World Economic Forum

How to Pay for Sustainable Development?

A plan without a budget is just a hallucination. My colleague Jasmine Whitbread, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children International, cited this line in today’s televised Davos debate on the global agenda to end extreme poverty by 2030. A similar message was conveyed earlier in the day by Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who stressed the need to come to grips with financing amid the interwoven practicalities of tackling climate change and global development goals.

The challenge for the world in this regard is that the nature of global development finance has changed tremendously over the past two decades. Targeted aid flows have increased, prompting tremendous breakthroughs in such areas as health and education. Meanwhile many developing countries have experienced long-term economic growth and thereby transitioned to more market-based financing mechanisms. Innovations have empowered many new sources of finance to contribute to global development. Government, business and civil society are increasingly seen as necessary partners for promoting prosperity and sustainability.

A new generation of global priorities requires a renewed strategy for global development finance. Recognizing the complexity, many colleagues and I in the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Poverty and Sustainable Development have been working to distill some key issues to be addressed to underpin success after the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire at the end of next year.

This week we are circulating a working draft paper for feedback. Entitled “Paying for Zero: Global Development Finance and the Post-2015 Agenda”, the draft is shared to invite comments, and is not yet meant for quotation. It is intended as a contribution to ongoing global deliberations regarding the composition of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

Below is an excerpt from the draft’s concluding section. We look forward to comments and suggestions from all those who are interested.

“Financing a post-2015 sustainable development agenda will require policy-makers and publics to consolidate and bolster the key components of the current system that already work well, while addressing key constraints. At the same time they should expand the system to include a more nuanced and layered approach to match the evolving set of needs and actors around the world.”

We conclude with four key points:

  1. Transparency and accountability towards results must be a centrepiece of post-2015 finance. All stakeholders, public and private, must commit to common standards anchored in forthright reporting and measurement of transactions, beneficiaries and impacts.

  2. The ambition of ending extreme poverty by 2030 should not be confused with ending ODA by 2030. The needs for ODA go well beyond US$ 1.25/day poverty and even a fully successful extreme poverty agenda will likely require targeted support beyond 2030. Moreover, well targeted ODA is catalytic for mobilizing broader private sector investments. A dollar of ODA is typically the hardest dollar of development finance to mobilize. Even if required aid volumes might look smaller than complementary private volumes, ongoing political diligence will be required to ensure ODA is adequate to the post-2015 challenge.

  3. Greatly enhanced instruments are needed to accompany and incentivize the amount and nature of private finance that will be required to achieve a post-2015 sustainable development agenda. The biggest ticket investments are in infrastructure, energy and agriculture, all of which will typically require some degree of “blending,” whether in the form of risk guarantees, advantageous long-term borrowing structures or other appropriate structures. Many of these will also be the same investments that determine the future of the world’s climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.

  4. Private sector actors have a major role to play in partnering with government and civil society to ensure a suitably ambitious and fair approach to mobilizing post-2015 private development finance. Private investors need to know that policymakers are keen to create the incentives that will mobilize the needed long-term investments. Policy-makers need to fulfil their mandates in serving the public trust. And publics need to know that the gains will be widely and equitably shared, towards a sustainably prosperous global future for all.