Nearly half-way through the 15-year timeline for achieving the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, the world’s challenges are perhaps the starkest they have even been. We face a series of four interrelated crises, climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, and inequality and social instability, which together represent a fundamental threat to the 7.8 billion people living in the in the world today, and crucially for future generations too.

Following decades of steady, if uneven, development gains, the achievement of the SDGs hangs in the balance. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic, having cost millions of lives and counting, has highlighted not just the fragility of these gains and our shared vulnerabilities, but also asymmetries in the world’s and individuals’ ability to respond to the crisis. The inability of much of the world to comprehensively respond to the crisis risks not just delaying further progress on critical topics like the energy transition, it also risks undoing development and inclusion gains in the very regions where further progress is most desperately needed.

It is increasingly clear that none of the world's challenges, and by extension the SDGs, can be solved in Isolation or by any one actor. They must be addressed comprehensively and in a coordinated fashion by co-creating solutions that stack the social, environmental, and economic dimensions to take into account synergies and trade-offs among the SDGs. This requires bold action by leaders, not just from governments, but the financial and private sectors, all of whom have key roles to play along with other key stakeholders in addressing such systemic challenges. The financial sector can play a role in breaking the silos by offering innovative financing instruments that address interconnectedness and foster innovative solutions downstream.

The Capital as a Force for Good Initiative has been an important voice in highlighting how finance industry leaders have engaged to tackle the world’s biggest challenges, and by extension, in galvanizing the industry to step up its efforts in this regard. Against this backdrop we are delighted to see an increase in engagement by industry leaders in the current report against the previous year’s, with c.US$2.1 trillion of capital committed in pursuit of the SDGs by some of the world’s leading financial institutions in the past 12 months. However, further growth in the scale and scope of commitments is required given the large and growing financing gap in funding the SDGs, and the insufficient portion of financial commitments made towards developing countries, where the need is greatest, in light of the pandemic and the lack of fiscal space they have to respond to the related economic and financial crises alone.

We are currently in the first year of the UN’s Decade of Action. The international community needs to seize the opportunity and redouble its efforts to ensure a sustainable future for all, redressing inequalities, and capturing economic opportunities, associated with the SDGs. We need to address the war on nature that we continue to conduct with our lifestyles, industries, and energy use through a green, blue, purple, and orange recovery that addresses social and environmental issues simultaneously. Securing and directing the funding necessary to do so is therefore an urgent priority for the world. We can only do so in partnership, at the global, national, and local level. The finance industry has the expertise to create financial solutions that address these stacked issues, recognizing that no one institution is likely to have answers to all pieces of the puzzle. The industry, and its leaders, need to collaborate and accelerate knowledge, and play a leading role in funding the SDGs to fulfill its potential as a ‘force for good’ in the world.

Chantal Line Carpentier,

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), New York office of the Secretary-General

Will Kennedy,

United Nations Office for Partnerships