- A game of two halves
A game of two halves
In September 2015, the international community embarked on a long and arduous journey: With the adoption of resolution A/70/1 the United Nations General Assembly agreed on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets and promised “action over the next 15 years in areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet”. Halfway through this process we are asking in our latest issue of the OPEC Fund Quarterly the simple question: “Are we nearly there yet?” It is a question every child asks when travelling and every parent dreads. It normally gets a shrug and a non-committal response such as “soon” or “you’ll see”.
This is apparently no longer good enough. Today parenting websites and car rental companies are offering detailed advice on how to answer the question in a better way. One general rule applies: “Tell them the truth and be clear about the duration of the trip instead of promising you’ll get there soon.”
We have taken a leaf out of this book and adopted the same approach for our examination of where the world stands on delivery of the SDGs. This is a big question. Countless publications, conferences and research papers are either in preparation or already available as we are reaching halftime on this long journey into the light.
The UN – as global leader of the Sustainability Agenda – is currently preparing a comprehensive report based on global monitoring data and will organize a dedicated SDG Summit during the General Assembly high-level week in September 2023. Heads of state and government will gather to follow-up and review the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
The OPEC Fund didn’t want to wait that long. Instead, we set ourselves an ambitious, yet smaller goal: In the current issue we are examining the delivery of various SDGs that are most relevant to the OPEC Fund, our mission and delivery. While acknowledging that all 17 SDGs are of equal importance, we focus on goals 1 (poverty), 2 (hunger), 3 (health), 4 (education), 6 (water), 7 (energy), 8 (employment), 9 (industry) and 13 (climate change). Our review combines global trends with the OPEC Fund’s specific contributions to its core areas of activity.
The framework is of particular importance to the OPEC Fund as our institution has enthusiastically embraced the Sustainability Agenda from the outset and today specifically declares: “Our vision is a world where sustainable development is a reality for all.” When deciding on a development project the OPEC Fund measures it against applicable SDGs and regularly monitors implementation and delivery: “Everything we do must be viewed through the lens of impact”, says Ulrike Haarsager, who heads development effectiveness at the OPEC Fund, in an interview.
The overall picture that emerges is that SDG delivery after a strong start in many areas has recently hit several roadblocks, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine representing the two biggest hurdles. According to the World Health Organization, the global health crisis to date has directly taken almost 7 million lives. The worldwide economic cost of the pandemic is expected to total US$12.5 trillion, the International Monetary Fund says. The crisis showed huge differences in countries’ exposure to external shocks and their capacities to respond.
The war in Ukraine added another layer of challenges and uncertainties ranging from geopolitics and global macroeconomics to tangible impacts on consumers worldwide: The government of Egypt was one of many that saw itself forced to set fixed prices for bread following dramatic price increases for staple foods and commodities.
But as our guest author Kurt Bayer, an economist with first-hand insights into global developments as a former board member of the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, writes the problems with the delivery of the SDGs predate the current challenges: “Failure to achieve the targets does not call forth sanctions.”
This only increases the importance of the work of international institutions dedicated to financing global development. Together big players such as the World Bank and nimble actors such as the OPEC Fund all form a giant network which can serve as a global safety net. It is far from perfect and it has too many and too big gaps, but it does indeed serve this purpose. As our examination shows, multilateral institutions are more and more in the lead when it comes to the delivery of sustainable development.
Given this and other emerging tasks, these global players will need strengthening to sustain this effort. But that is a topic for a separate conversation to which we will turn in a future edition. Big players such as the World Bank and nimble actors such as the OPEC Fund all form a giant network which can serve as a global safety net.
We wish you an interesting read.