Honorable Finance Minister of the Government of Bangladesh, Mr. Abul Maal Muhith,
Mr. Syed Munir Khasru, Chairman of the Institute for Policy, Advocacy, and Governance (IPAG),
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I am honoured to be here today.
When the Millennium Development Goals were adopted, some described them as too aspirational, too many, too complex. Today, the world has seen the benefits of promoting an ambitious global development agenda. The SDGs are the most specific, measurable, and broadly supported poverty reduction targets the world had ever established.
Their predecessors, the MDGs played a role in lifting more than one billion people out of extreme poverty; significantly reducing the number of people suffering from hunger, preventable death and illness; and enabling unprecedented numbers of girls and boys to attend school.
The Universal Yardstick of Human Progress
The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals – a transformational agenda that aims to balance the economic, social and environmental needs of people and planet – was made possible thanks to the success of the MDGs. Countries like Bangladesh – which achieved significant results in the areas of poverty reduction, gender parity in schools, reduction of under-five mortality, disaster risk management and access to safe water – have many lessons to share with the world.
Allow me to highlight a few critical issues that may influence the success of the SDGs at country level.
First, countries need to adopt sound macro-economic management policies while boosting economic growth that is environmentally sustainable and broadly shared. The Government of Bangladesh did just that. It sustained a GDP growth rate of 6 percent or above in recent years while pursuing a pro-poor and inclusive growth strategy, by improving implementation capacity and human capital, and making the public sector accountable to its citizens. The results are clear - poverty has been impressively reduced from 56 percent in 1991 to 31 percent in 2010. More work will still need to be done to decouple environment degradation from economic growth. This is particularly critical given the vulnerability of Bangladesh to climate change, which threatens to reverse development gains.
Second, countries are expected to localize the SDGs, adapting them to their national realities and mainstreaming them into national and sub-national development plans and strategies. Development Goals cost estimates are not always translated into budget frameworks, even if many influence the respective national development plan.
Third, the SDGs require new modalities of partnerships. Government and civil society collaboration has significantly improved the capacities for joint-planning and implementation of national and local strategies and policies. In many countries, the ability of NGOs to roll out innovative delivery models at local levels allowed governments to expand service access. Collaboration with the private sector will need to continuously expand. For instance, impact investing has proven itself over decades as a mode of finance that can do good for society by also doing well financially. Currently, globally, there is $114 Billion of commercial capital categorized as impact investment.
Fourth, the SDGs will not be met without significant investment in innovation and expanding access to ICTs, to overcome the digital divide that sends the already deprived further behind, within and across countries. Countries will need to harness ICTs to strengthen the core capacities of their governments to extend and improve public services and information in hard-to reach, poor and marginalized communities. Health platforms powered by mobile phonesare used by frontline health workers to diagnose leading diseases irrespective of peoples’ geographical location. The same is the cell phone technology-supported financial inclusion. These approaches resonate in Bangladesh, where the Government has launched Digital Bangladesh to realize its 2021 Vision. Through this it has provided, among other, 13,000 community clinics supported by ICTs to track the progress of health among women and children.
Of course the spirit of the SDGs is to leave no one behind- especially those on hardship situations/like we see Bangladesh doing today with those who cross its borders and find protection in its land. That is also the reach of SDG16 for Just, Inclusive and Peaceful Societies.
I hope the discussion today will catalyze more collaboration on this topic across the different sectors represented here. At UNDP, we stand ready to continue being a trusted partner to the Government of Bangladesh as it paves its way to achieve the SDGs.