Citing $2.5 Trillion Annual Financing Gap during SDG Business Forum Event, Deputy Secretary-General Says Poverty Falling Too Slowly

vI am pleased that today we can come together — the United Nations and business leaders – for this inaugural SDG [Sustainable Development Goals] Business Forum at the SDG Summit.

As we have been hearing at the Summit, four years since the Sustainable Development Goals were adopted, the picture is mixed.  The Goals have been gaining traction around the world, reflecting their universal nature.  They have taken root in national policies and increasingly across business strategies, operations and investments.  Companies large and small are actively aligning their public policies, business models and supply chains behind the 2030 Agenda.  The investment community is also embracing the SDGs.  Innovative, new financial instruments, such as the first SDG-linked bond, are being introduced.

The United Nations Global Compact’s latest progress report shows that 81 per cent of Global Compact-affiliated companies are taking action on the SDGs.  This is good news.  However, the bottom line is that we are still not on track.  And the urgency of achieving the Goals, of which ambitious climate action is a part, demands that we pick up the pace.

The financing gap is $2.5 trillion per year.  Poverty is falling too slowly.  Global hunger has risen for the third successive year.  No country is on track to achieve the goal on gender equality.  Biodiversity is being lost at an alarming rate.  And with greenhouse‑gas emissions still rising, we are moving closer and closer to a 3 to 5°C temperature increase, with all the devastation that science keeps warning us about.  In short, we are not doing enough to bring dignity, opportunity and justice to all, and we are at risk of irreversibly degrading the natural systems that sustain us.

This is the harsh truth.  But there is another fact that we must embrace.  We can still achieve the SDGs.  There is still time for us to get on track.  And there is a very solid base for this optimism, including a committed global movement — including many of you in this room — ready to move to another level.  Yesterday, the General Assembly reiterated its determination to step up implementation of the SDGs.  And the Secretary-General issued a global call for a decade of action to deliver the SDGs by 2030.

We must ramp up our ambitions.  We must change mindsets and behaviours.  We must change our patterns of consumption and production.  We must direct more finance to those countries and sectors that urgently require SDG investment.  We must apply the wealth of knowledge we have to accelerate progress and find new ways to leverage technologies to bring game-changing benefits.

Business leaders have a critical role to play in the Decade of Action.  I urge all companies to drive ambitious SDG actions throughout their operations and supply chains, embedding human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption into core business.  Business and finance can lead through their actions and investment decisions an economic transformation that leaves no one behind.

Meanwhile, Governments must create the space for businesses to join them in transforming their economies and societies.  Policymakers and regulators need to create a long-term investment environment for sustainable development that ensures fair and open trade, promotes the health and well-being of people and planet, and protects human rights.  Shareholders and citizens are already stepping up their demand for greener and more sustainable investments of their assets, and for greater sustainability disclosure to increase accountability and transparency.  We want them to continue and to do more.

The United Nations offers platforms for multi-stakeholder partnerships, and the discussions on core principles and approaches that should guide our efforts in the transformation, ensuring that no one is left behind.  I hope that the SDG Business Forum will continue be a platform for sharing innovations, knowledge and expertise, supporting multi-stakeholder partnerships, fostering public-private dialogue, and exploring innovative business solutions to accelerate sustainable development.

If we are to stand any chance of successfully achieving the SDGs by 2030, we need all stakeholders to step up — and the United Nations remains committed to working with responsible business on this journey.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.