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UN warns of failing Sustainable Development goals

12 April 2019


The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres (left), meets the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, Petteri Taalas, at a press briefing on the state of the global climate in 2018 and extreme weather in 2019, last month

The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres (left), meets the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, Petteri Taalas, at a press br...

AN OVERHAUL of global financial systems is needed to help governments to tackle critical issues such as climate change and poverty, a United Nations report on sustainable development concludes.

The Financing for Sustainable Development Report 2019, published last week, warns that governments will not be able to meet the commitments set out in the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development unless global investors take a significant shift towards policies that aid sustainability.

Interest in sustainable investment is growing, the report says. Three-quarters of individual investors expressed interest in the effect of their investments globally in 2017, compared with 71 per cent in 2015. Interest was strongest among millennial investors (86 per cent).

Greenhouse-gas emissions grew by 1.3 per cent in 2017, however; and debt risks are rising: 30 developing countries are now at high risk or already in debt distress. Global growth has also peaked at three per cent. Wages are growing at the lowest rate in over a decade.

The issues can be attributed to rapid shifts in geopolitics, technology, and climate change, the report says. Its findings are based on research from more than 60 international organisations.

It makes several recommendations, among them that countries support a shift towards long-term investment decisions, and recognise that climate change is a significant financial risk factor. New financial technology could put global financial stability at risk if its growth is not properly regulated, the report warns.

In his foreword, the secretary-general of the UN, António Guterres, says: “The Sustainable Development Goals are increasingly being incorporated in public budgets and development co-operation efforts. But these changes are not happening at the required scale, nor with the necessary speed. As a result, many key SDG investments remain unfunded.”

He urges governments to encourage longer-term credit ratings for businesses, and meaningful disclosure on social and environmental costs as examples of sustainable development incentives.

“Trust in the multilateral system itself is eroding, in part because we are not delivering inclusive and sustainable growth for all. Our shared challenge is to make the international trading and financial systems fit for purpose to advance sustainable development and promote fair globalisation.”

The findings are due to be discussed at the UN Economic and Social Forum next week.

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