Goals of ending poverty, inequality doomed without financial fix, UN says

by Ellen Wulfhorst | @EJWulfhorst | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 4 April 2019 23:07 GMT

An employee counts U.S dollar bills at a money exchange office in central Cairo, Egypt, March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Image Caption and Rights Information

A "fundamental shift" in the world's financial system is needed to solve problems from climate change to growing inequality, UN chief says

By Ellen Wulfhorst

UNITED NATIONS, April 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - New ways to ease national debts, boost wages and expand trade must be put into practice urgently or the United Nations' goals to combat global poverty, inequality and other woes will fail, said a report issued on Thursday by top financial organizations.

To succeed, the ambitious goals need money freed up, through international trading and financial systems, for investment in sustainable development, said the report by more than 60 groups, including the U.N., International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization.

Member nations of the U.N. unanimously adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, setting out a wide-ranging "to-do" list tackling such vexing issues as conflict, hunger, land degradation, gender equality and climate change by 2030.

"The world will not achieve the Sustainable Development Goals without a fundamental shift in the international financial system," U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wrote in a foreword to the report.

The cost of implementing the global goals has been estimated at $3 trillion a year.

Putting the goals at risk are economic conditions such as stagnating wages and a drop in private investment in developing countries, said Amina Mohammed, U.N. deputy secretary-general, who called the report "sobering."

"Inequality is on the rise, and some 30 developing countries are in or at high risk of debt distress," she said at a U.N. news conference.

Restructuring the crippling debt of some nations would release money for investment in such urgent needs as clean water and energy, she said.

Marketplaces for industries such as digital technology must not be concentrated in only a few parts of the world because tight control can depress competition and stagnate wages, said Navid Hanif of the U.N.'s Financing for Sustainable Development Office.

Also, investment in sustainable goals needs a long-term view, not the short-term approach of showing earnings and performance to shareholders, he said.

"That requires incentives by governments and change in regulations," Hanif said. "That's the kind of change we are asking for in this report."

The global development goals are "absolutely" at risk of failure otherwise, Mohammed said.

"It is not in good shape when we talk about financing SDGs," she said.

The report is not the first time U.N. officials have made grim predictions for the fate of the goals. Earlier reports have said the goals were threatened by the persistence of violence, conflict and destabilizing climate change.

Outside assessments have cited nationalism, protectionism and a need for more funding.

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Jason Fields)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.