Published 15 September 2023
On September 19 and 20, 2023, a SDG Summit will take place in New York, on the sidelines of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Leaders from States, governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector will be invited to discuss solutions and make commitments to accelerate implementation of the SDGs by 2030.
In order to decipher the stakes of this Summit, Focus 2030 has conducted a series of interviews with representatives from governments, international organizations, NGOs, and think tanks.
Discover our special edition on the SDG Summit and all the interviews with experts conducted ahead of the Summit.
Written interview received on September 15, 2023.
Focus 2030 : The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) has produced the Sustainable Development Report every year since 2015, assessing the progress of UN member states in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 2023 report reveals that halfway to the 2030 deadline, the majority of the SDG targets will not be met. The SDG Summit will take place on September 18 and 19, on the sidelines of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Its aim is to mobilize the international community and secure commitments, including financial ones, to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. What are your expectations for this crucial event ?
Guillaume Lafortune : In 2015, when the 193 UN member countries adopted the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda, they also put in place mechanisms to monitor commitments. It is a very good thing. On one hand, each year, around forty countries present their SDG action plan to the international community as part of the High-Level Political Forum. These are the Voluntary National Reviews. On the other hand, under the auspices of the UN Statistical Commission, a global indicator framework for the SDGs was established. Finally, every four years, heads of states meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly to take stock of progress made globally on the SDGs and define major priorities for action.
The SDG Summit in September 2023 is particularly important. The last meeting at heads of state level on the SDGs took place in September 2019. However, the world has changed a lot since then, with multiple and simultaneous crises and a slowdown, or even in many countries a regression, of SDG progress as shown in the latest edition of the SDSN Sustainable Development Report. If the trend continues, there is even a risk that the gap between rich and poor countries in sustainable development will be higher in 2030 than it was in 2015. At the mid-point, it is It is therefore important that heads of states adopt a joint and strong political declaration at the SDG summit renews the commitment of all UN Member States to work together to implement the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda.
This SDG summit is part of a broader series of international meetings and processes that can help advance cooperation and financing for sustainable development over the next two years. In this regard, it is important to underline the diplomatic success of India during the G20 at the beginning of September which, despite the major divisions on the international scene, including within the G20 itself, managed to make the G20 adopt a joint declaration putting SDG actions and financing at the heart of this New Delhi. The integration of the African Union as a permanent member of the G20, which should therefore be renamed G21, is also a big step forward because from now on 1.4 billion individuals will be represented at these meetings.
Then, the COP28 in Dubai, the Brazilian Presidency of the G20 in 2024 (followed by South Africa in 2025), the Summit of the Future in September 2024, but also the Olympic summit on sustainable development in July 2024 announced by President Macron at the end of August must also lead to the adoption of ambitious measures, particularly to unlock additional financing to implement the SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement.
Focus 2030 : Released ahead of the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact, which took place on June 22 and 23, 2023 in Paris, the report highlights the need for a reform of the global financial architecture. This reform would be aimed at addressing chronic gaps in financing for the SDGs and reducing the growing disparities between high-income and low-income countries. Can you provide us with more details on the report’s specific recommendations for this reform, and explain how it could help close the financing gap for developing and emerging countries ?
Guillaume Lafortune : At their core, the SDGs are an investment agenda, both in human capital (health, education, social protection) and infrastructure (access to electricity, clean energy, drinking water, transport, digital technologies). Disbursements are also needed to adapt existing infrastructure and to finance the rising costs related to the loss and damages caused by climate change, particularly in the most vulnerable countries. However, many developing countries do not have access to the financing needed to implement the SDGs. In the long term, the costs of inaction are greater than investments made today. There are also great opportunities, including for the private sector, to increase investments in sustainable development.
In his opening speech to the United Nations General Assembly on September 20, 2022, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for an “SDG stimulus” to compensate for the deterioration of market conditions in developing countries and accelerate progress towards the SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement. By 2025, an additional US$500 billion per year should be mobilized for SDG financing in developing countries. This is a large amount, but it corresponds to 0.5% of global GDP and a reasonable share of global savings. At SDSN, we emphasize four major action priorities :
Reform the global financial architecture, in particular by increasing financing for multilateral development banks (including the World Bank) and public development banks ;
An increase in Official Development Assistance (ODA), particularly in rich countries which have not reached the target of 0.7% of Gross National Product dedicated to ODA, but also an increase in the effectiveness of ODA ;
Review of methodologies used by sovereign credit rating agencies to better consider the long-term growth potential of SDG investments ;
The adoption of long-term investment framework and policy plans, the strengthening of administrative capacities and partnerships with various institutions in developing countries, in order to be able to effectively mobilize additional funds made available to implement the SDGs
Focus 2030 : The SDSN also evaluates countries through the "Spillover index", an instrument that measures the positive and negative impacts that a country’s commercial and financial activities have on the achievement of the SDGs outside its borders. Taking this index into account, France ranks 6th among the countries most advanced in achieving the 2030 Agenda, but 148th when considering spillovers. Which are France’s strengths and weaknesses in implementing this agenda ?
Guillaume Lafortune : In a globalized world, State’s actions can have positive or negative effects on the ability of other States to achieve the SDGs. The 2030 Agenda and the SDGs recognize the importance of international spillovers. SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals) calls for “policy coherence” for sustainable development, SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) highlights the need for more sustainable production and consumption and SDG 8 (Decent work and economy) calls for the eradication of child labor and modern slavery.
Like other European and OECD countries, France generates some negative externalities on the rest of the world, particularly through consumption. Each year, the SDSN publishes, in addition to the SDG Index, an International Spillover Index which combines different measures linked to CO2 emissions, deforestation, accidents at work, modern slavery (among others) which occur in other countries to satisfy consumption in France.
Even though there are persisting challenges in order to curb negative spillovers, we must also recognize over the past few years the leading role played by France on the SDGs internationally. Through the continued increase in ODA, the organization of a major summit in Paris in June 2023 on financing sustainable development (and the announcement of a summit to come next July) as well as the presentation in July 2023 of the National Voluntary Review of France to the UN which specifically discusses issues related to negative spillovers and policy coherence. In addition, the Due Diligence legislation adopted by France in 2017, which requires large multinationals to develop plans and monitor their negative impacts, played a pioneering role and its effective implementation must continue. There is also progress at the European level when it comes to addressing negative international spillovers in global supply chains.
Overall, France and the European Union must work with emerging economies and the so-called "Global South", including with the G20 presidencies of Brazil in 2024 and South Africa in 2025, to ensure that the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda remain the universal compass to guide interactions between States, promote more sustainable supply chains and trade systems, and reform international finance for sustainable development.
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