Financing the SDGs: Reflections from IDD 2019

Content Manager • 30 May 2019

      Adopted by the world leaders in September 2015 at the historic United Nations Summit, the 2030 Agenda and its seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) strive to mobilize efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change. However, as it has long been agreed by all stakeholders, achieving the SDGs will require significant improvements in financing, with an estimated annual investment gap at around US$2.5 trillion only in developing countries1. To reflect on the current status of the global development and bring in regional perspectives on financing the development agenda, more than 200 policy-makers, business leaders, development professionals and experts from 19 countries were convened at the 5th Istanbul Development Dialogues (IDD), which took place on 27-28 May 2019 in Istanbul, Turkey.

      The event was highlighted by the opening speech delivered by Mr. Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator. He provided a broad overview of the current global financial system that has been “both a key driver of and a major constraint upon progress towards sustainable development”. While we are living in the “richest moment” of a human history, with the accumulated wealth of over US$300 trillion2 and new sustainable financing instruments being widely introduced, the existing market volatilities and imbalances force governments to set aside billions of dollars to be able to hedge against currency devaluations. And this investment could be used towards development goals instead. Likewise, despite of our strong awareness of the negative consequences of the climate change, global banks keep investing in fossil fuels.

      Surprisingly, it is no longer about the lack of financial resources, it is much rather WHERE they should be directed. The private sector is ready to invest, but it struggles to distinguish what projects are worth investing. In this sense, UN, and UNDP in particular has a unique role to play in connecting the financial markets with the SDGs.

      The Administrator also called for the implementation of “smart public policies” that makes the alignment of the private capital with the development goals possible, feasible, and attractive, but at the same time not jeopardizing the stabilities of national economies.

“The only thing we need to realize is that we have no time for business as usual. We need courage, we need leadership, we need innovation, we need entrepreneurship”. – Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator


UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner, delivered the opening speech at the 2019 Istanbul Development Dialogues
UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner, delivered the opening speech at the 2019 Istanbul Development Dialogues


      This inspirational address was followed by the panel discussion where the Government representatives from Moldova, Albania, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Belarus shared their experiences with the SDGs implementation. It was delightful to see the progress made on the alignment of the national development plans with the Global Development Agenda. Even though traditional “line-item” budgeting was still widely applied across the states, the speakers confirmed that transition to programme budgeting, also referred to as “results-based” budgeting, is gaining the momentum. At the same time, maintaining the right balance between the current development needs, such as healthcare and education, that require immediate financial inflows (including from the extractive industries), and longer-term vision of the SDGs was recognized as one of the major challenges.

      Lastly, Public-Private Partnership (PPP) was often mentioned as a preferred model for government-businesses collaboration. In this regard, the successful example from Kazakhstan on private sector engagement for ensuring universal childcare, based on the per capita state financing, could be further explored for replication in other countries.

      The session on the role of Public Finance for the sustainable development touched upon several important issues, such as:

  • Fostering more conducive business environment;
  • Establishing proper regulatory framework for private sector engagement;
  • Closer monitoring of public procurement processes;
  • Fighting corruption and increasing accountability vis-à-vis taxpayers;
  • Demonstrating the ownership of as well as commitment and political will towards development results. 
Director of the UNDP Finance Sector Hub, Marcos Neto, moderated the panel "Incentivizing Change: The Role of Public Finance Management"
Director of the UNDP Finance Sector Hub, Marcos Neto, moderated the panel "Incentivizing Change: The Role of Public Finance Management" at the 2019 Istanbul Development Dialogues


      In contrast to the first day, the second day of the 2019 Istanbul Development Dialogues provided valuable insights on the role of International Financial Institutions (IFIs) in achieving the SDGs. featured Key experts from various IFIs3 expressed their grave concerns about the extent to which IFIs are currently working towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. In order to scale up the impact of IFIs, the speakers provided three key policy recommendations that should be taken into account. First of all, the panelists stressed the importance of strengthening and deepening the local capital markets instead of focusing on Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs). In addition to this, IFIs need to increase their investments in the so called ‘high impact’ areas, e.g. poverty reduction and hunger eradication. Finally, IFIs must adopt a more innovative mindset and further explore and/or expand the various new financial instruments e.g. catastrophe bonds, green bonds, etc. 

      An interesting example on financing the emergency accommodation in France was shared by Lucia Athenosy, Senior Economist, Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB). The project, which will be implemented by Adoma, a subsidiary of Société Nationale Immobilière (SNI), aims to provide housing to homeless persons, refugees and asylum-seekers. The CEB loan will finance the acquisition and renovation of hotels in order to create emergency accommodation for over 10,000 people. Apart from its social value, this partnership is expected to result in up to 40% savings in the French Government’s budget for emergency accommodation. 

      Once again, the Istanbul Development Dialogues proved to be a successful platform for debates, partnerships and new ideas. The panelists and participants widely agreed on key determinants for the SDG financing – smart public policies, enabling environment, multi-stakeholder collaboration, etc., frequently reiterating the importance of “quality financing” as suggested by the UNDP Administrator in the beginning. Now, after two intensive days of brainstorming, network building and ideas sharing, it is the time to act!

This blog was originally authored by Kristina Reshetova, Özge Aksaray, Natalya Pyagay and Siebren Moltzen. 



2. The Credit Swiss Global Wealth Report 2018,…

3. Asian Development Bank, Council of Europe Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, European Investment Fund, International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Bank Group. 


The views expressed in this blog are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the SDG Philanthropy Platform. The SDG Philanthropy Platform is a global initiative that connects philanthropy with knowledge and networks that can deepen collaboration, leverage resources and sustain impact, driving SDG delivery within national development planning. It is led by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA), and supported by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Ford Foundation, Oak Foundation, Brach Family Charitable Foundation, and many others.