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Financing the 2030 Agenda: What is it and why is it important?

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António Guterres launches his strategy to finance the 2030 Agenda to put the world on a more sustainable path, this 24 September, ahead of the General Assembly’s annual general debate.

How high on the Secretary-General’s to-do list is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development?

Well, the timing of the meeting to discuss financing the Agenda might be a clue: it takes place on Monday afternoon, just before the General Debate of the General Assembly on Tuesday morning, when the eyes of the world will be on UN Headquarters in New York.

A plan to transform the world

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, commonly referred to as the 2030 Agenda, is being billed as a plan to “Transform Our World.”

In 2015, UN Member States adopted the Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, which break down into three broad areas: people, planet and prosperity.

The adoption of the Agenda was significant, as it was the first time that world leaders pledged common action in support of such a universal and ambitious policy agenda. As the name suggests, the organizing principle of the Agenda and the SDGs, is sustainable development, and this is also the key message to the world community.

The UN defines sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This means taking into account, for example, the effects that unbalanced economic growth can have on the environment and people’s wellbeing.

The SDGs provide a framework for sustainable development that improves the lives of everyone, everywhere. For example, ensuring that economies grow and provide decent work; that everyone has access to nutritious food, no matter where they live; and access to quality education for all.

From 2015 until 2030, Member States, civil society and other partners are mobilizing efforts to change the way the world does business: ending all forms of poverty, fighting inequalities and tackling climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind.

Since 2015, the UN has been hosting several meetings every year, designed to monitor the progress of Member States and partners, including the private sector, in changing business practices to ensure that the SDGs can be met.

The foundations for the financing of the SDGs were laid in July of that year, at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, which took place in the Ethiopian Capital Addis Ababa, in a document called the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. It provided a new global framework for financing sustainable development by aligning finance with economic, social and environmental priorities; and set out a list of over 100 concrete measures, touching on finance, technology, innovation, trade, debt and data, in order to reach the SDGs.

Progress and setbacks

Since then, there have been positive signs. Just a week ago, at the Global Climate Action Summit, it was estimated that new UN-backed commitments to take action against the damaging effects of climate change could result in $26 trillion in economic benefits worldwide, and help create 65 million new “low-carbon jobs” by 2030.

Many welcome initiatives by governments and companies were noted. For examples, the Investors Agenda, one of the focus areas of the Global Climate Action Summit, brought together nearly 400 investors, managing $32 trillion of assets, who pledged to scale up the flow of capital into climate action, and a more sustainable, low-carbon economy.

However, whilst this new way of running the world presents a huge investment opportunity, public or private resources, and investments remain stubbornly far below what is needed to meet the 2030 targets.

Too much investment remains short-term and volatile, and the systemic change needed  transform economies and societies is not yet happening. Governments need to make it easier for business to finance and invest in sustainable development projects, the private sector needs to mobilize for long-term investment, and new solutions for financing the SDGs must be created.

The High-Level Meeting on Financing the 2030 Agenda

Which brings us back to Monday’s meeting. It can be expected that the timing, and the senior status of politicians taking part, will ensure that considerable attention will be directed to the proceedings, and the outcome.

The Secretary-General will open the meeting, followed by Christine Lagarde, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Heads of State and Government will also participate, as well as senior representatives of leading private sector investors, financial technology innovators, and foundations.

Mr. Guterres has indicated that this meeting will be used to build momentum and political support at all levels; step up engagement with the private sector; and make the most of innovative solutions to finance the SDGs.

It will also be the forum for the launch of his Strategy for Financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which has three objectives:

  1. Aligning global financial and economic policies with the 2030 Agenda
  2. Enhancing sustainable financial strategies at the regional and country levels
  3. Exploiting the potential of financial innovations, new technologies and digitalization to provide equitable access to finance.

After the meeting, the process continues, with several follow-ups scheduled for this year, and into 2019. The road is long, complicated and filled with potential potholes, but the commitment from the UN is clear: transform the world for the better by 2030.

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Increasing Data Accessibility and Usability for Prosperous Nepal

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Over 75 Nepali professionals from the academia, media, and private and non-profit sectors successfully completed the first phase of the Nepal Data Literacy Program today.

The first of the three-phase data literacy program which began on 23 June provided 40 hours of classroom-based introductory lessons on data analysis, visualization and data-driven decision making and storytelling to participants.

An initiative of the World Bank’s ‘Partnership for Knowledge-based Poverty Reduction and Shared Prosperity Project’ supported by DFID, the Nepal Data Literacy Program aims to sustainably transfer data literacy skills to Nepali professionals to strengthen their capacity to proactively engage in evidence-based policy making, increase data literacy of Nepalis, and support federalism in the country.

“Data literacy is an essential skill in today’s data driven world, especially for Nepal as the country works towards implementing its development vision,” stated Faris Hadad-Zervos, World Bank Country Manager for Nepal. “This presents a unique opportunity to build a consortium of data institutions from the public and private sectors and civil society to support evidence-based policymaking and innovations for the economic growth and wellbeing the people of Nepal.”

The curriculum developed through this course has been published in an open source format to be adapted and used to increase data literacy capacity for groups of diverse backgrounds. With the completion of the training, the participants are expected to provide data literacy training to their colleagues within their organizations while representatives from the academia are expected to incorporate concepts from the data literacy program in their existing courses.

“I have been impressed to see participants’ engagement at the program and to hear them voice their dedication toward engaging in evidence-based policy-making discourse. It was also really heartening to see the impact of the training on participants who came in quite nervous but went away much more confident in their ability to use data with new skills they had gained,” reflected Craig Irwin, Statistics Advisor, DFID UK in Nepal.

The next two subsequent phases of the program scheduled for July to September of 2019 will cover intermediate lessons and guide participants in writing contextual analysis papers and blog posts to get hands-on experience with data-driven storytelling and decision making.    

On the sidelines of the program, an interactive workshop on Open Government Data with officials from the Government of Nepal was also organized in Kathmandu on 26 June under this project in collaboration with the World Bank’s Public Financial Management Multi-Donor Trust Fund. The workshop discussed the importance of Open Government Data in accelerating government priorities and increasing access to government data in Nepal, together with ideas to pilot initiatives to increase quality use of government data in the country.

“Open Government Data has enormous potential in Nepal, and I look forward to partnering with the World Bank to make our data publicly available in a user-friendly way so everyone can benefit more from our data,” said Ramesh Siwakoti, Joint Financial Comptroller General.

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Afghan returnees face economic difficulties, unemployment

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Afghan refugees who returned to Afghanistan between 2014 and 2017 tend to be worse off financially and face multiple economic difficulties compared to refugees who stayed in Pakistan, finds a new joint report by the World Bank and UNHCR in Afghanistan.

The report entitledLiving Conditions and Settlement Decisions of Recent Afghan Returnees” is the first joint report resulting from the collaboration between UNHCR Afghanistan and the World Bank. The report analyzes the living conditions of the large Afghan refugee population that returned from Pakistan between 2014 and 2017.

The report shows that despite high poverty and limited employment opportunities, most Afghans returned to their home provinces, with Kabul and Nangarhar provinces together hosting a third of all returnees. According to the report findings, Afghans living in their province of origin were more likely to be employed, benefitting from established social ties. Lower access to education and healthcare services are other challenges faced by returnees and host communities, the report highlights.

“The living conditions of Afghan returnees are extremely challenging and require deep and urgent attention,” said Henry Kerali, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan. “To understand the fundamental needs and challenges Afghan returnees face in their daily lives and to identify and agree on the best ways of addressing those challenges, access to accurate data and analysis is key. Our joint report with UNHCR helps increase coordination among partners and improve the work in support of Afghan returnees.”

In 2019, we are marking 40 years of Afghan displacement, and while several programs are in place to assist returnees and facilitate their sustainable reintegration in Afghanistan, much remains to be done,” said UNHCR’s Representative in Afghanistan, Caroline Van Buren. “The data and analysis in this report will be crucial to UNHCR and our partners, including the Government of Afghanistan, as we try to improve the way we support Afghan returnees.

The report assesses the existing challenges and identifies opportunities to further enhance returnees’ sustainable reintegration within Afghanistan’s socio-economic landscape. It recommends focusing on the voluntary and gradual repatriation of Afghan refugees as a long-term solution to forced displacement and encourages the Government of Afghanistan and its partners to put in place measures to facilitate the return in safety and dignity. The findings of the report will contribute to further expanding the close collaboration between UNHCR and the World Bank, including on projects that promote self-reliance and support the development of community infrastructure.

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A New Boost for Fiscal Federalism in Nepal

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World Bank Country Manager for Nepal, Faris H. Hadad-Zervos, and Secretary, Lal Shanker Ghimire during the project signing. Photo: Akash Shrestha/World Bank

The World Bank has renewed support to the Government of Nepal to strengthen the country’s efforts towards fiscal federalism and improving public financial management under the Second Programmatic Fiscal and Public Financial Management Development Policy Credit Project. The $100 million project is geared towards the accomplishment of reform actions coordinated by the Ministry of Finance which was built on reforms supported under the first Development Policy Credit project. The agreement was signed today at the Ministry of Finance by Secretary, Lal Shanker Ghimire and the World Bank Country Manager for Nepal, Faris H. Hadad-Zervos.

“We are thankful for the support of the World Bank and development partners in the ongoing and dynamic process of federalism in Nepal,” stated Secretary Lal Shanker Ghimire. “Coordination and capacity are one of the primary pillars for the success of Nepal’s three-tier government and it is important we build accountability with responsibility in our pursuance of the country’s development objectives.”

This project supports reforms to advance Nepal’s federalism agenda, under two pillars. The first pillar supports measures to establish fiscal federalism through various legislations, policies and regulations. An umbrella legislation, enacted at the federal level, will guide budget execution and improve the accounting and financial reporting framework, and will form the basis of model laws to be adopted by local governments, to govern their budget processes.

The second pillar supports reforms to strengthen the policy framework for public financial management at the subnational levels. This will be achieved through legislation and regulations that govern the budget cycle and promotes transparency and accountability to citizens, guides preparation of the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework, strengthens expenditure control, and supports the development of a revenue collection system. These reforms also include gender responsive budgeting, and measures to address Nepal’s vulnerability to climatic shocks and improve disaster risk management.

“Nepal’s transition to a federal state is an ambitious agenda and the World Bank Group is committed to support the government in fulfilling this goal,” stated Faris H. Hadad-Zervos, World Bank Country Manager for Nepal. “The sustainability of the proposed reforms under this budget support is a critical aspect. The partnership between the government and development partners will further enable strengthening of public institutions, inclusion and resilience as Nepal progresses with the federalism agenda.”

This project builds on the reforms supported by the first Development Policy Credit to establish the legal frameworks to govern resource allocation across the three tiers of government and guide operations of local governments. It also supported measures to strengthen budget execution and public financial management systems at the federal level.

Nepal’s transition to a federal state aims to bring services closer to the people and to increase the government’s effectiveness in the delivery of social and infrastructure services.

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