SDG 17 and the power of collaboration to support post-COVID recovery.
Even before the Covid-19 global pandemic, the scale of funding required for us to achieve Agenda 2030 seemed daunting. Even the most conservative estimates put the figure at around US$2.5 trillion each and every year to 2030.
COVID and its unequal impact has already raised this to US$3.7million a year according to the OECD.
With shrinking resources and greater need, we need to make sure that every pound, or dollar, or Euro, or yuan delivers the most impact possible.
Achieving that to steer back on course for Agenda 2030 will require us to think creatively about cross-sector collaborations and alignment across geo-political divides.
"Now, more than ever, the world requires the robust and scalable power of finance to address its most pressing global problems – problems such as climate change and inequality that, just like COVID-19, transcend our international borders. We must be working alongside world governments and non-profits. " Amit Bouri, CEO, Global Impact Investors Network, GIIN, 2020
We know the theory, and the urgent need to get this right. So how can we put the theory of partnerships for sustainable development into practice?
We can break this huge global challenge down into two key areas: Where to target our efforts and how we can pull our resources together from the largest investor to the ordinary individual.
Zoning In: Knowing Where to Focus On
The foundations of any good and effective partnership start with a collective vision. For the full value of that partnership to be realised, that vision needs clearly outlined shared goals and a plan.
The SDGs themselves are of course the first starting point for that shared vision and roadmap (for more on this see our previous Blog here).
Even with the impact of COVID, the world does have enough resources to deliver on all the SDGs.
The Global Gross Domestic Product (the summary of the GDP of all the countries in the world) (Growth of the global gross domestic product (GDP) 2026 | Statista) fell by 3.7% in 2020 but is already predicted to bounce back by over 6% in 2021 to a figure of around US$90 trillion.
Investing in the SDGs makes economic sense for us all, but there is a lack of capital movement at scale into these priorities.
In part, this is driven by understandable concerns over domestic recovery plans in some of the largest economies and the desire to hold back resources for those. In part, this is also driven by a lack of shared global agreement on the short medium and longer term investments needed.
One way of unlocking this is to identify the most urgent and transformative priorities to achieve the baseline SDG-targets in the least developed economies.
The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (unsdsn.org) has done precisely that. Its plan is precise and based on creative financial partnerships and targets across all sectors. It also outlines a much lower figure for the SDG-aligned investments that will make the most difference now and to reduce financing required in the future.
The Network itself is an example of effective global partnership in action. Founded in 2012, it mobilizes global scientific and technological expertise to promote practical solutions for sustainable development.
Led by its President, Jeffrey Sachs, a global team has focused on understanding “how much of these unmet SDG needs stem from the world’s lowest-income countries, and how best the world’s financial resources can be mobilized to assist them.”
Their ground-breaking 2019 report on SDG Costing and Financing for Low-Income Developing Countries summarises this.
Taking just the 59 lowest-developed countries and prioritising investments in climate change, green infrastructure, healthcare, education, social protection, water and sanitation as some of the key areas, a very different picture emerges.
Using this model, the funding gap comes down to US$400billion a year.
Addressing these countries and the core issues delivers the most effective return on investment over the next years.
It also creates the path to test and strengthen the partnerships for financial collaboration that will need to get up to speed.
Pooling Assets for the Global Good
We know that we must work together to make sure that our collective capital is targeted to the most urgent and transformative priorities.
“The SDGs require major societal transformations that depend on significant financing increases from both the public and private sectors through 2030.” Jeffrey Sachs, President, Sustainable Development Solutions Network
The SDSN has put figures and targets on this to get to the baseline of US$400billion a year and allocated across different areas of action:
Mobilising private investments into joint financing with institutional funds (US$50billion)
Closing international loop-holes, increasing revenues for SDG expenditure (US$50billion)
Global Tax Harmonisation (US$100billion)
Financial Transactions Tax (US$50billion)
Increasing and Better Targeting Official Development Assistance (US$100billion)
Expanded private philanthropy (US$30billion)
Bringing together areas, usually considered separately, is also the approach of the OECD’s Private Finance for Sustainable Development Initiative (OECD).
The OECD has identified a critical role for institutional investors – particularly pension funds and insurance companies – who currently hold around US$100 trillion in assets. This group has the power to allocate investments in line with the SDG priorities and make a major contribution to bridging the financing gap.
Of course, this all still sounds quite abstract. Partnerships need to be forged across the global economy, but they also need all of us. That’s where the Power of 1% and focused decision making comes in.
The 1% Pledge: You can always give more, but you should never give less than 1%
We are increasingly seeing pledges to return 1% of income as a minimum to support the SDGs. These seem more achievable for us all – even as a start-up SDG Changemakers has made this commitment.
Three inspiring examples show what happens when this already powerful individual commitment is combined with others and with a clear purpose to achieve the most effective impact.
1. The World’s Wealthiest: Move Humanity
Founded by Human Act, Copenhagen in 2016, Move Humanity seeks to mobilise at least 1% of the wealth of the global super-rich for the SDGs.
That wealth is estimated at around US$10 trillion and has increased during the COVID pandemic so a 1% target could potentially deliver US$100billion – a quarter of the global requirement for the most effective financing of SDG priorities.
2. Corporate Resources: 1% For The Planet
Founded in 2002, this global network of businesses, individuals and non-profit organisations brings together audited commitments to tackle our planet's most pressing environmental issues.
It has now recirculated over US$290billion to over 91 countries, focusing on one of the critical SDG pillars of environmental responsibility and action.
Finally, and probably more in reach for most of us…
3. Friends with Purpose: Be One Percent
Set up by two friends in Liverpool in 2011, this takes the 1% pledge and makes impactful giving available to everyone.
Members pledge 1% of their income each month. They decide on priority areas to address extreme poverty in line with the SDGs.
Since then, 202 members have raised over £650,000 and have supported 125 projects globally with a charity partner selected for each month of the year.
SDG 17 – Partnerships to Achieve The Goals – needs to work at all levels, from the global policy frameworks to the small change in our (electronic) pockets.
Together we can achieve the SDGs and financial partnerships.
Using the prioritised and then general roadmap, can get us there. We have the resources, we just need to pool them for shared purpose.