Although, as a global community, we are a long way off from achieving the 17 SDGs, we are now at a crossroads and need to set a course that will allow us to better hit our targets in the second half, German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Svenja Schulze writes.
In 2015, the international community achieved an incredible feat — the member countries of the United Nations unanimously agreed on a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
These are the goals that apply equally to all the nations of the world.
They are a triumph of multilateralism and a strong signal for global solidarity.
Because the 2030 Agenda stands for a fundamental consensus that is unique in the history of the world and that offers — in the words of the UN — a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.
The agenda gets a mid-term review
2023 — the 2030 Agenda's half-time — is a key year because we will do a mid-term review of the 17 SDGs.
There isn’t much to celebrate, though: there are at least eight SDGs where the international community had made progress on some of the individual targets up to 2019, but that progress has now been reversed.
For example, in the period from 2019 to 2021, the number of people in the world suffering from hunger rose while life expectancy fell.
In many ways, however, the prospects for success have improved: the international community has significantly more knowledge and experience, and some progress has been made.
Nevertheless, from a global point of view, all the SDGs are off track.
Despite some good passing, we are still not scoring enough goals. And because there is no extra time, we need to up our accuracy.
How can we get back on track — and even score a few more goals?
I see particular promise in three areas: World Bank reform, a feminist development policy and strong social protection systems worldwide.
Reform of the World Bank: shared responsibility in global partnerships
The World Bank has a key role to play in tackling global challenges because not only is it the biggest development financier. It also has the goal of promoting shared prosperity.
In times of global crises, this requires a reform of the Bank’s business model to explicitly include protecting global public goods in the World Bank’s mission statement.
Incentive structures need to be improved: investing in the protection of global public goods needs to be made more attractive for borrowing countries.
In the same way, there must also be incentives for regional and international cooperation. At the analytical level, the overall economic costs — by which I mean both the private costs and the social costs — need to be taken into account when investment projects are evaluated.
In the case of investments in mobility infrastructure, for instance, these costs also include aspects like putting a price on CO2 emissions or the health costs of air pollution.
It is important for me that protecting global public goods does not take precedence over reducing poverty or any of the other SDGs.
What we need to do is step up our overall commitment in terms of results and funding.
That is why I am advocating that the World Bank reform should entail a broadening of the Bank’s funding flexibility.
By making better use of its available capital, it can increase its lending capacities — and still maintain its AAA rating.
I am confident that, with a reform of the World Bank, we will be able to give more impetus to the entire 2030 Agenda starting this year.
A feminist development policy: rights, resources and representation
The aim of our feminist development policy is to change power structures — because power is empowering. And that moves societies forward as a whole.
A feminist development policy not only promotes gender equality and reduces inequalities.
It also combats poverty and hunger, contributes to more inclusive economic growth and has enormous potential for promoting more peaceful societies — all SDGs in our Agenda.
In concrete terms, this means that for German development policy, we aim to allocate 93% of new project funds for gender equality by 2025.
While 8% is to be channelled into projects that have gender equality as their main objective, the remaining 85% into projects that have it as their secondary objective.
Social protection leaves no one behind — which is why we need global partnerships
The goal of the German development policy is to leave no one behind.
And this principle has been put to a hard test by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and by Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.
Indeed, the poorest people are the ones who suffer the most from the impacts of crises and wars.
Societies with less inequality are not just less prone to crises.
They also enable disadvantaged people to have better access to education and health and to participate more in political and economic life.
The German development ministry is therefore promoting the establishment and expansion of social protection systems both with its partner countries and at the multilateral level.
Following an initiative started by the German government, the G7 has set itself the goal of enabling access to social protection for one billion more people worldwide by 2025.
Together with the World Bank, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and other partners, Germany is therefore supporting the UN Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions.
With a group of pathfinder countries, the Accelerator is piloting new approaches with a view to creating decent work and enhancing access to social protection for all.
Within the framework of German development cooperation with partner countries in the Global South, we are also supporting structural reforms aimed at firmly establishing social protection systems — including the funding for them — as part of the institutional landscape.
2023 will set the course for Agenda's second half
These positive interactions bring me back to my starting point.
Although, as a global community, we are a long way off from achieving the 17 SDGs, in 2023, we are at a crossroads and need to set a course that will allow us to better hit our targets in the second half.
I am certain we can do that with the right priorities. We, therefore, need an ambitious reform of the World Bank aimed at protecting global public goods.
I am advocating for a feminist development policy to strengthen the rights, resources and representation of women. And I support resilient social protection.
With these tactics, German development policy is lining up for the second half of the 2030 Agenda.
Unlike a football game, we are not playing against our opponents. We are playing together with our partners around the world.
And that is why a good assist means a better chance of scoring goals for all.
_Svenja Schulze is Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
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