OECD Forum Highlights Value of Private Sector Role in SDGs

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) held its annual Global Forum on Development with a focus on catalyzing the private sector to support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and explore new avenues of partnership to mobilize the needed resources. The 12th annual Global Forum on Development convened on 5 April 2017, in Paris, France, on the theme of ‘Working together to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs).

Welcoming participants, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said the collective responsibility for delivering the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development means “not only whole-of-government approaches, but also whole-of-society approaches.” On the importance of private flows to developing countries, he noted that while Official Development Assistance (ODA) in 2016 is likely to have slightly increased over the past two years (to approximately US$130-140 billion per year), it is dwarfed by the level of private flows (approximately US$300 billion per year).

Gurría stressed that “the OECD is here to help” governments create a conducive environment for business. He highlighted recent OECD efforts including: taking stock of progress towards the Organisation’s Action Plan on the SDGs, launched in 2016; support for the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (GPEDC) and work on investment, tax, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), global value chains, and responsible business; bringing together philanthropic foundations; developing the Total Official Support for Sustainable Development (TOSSD) to ensure public funds play a catalytic role in development finance; and preparing the first-ever OECD Global Outlook on Financing for Development, to provide better data to policymakers and business leaders.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said ODA is crucial for achieving the SDGs, and called on governments to use ODA in a catalytic way to shift to domestic sources over time. She also encouraged “a culture of close cooperation with the private sector.”

Amy Jadesimi, CEO of Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics, called to “redefine bankability,” and saying current business models are flawed. She noted that business has a US$12 trillion incentive to engage in the SDGs, according to the January 2017 report of the Business and Sustainable Development Commission. She said one key to unlocking the needed capital is to devise a set of universally accepted criteria that defines sustainable investing, which the UN and OECD could help to do. Alain Papiasse, BNP Paribas, said banks are taking the financial opportunity seriously and working with clients to encourage sustainable investments.

In an article published on DevEx after the Forum, OECD Deputy Secretary-General Douglas Frantz confirms that the OECD may help create a universal set of definitions or framework for sustainability investment, following the discussion of that idea at the Forum. He also echoes the idea that companies that do not incorporate the SDGs into their business plans are “missing not just an opportunity to help the world, but more importantly, they’re missing an opportunity to help themselves, to push their bottom line forward…. [I]f we don’t have sustainable development, markets will go away, instability will increase, corruption will expand and they won’t simply have people to buy their products.”

Frantz also reports that the OECD’s Action Plan on the SDGs aims to measure progress, develop evidence-based policies to achieve the SDGs, and help find ways to finance them. In this framework, one focus is to address government corruption, which “hurts countries’ abilities to achieve the SDGs, but also to attract private investment.”

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