The debate was coordinated by Thomas Chauvineau, journalist at RFI. The speakers were Pierre Ducret, Chair, I4CE (Institute for Climate Economics) ; André Pouillès-Duplaix,Director of the Crosscutting Support Department, Agence Française de Développement ; Friederike Röder, Director, France ONE and Patrick Rabe, delegation to the OECD and the UNESCO. The conference was introduced by Philippe Orliange, Executive Director for Strategy, Partnerships and Communication, AFD.
On 25 September 2015, the UN adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2015-2030. This roadmap follows on from the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which structured the international agenda from 2000 to 2015. States have a “leading role to play” (Friederike Röder) in turning this ambitious agenda into concrete actions. However, it will be necessary to involve all actors (public and private), as well as citizens, in order to ensure that this new agenda is effectively implemented.
New approach to development, beyond the North-South dichotomy
“The MDGs were to a large extent the result of the work of national development agencies [in developed countries]” (Philippe Orliange). They can be assimilated to an order given to Southern countries and specifically targeted poverty reduction. Conversely, the SDGs are the result of a collaborative process launched by African and Latin American countries. They apply to all, in all countries. Where the MDGs mainly focused on social issues, the SDGs seek to integrate all the challenges faced by the planet – inequalities, employment, climate change, etc. – on the basis of the need for growth. However, this concern for universality must not mask inequalities between countries: “The challenge is greater in the Least Developed Countries” (Patrick Rabe). Without falling back into the doctor-patient relationship, which characterized the MDGs, it will therefore be important to provide targeted support to the poorest countries.
Crosscutting policies to meet the many and interlinked goals
The 17 SDGs are interlinked, as is the case with the development dynamics they require. “If we talk about the climate, it at the same time means energy, water and sanitation, cities, agriculture…” (André Pouillès Duplaix). Alongside the sectoral partnerships recommended by SDG 17, it is essential to establish crosscutting policies. Challenges such as poverty, inequalities and unemployment can only be effectively addressed together. It is also necessary to avoid implementing measures that are counterproductive from one sector to the other (importance of the issue of the coherence of public policies within a country or of policies in the North with their Official Development Assistance policy). Consequently, in addition to being central to SDG 13, the fight against climate change is subject to measures within the other goals. This will also need to be the case for gender inequalities to ensure that “progress concerns the whole of humanity, and not just its male part” (Friederike Röder). It therefore involves ensuring that public policies are coherent within a country or policies in the North with their Official Development Assistance policy.
Political and financial leadership: Dual responsibility of States
The responsibility of initiating the development processes required to achieve the SDGs by 2030 lies with States. They have a dual political and financial role to play. Firstly, there will be tensions between the different goals to be achieved: they “are inevitable and need to be managed by politicians [who must] make choices, tradeoffs and establish priorities” (André Pouillès Duplaix). It is unrealistic to believe that all countries will be able to move forward at the same pace on the 17 points of this roadmap. Each State will need to build their own agenda, depending on the resources at their disposal, the country’s level of development and the specific needs of their population. Secondly, financing to match the ambitions of these projects can only come from the private sector. Yet the latter will not spontaneously take action. It will therefore be up to governments to create favorable and incentive conditions for private investment. “The role of public action and public finances [will be] to leverage this private finance” (Pierre Ducret).
Invest in institutional capacity building for States
However, in a number of countries in the South, public resources will be insufficient to fulfil this role of financial leadership. “The increase in domestic resources” is therefore “the main challenge […] in financing the SDGs” (Philippe Orliange). But the customs, tax and budgetary authorities of these countries are too weak to effectively collect and redistribute public money. Financing projects “to strengthen States” means providing the institutions in question with more resources and better qualified staff. It means giving the poorest countries the resources so that they can finance their own policies one day.
This capacity building is conducted “in the context of small high-risk projects, which are especially very political”. Currently, “no one wants to handle it” (Frederike Röder). Yet it is necessary to invest in these projects (Philippe Orliange).
The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of their institutions or of AFD.