In many ways the world now is in better shape than ever. The global poverty rate fell below 10%; we see 9 out of 10 girls and boys entering primary school, and around 85% of all the world’s children are vaccinated against the most common diseases.
While we have come a long way, challenges remain. Perhaps the most pressing one is gender equality, since it affects all other areas of a society’s development. Nowhere in the world are males and females truly equal. Women learn less, earn less, have fewer rights and have less control over their assets and bodies. One stark example is that women are less likely to be financially included: 1.1 billion women around the world still do not have a formal bank account.
Underpinning these gaps, one challenge is particularly acute for women and girls: data.
If USD 142.6 billion falls in the forest of development and no one hears it, does it matter?
That depends on who you are. While mothers in Afghanistan or South Sudan can tell you how their families’ lives have been transformed by effective development programmes every single day, strong data are needed to communicate how these billions of dollars improve the human condition and create more stable societies for all.
In 2016 official development assistance (ODA) to support development goals represented 0.32% of donor countries’ gross national income, an all-time high. However, aid to those who need it most, including least developed countries (LDCs), is declining. The June 2017 report card on the 2030 Development Agenda – the world’s roadmap to end poverty, inequality and injustice for all by 2030 through a set of 17 goals and 232 indicators – tells us progress is slow and data are incomplete.
In an era of fake news and alternative facts, statisticians have a special responsibility. As the custodians of the evidence base for policy making, they must stand up for the right of all citizens to true, reliable and accessible information.
This is especially the case in the development field, and even more so since world leaders adopted the extraordinarily ambitious and wide-ranging 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in September 2015. At the heart of this global “plan of action for people, planet and prosperity” are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that “are integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental”, with the ultimate objective to leave no one behind. Achieving the SDGs will require informed choices about priorities and strategies, and for this we will need a better evidence base than we have today.
But statisticians – and especially statisticians in developing countries – cannot do this job alone.
ByRoel Nieuwenkamp, Chair of the OECD Working Party on Responsible Business Conduct
September 25, 2017 marks World SDG Action Day.
A couple of months ago during the OECD’s Global Forum on Responsible Business Conduct,1 I heard a new term: SDG washing. After green washing and blue washing – using a UN logo to signpost sustainability without doing much – the term SDG washing points to businesses that use the Sustainable Development Goals to market their positive contribution to some SDGs while ignoring their negative impact on others. For example, a car company may market their electric cars as saving the climate (SDG 13↑). Yet, the cobalt in their batteries may be mined by five-year old kids in Congo (SDG 8 ↓).
It is clear that the world will never reach the SDGs without businesses. While businesses can make positive contributions, such as creating jobs, finding innovative solutions for climate challenges or contributing to human capital development, they can also cause or contribute to negative impacts, such as exploiting labour in supply chains, damaging the environment or engaging in corrupt practices. Businesses should pay due attention to ensure that they avoid undermining the SDGs by causing or contributing to negative impacts. Continue reading →
By Simon Scott, Counsellor, Statistics Directorate, OECD; Jeff Leitner,Fellow, New America and Managing Director, GreenHouse; and William Hynes, Co-ordinator, New Approaches to Economic Challenges programme, OECD
The upside to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), signed off at a UN Leaders’ Summit in September 2015, was their inclusiveness. An Open Working Group of 30 nations worked for two and a half years to develop the Goals, meeting 13 times, sometimes for a week, and organising countless national and thematic consultations, stakeholder forums, and on-line and door-to-door surveys. Almost everyone who wanted a say in the SDGs could have one, and more often than not, their voices were heard.
This led to the downside of the Goals – their sheer breadth and volume. The Economist satirised the litany of SDG targets as “the 169 Commandments” – a line perhaps inspired by Bill Gates’ comment that the SDGs resembled the Bible, and that he would prefer to start with something simpler, “like the Ten Commandments.”
Two years later, the world has moved on to implementation. The UN, national governments and international organisations are all retooling to help the world achieve the SDGs. And the available resources, while not limitless, are very substantial. Official development assistance from OECD countries alone now exceeds USD 140 billion a year, and private philanthropy from NGOs and foundations is also increasing. Trillions of dollars are held by sovereign wealth funds, pension funds and private endowments with an interest in long-term stability and sustainable development.
Achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will require very large investments measured in the trillions until 2030. To mobilise such amounts, policy makers try to crowd-in the private sector, its financial resources and its entrepreneurial creativity. But private sector engagement will not happen if risk-adjusted returns are perceived to be unattractive. While telecom and mobile banking have shown that achieving development goals also means good business, perceived risks in most other sectors and countries are still too high for expected economic returns.
That is why donors, recipients and development banks have been developing programs to lower and share risks, including policy and structural reform, technical assistance and information sharing, and providing financial de-risking instruments. Especially in situations where private investors perceive risks as higher than they actually are, such de-risking measures can be impactful in catalysing private investment flows. Accordingly, development finance institutions (DFIs) are expanding their focus from mere funding to blending risk tolerant donor funds with commercial capital to offer de-risking services and support for (perceived) high risk activities.