United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (Part Three: Implementation)

Implementing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will have the greatest impact on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). There are currently forty-seven countries that are classified by the United Nations as LDCs, including thirty-three in Africa, nine in Asia, four in Oceania, and one in The Americas. The United Nations Economic and Social Council classifies countries according to the level of socioeconomic development and assigns LDC status to the poorest countries as measured by three criteria relating to poverty, human resource weakness, and economic vulnerability. Poverty is measured by gross national income per capita below a specific level. Human resource weakness is assessed on the basis of indicators of nutrition, health, education and literacy. Economic vulnerability is evaluated on the basis of instability of agricultural production, instability of exports of goods and services, smallness of the national economy, the extent of population displaced by natural disasters, and other relevant economic measures. Although LDCs fall below each of the three criteria, they differ from country to country in respect of the extent of their poverty, quantity and type of available resources, skilled labor force, population density, degree of industrial development, and access to capital.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has adopted a strategic plan for the period 2018-2021 to set out the general direction and scope to help countries achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. UNDP is committed to the principles of universality, equality, and inclusion. The strategic plan aims to achieve sustainable development by eradicating poverty, accelerating structural transformations, and building resilience to crises and shocks. The UNDP is committed to coordination and collaboration with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the UN Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women (UN-Women). This collaboration between the UN organizations will result in a greater emphasis on development issues for women and children as well as population issues. The UN Trade and Development Board is actively involved in promoting foreign investment in the SDGs, upgrading the roles of science, technology and innovation, and most importantly, expanding trade and productive capacity as catalysts for achieving the SDG targets.

According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals requires substantial investment to address social, economic and environmental challenges, particularly for projects such as power generation and electricity supply, infrastructure development, water and sanitation, food security, health and education, as well as climate change mitigation and adaptation. A combination of public sector financing together with private sector investment, including foreign direct investment, will be necessary to meet estimated annual investment needs to meet the SDG goals. There are many institutions involved in mobilizing capital for investment in the SDGs, including owners of capital, financial intermediaries, and advisers. Sources of investment may include banks, pension funds, insurance companies, international enterprises, and sovereign wealth funds. The World Bank and the regional development banks, such as the African Development Bank and the Asian Development Bank are potential sources for financing development projects. Foreign direct investment is the largest source of external finance for developing countries; it is also a significant source of finance in the LDCs, along with official development assistance and remittances. Potential benefits of foreign direct investment include the creation of higher skilled jobs, the introduction of technology and innovation, and improved access to international markets.

UNCTAD is also committed to promoting effective international and national policies to help developing countries harness science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship as an effective means of implementing the SDGs through policy analysis, sharing of experiences, and policy-oriented capacity building. The science, technology and innovation context in which the international community is implementing the SDG agenda is expected to produce profound economic and social transformations for LDCs by embracing key emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data analytics, robotics, autonomous vehicles, the internet of things, additive manufacturing, virtual and augmented reality, materials science, nanotechnology, synthetic biology, genetic sequencing, genome editing, genetic medicine, and neuroscience.

International trade is a powerful enabler of the transformative shifts required to achieve the SDG targets. Trade provides access to foreign products, services and markets, enabling economies of scale and the generation of expanded employment opportunities. Trade enables the better use of productive resources and may catalyze structural transformation. Global collective action through multilateral trade cooperation is essential in addressing cross-border challenges in the social, economic and environmental dimensions of development. The multilateral trading system is the cornerstone of global trade governance. UN General Assembly resolutions commit Member States of the United Nations to promoting a universal, rules-based, open, transparent, predictable, inclusive, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system, consistent with the SDGs.

Source attribution: Multiple reports and notes published by the United Nations and its Agencies relating to the Sustainable Development Goals.