda provides the framework within which the international community will move the financing agenda forward, a clear priority in achieving the SDGs.  We are all aware that the SDGs represent tremendous market opportunities for the business community.  Yet, not enough private financing is being directed to sustainable projects, particularly in countries most in need.

Today, I want to highlight five bottlenecks that we need to break for financing the SDGs.  First, the lack of long‑term vision.  Investments in the SDGs need long‑term horizons.  Without a long‑term perspective, certain risks, such as climate change, will not be factored into decision‑making.  Yet, today’s financial systems tend to be short‑term‑oriented.  Institutional investors and other major shareholders should insist that corporate executives’ performance be judged against long‑term benchmarks.  Regulators also need to shift toward long‑term horizons, with sustainability as a central concern.

Second, the lack of credible investments.  To thrive, the private sector needs confidence.  Many countries have made great strides in creating the necessary enabling environments and regulatory frameworks.  These improvements are reflected in the falling cost of starting a business in the least developing countries.  Improving governance is also critical.  Corruption remains a plague.  Strong political leadership supported by development partners will be critical in bridging the trust gap.

Third, the lack of investment pipelines.  By far, this is the most common explanation for limited private investments in developing countries.  Yet, translating investment needs into projects that are attractive to investors requires a long‑term vision and sufficient capacity to implement it.  Countries often need additional support for this.  The repositioning of the United Nations development system, with strengthened United Nations country teams, will help in preparing investment strategies and quality project pipelines.

Fourth, the lack of innovative financial instruments.  These are essential to channel savings to productive investments.  Capital markets, particularly long‑term debt markets, can provide an intermediary mechanism, but they remain underdeveloped or inaccessible in many economies.  We must deepen and expand access to these markets to offer more diversified sources of financing to local corporations and entrepreneurs.  Many promising initiatives have been undertaken.  Development banks have pioneered new markets through the issuance of local currency bonds and co‑lending programmes.  Fintech is transforming traditional financial service models to reach previously unserved populations.

Fifth, the lack of clarity.  Investors are realizing that environmental, social and governance factors support long‑term profits.  This growing momentum is noticeable from the growth in signatories of the Principles for Responsible Investment, the development of the green bond market, and increases in reporting on sustainability by corporations.  Yet, there is no agreed definition of sustainable investments.  The multiplication of sustainability reporting instruments creates confusion.  This makes it difficult for investors to navigate this market and prevents regulators from fostering sustainable investments.

We have the keys to unlock private investments and encourage the private sector to adopt more sustainable practices.  The Addis Ababa Action Agenda provides a framework.  Progress will require deeper partnerships, supportive enabling environments and greater support for countries that have been bypassed.

Today’s discussions will pave the way for our deliberations at the high‑level meeting on financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that the Secretary‑General will host in September.  The United Nations system is fully committed to strengthening its support as we strive to finance the SDGs and achieve our shared goals, while leaving no one behind.

For information media. Not an official record.