UN Chief Urges Bold Solutions to Tackle Great Finance Divide to Deliver SDGs

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (C) speaks at the UN High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development during the 78th session of the UN General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York, on Sept. 20, 2023. Photo: Xinhua/Li Rui
UNITED NATIONS — The UN chief on Wednesday urged global policymakers to unlock better financing and tackle the great finance divide, as progress on some of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has gone into reverse for the first time in decades.

"There is a stark and growing divide between countries that can access financing at reasonable terms - and those that cannot, and are being left even further behind," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made the remarks at the UN High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development, during the 78th session of the UN General Assembly.

"Developing countries face borrowing costs up to eight times higher than those of European countries in particular, and this is a debt trap," said Guterres, noting that the SDG financing gap has become a chasm - estimating at 3.9 trillion U.S. dollars a year.

Held every four years since 2015, following the adoption of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda - the roadmap for financing the SDGs - the 2023 High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development takes place at a critical moment, when only around 15 percent of SDG targets are on track.

Challenging economic prospects amid the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, conflicts and intensifying climate change have put financing for the SDGs under increased pressure.

Member states welcome the UN secretary-general's proposal for an SDG Stimulus of at least 500 billion U.S. dollars per year to significantly increase affordable long-term financing in sustainable development and climate action.

They also support his call for deeper and longer-term reforms to the international financial architecture, which currently fails to serve as a safety net for all countries and exacerbates inequalities.

"It is clear that the systemic problems of financing for sustainable development require a systemic solution: reforms of the global financial architecture," said the UN chief, who noted that the architecture was created at a time when many of today's developing countries were still under colonial rule and is deeply skewed in favor of the developed world.

"I reiterate my call for a new Bretton Woods moment when countries come together to agree on a global financial architecture that reflects today's economic realities and power relations," said Guterres.

The UN chief said "a two-track world of haves and have-nots" is already driving a crisis in global trust.

"Together, we must turn this moment of crisis into a moment of opportunity, find joint financing solutions to rebuild global solidarity, and create new momentum for sustainable development and climate action," he added.

Under the theme "Financing the SDGs for a world where no one is left behind," the one-day event will feature creative, ambitious and politically feasible solutions by world leaders, heads of international financial institutions and multilateral development banks (MDBs), representatives of the private sector and civil society to mobilize resources, generate action and restore momentum to achieve the SDGs.

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