30 October 2023

A shift in mindset would speed up progress on the 2030 Agenda

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development represents an ambitious plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. As we mark the halfway point to 2030, most commentary is focusing on the slow progress to date: according to the United Nations, only 12% of targets are on track.  

But that 12% figure should not distract us from the impressive gains which have already been achieved, and from reflecting on how they were delivered. I am convinced that progress could accelerate, if we shifted our approach to a cooperation model that allows for true country policy ownership, peer learning and open dialogue.  

This model already operates at the Alliance for Financial Inclusion, a network of central banks and financial regulators from 82 developing and emerging countries. Members connect, share and discuss their experiences in order to develop sustainable and inclusive policies. Countries learn from and collaborate with each other, but ultimately have full ownership of their development and progress. 

And the approach works. Since 2008, AFI members have brought 840 million adults into the financial system, while maintaining financial system safety and stability. Investing in financial inclusion has proven a cost-effective and efficient way for countries to raise people out of poverty, reduce inequalities, build sustainable communities, raise education levels, create jobs, ensure economic stability, and promote growth. In other words, to accelerate progress on a wide spectrum of the 2030 Agenda.  

Let me provide some examples. 

Through Inclusive Green Finance (IGF), countries vulnerable to the impact of climate change can, with relatively small investments of capital, build resilience by promoting access to savings, credit and insurance for at-risk groups. The Central Bank of Papua New Guinea, one of the ten most vulnerable countries in the world to the risk of climate change, recently led the development of an IGF Policy, the first of its kind in the Pacific. 

In Egypt, the Central Bank is working to economically empower vulnerable populations including women, youth, small businesses, and people living with disabilities. It is supporting rural village groups to expand their savings opportunities and develop new digital skills, helping them to integrate the formal economy.  

In every country, the emergence of digital financial services has driven progress. As new technology means new risks, peer learning between countries has proven vital to ensuring innovation can be harnessed safely and for the benefit of all.  

In the 2015 Action Agenda on Financing for Development, countries committed to working towards full and equal access to formal financial services for all, which included a commitment to expanding peer learning and experience-sharing among countries and regions, through AFI and others. 

The approach has delivered impressive results for financial inclusion, and could usefully be applied across the entire 2030 Agenda. Rather than fall into pessimism about our prospects for 2030, let us reflect on what works and advance with confidence. 

Tagged as: Director reflections, ed reflections, SDGs, Sustainable Development Goals

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