United Nations Resident Coordinator Speech at CSR Forum
16 November 2020
The UN in Egypt is engaging all relevant stakeholders to support efforts to accelerate progress towards the SDGs in the country.
1st Session: Accelerating the Implementation of Sustainable Development Plans
Honorable moderator, distinguished speakers
Ladies and gentlemen;
It is a great pleasure to be here today among distinguished representatives from the Government of Egypt, private sector and international organizations who are contributing to sustainable economic growth in Egypt. I take this opportunity to congratulate the CSR Forum team for organizing the forum this year, despite all the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. I also commend them on this year’s theme of “Dynamic Network for Sustainable World”.
When the 193-member states of the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda), they set the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their ambitious 169 targets with the aim of ending poverty, protecting the planet and improving the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere – fundamentally ‘Leaving No One Behind’.
With less than 10 years left to implement the 2030 Agenda, action to meet the SDGs is not yet advancing at the speed or scale required and it is vital for the global community to mobilize for accelerated action. That is why the UN Secretary-General has called on all sectors of society to mobilize for a Decade of Action on three levels:
global action to secure greater leadership, more resources and smarter solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals;
local action embedding the needed transitions in the policies, budgets, institutions and regulatory frameworks of governments, cities and local authorities; and
people action, including by youth, civil society, the media, the private sector, unions, academia and other stakeholders, to generate an unstoppable movement pushing for the required transformations.
In other words, to achieve the SDGs by 2030, an unprecedented level of cooperation and collaboration among governments, civil society, the private sector, academia, and other development partners is required to identify and implement new innovative solutions that can tackle the complex nature of the SDGs and to further localize the SDGs to meet the aspirations of the people. This also needs to be matched with the necessary resources, innovation capacity and partnerships to drive implementation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and any corresponding national sustainable development plan requires new solutions that are cross-sectoral and cross-SDGs, multidisciplinary and founded on the understanding that sustainable development solutions have to be coalition-based, in other words, including government, civil society, private sector and other development partners. Globally, the UN has identified a number of solutions that match this description which tackle topics like inclusive and sustainable industrial development, food and agriculture, health and well-being, women’s empowerment and harnessing the demographic dividend. To bring these solutions to Egypt, we are engaging all relevant stakeholders in various dialogues and partnerships to support the generation of policies, strategies and programmes that will in turn accelerate progress towards the SDGs in the country.
Moving to the localizing the SDGs, what does this mean exactly? and why is it important?
Simply put, localizing the SDGs means making the aspirations of the SDGs become real to communities, households and individuals, particularly to those who are at risk of falling behind. This entails both, how the SDGs can provide a framework for local development policies; and to how subnational and local governments can support the achievement of the SDGs through action from the bottom up. It requires certain “core enablers” to create the conditions necessary for meaningful sustainable development, namely enabling policy and institutional environment; stakeholder engagement (including private sector); data ecosystems; financing for the SDGs (both public resources and private investment that are aligned with the SDGs); and innovation.
Egypt was an early adopter of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. The country’s commitment was cemented through an aspiring national sustainable development strategy (Egypt’s Vision 2030) and with the introduction of major reforms to stabilize the economy, stimulate growth and create better opportunities for the people. Nevertheless, given the large disparity across the country’s governorates with regards to where they stand on poverty, human development, and other socioeconomic indicators, there is a need to better understand how the SDGs targets and indicators should be set at the governorate levels. If we look at poverty for example, the set national target is to bring the country’s poverty rate to 13.9 per cent. Yet, since the poverty line is only 6.7 per cent in Port Said, while it reaches 66 per cent in Asyut, the national target needs to be translated at the sub-national level as maintain the poverty rate in Port Said, while dropping the rate in Asyut to 25.6 per cent by 2030.
The UN in Egypt, through the Mainstreaming, Acceleration and Policy Support for the 2030 Agenda (MAPS) process, has continued to support the Government of Egypt since 2018 in localizing the SDGs by putting a sustainable development lens at the governorate level and mobilizing local authorities to take action and influence policies. Following the COVID-19 outbreak, the UN has been working more closely with the Government on enhancing and accelerating the localization of the SDGs to fast-track the Egypt’s socio-economic response and recovery, including by assessing the impact of the pandemic on different groups of the populations and governorates, and supporting the formulation of governorate-level socio-economic recovery plans that integrate the SDGs.
Through this long-standing collaboration, three key policy recommendations where identified and put forward by the UN:
First, localizing the SDGs can be achieved through utilizing existing/ongoing planning processes especially those of the Upper Egypt Local Development Programme as a vehicle for implementation;
Second, for a conducive enabling environment, awareness should be raised at the local level of the importance and relevance of the SDGs to local communities through social and traditional media as well as through mainstreaming SDGs in curricula of different educational stages;
And last, but not least, the transformation towards decentralization as per the 2014 Constitution needs to be continued and accelerated.
So, how can the private sector engage strategically and actively in accelerating and localizing the SDGs?
Innovation in the private sector across the world is a prerequisite for achieving the SDGs. Leaders from the private sector played a central role in providing substantive input to the development of the 17 SDGs and their targets, as well as the Financing for Development process and the global Climate Change agenda. The 2030 Agenda “acknowledges the role of the diverse private sector in the implementation of the new Agenda” and “calls on all businesses to apply their creativity and innovation to solving sustainable development challenges”.
Only with the participation of the private sector we can successfully tackle the climate crisis, systemic inequality and other, long-term challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified.
The private sector contributes to sustainable development through providing goods and services, financing social and economic investments through taxes, and creating innovative solutions to help tackle development challenges. If we took the example of the availability of accessible vaccine to the coronavirus, the global health corporations are leading this quest and it exemplifies their role in providing innovative solutions to such developmental challenges. At the same time, more than 50 per cent of the financing needed to achieve the SDGs could be mobilized through the private sector as businesses provide 60 per cent of GDP, 80 per cent of capital flows and 90 per cent of jobs in developing countries (OECD).
Unfortunately, many private finance and business activities in emerging and developing economies continue to be neither aligned with SDGs nor compatible with low-emission, climate-resilient development pathways. Private sector, regardless of the size, needs to move beyond charitable foundation or corporate social responsibility initiatives and engage core business units in working to achieve the SDGs. Decision making should account for environmental, social, and governance issues relevant to the SDGs
The world must seize the opportunity of COVID-19 crisis to strengthen its commitment to implement the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. By making progress on the global roadmap for a more inclusive and sustainable future, the world can better respond to future crises.