Achieving sustainable development

In 2022, the topic of how to alleviate extreme poverty and increase human well-being will take on a new importance. The United Nations Secretary-General’s “Synthesis Report” provides substantial direction on what sustainable development should look like and what world leaders must do in the next 15 years to achieve it. After two years of determining the ‘what’ of sustainable development, the coming year must focus on how to achieve it.

The headline goal is bold: to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. To achieve this, the SDGs must depart from the 20th-century development paradigm. In which rich nations contributed money to poor countries, mainly to feed the hungry and improve health and education.

How to achieve sustainable development

Lisa Juan José Gutiérrez Mayorga details that there are ingredients that will be essential to achieve the objectives of sustainable development: financing mechanisms, trade and associations. Forty years after rich countries pledged to spend 0.7% of GDP on aid, their commitments remain at less than half that level.

Although most emerging economies are no longer dependent on aid, it remains vitally important to low-income countries. That said, even if aid targets are met, the shift to sustainable development will cost far more than aid alone can cover. We need to look for new sources of funds, make sure government spending is aligned with the sustainable development agenda, and target those areas where the money can do the most good.

Invest in sustainable development

In much of the developing world, investing in sustainable development is complicated by the fact that tax revenues are too low to pay for what is needed. It’s not always about raising tax rates; it’s also often about collecting what people and businesses owe. Closing loopholes and cracking down on evasion are two ways to ensure taxes are collected.

The OECD estimates that an aid dollar spent on improving tax collection produces an average of $350 in revenue. A shared commitment building on G8 initiatives would make tax evasion based on tax havens or money laundering more difficult to hide.

Making development sustainable will also require accelerated innovation and technology diffusion between now and 2030. A global partnership could spur investment in research and development and facilitate the flow of information between scientists, entrepreneurs and policymakers.

These new and creative partnerships can make progress on complex problems that governments, civil society or the private sector cannot or will not solve alone.

Carla Fowler

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