UNDP Development Chief Calls for Action on Debt, Climate, & Inequality As Developing Countries Face Volatile Global Outlook

April 14, 2019

Bold climate action could trigger US$26 trillion in economic benefit by 2030, create more than 65 million jobs, and help 700,000 people. Credit: UNDP.

13 April, Washington DC Increased financing and bold leadership are needed urgently to tackle climate change, rising inequality, and surging debt, as increased risks and vulnerabilities threaten economic growth globally, said United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Achim Steiner at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) spring meetings today.

“We still have a global financial and economic system that is not responding to the needs for the scale and type of finance that is required for sustainable development,” he said in his statement on behalf of the United Nations, to the 99th Meeting of the Development Committee. He also emphasized this during the Meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors of the G20, where he represented the UN. “Bold climate action could trigger US$26 trillion in economic benefit by 2030, create more than 65 million jobs, and help 700,000 people avoid premature death. We need smart policies and investments now to bridge growing gaps not just in income, but in dignity, opportunity, and quality of life.”

By 2050, financing transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy will require investment of at least US$60 trillion. Steiner said that public finance clearly won’t be enough and it must be leveraged to mobilize more private finance.

He repeated these sentiments at the launch of the Finance Ministers Coalition for Climate Action, hailing their leadership and highlighting their central role in supporting national climate strategies. “We do not have to choose between economic prosperity and action on climate.  Both are possible. Just consider the breathtaking innovation and transformation in our energy and mobility sectors." 

Steiner also addressed the looming debt crisis many developing countries face.  IMF-World Bank analyses find 40 percent of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and low-income countries face debt distress or high risk of debt distress, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Against the above backdrop, there is need for a comprehensive policy and programmatic support to the LDCs to ensure enhanced debt management and sound macroeconomic policies but also importantly, bringing development financing to scale, said said Steiner at a Ministerial Breakfast for LDCs. “As an international community, we need to leverage our global presence, partnerships, knowledge and expertise to ensure that the countries we serve do not fall back into debt crises.” Steiner reiterated these themes in his statement to 39th Meeting of the International Monetary and Financial Committee saying, “Developing countries as a group have become more exposed to global finance. While this has provided much-needed access to finance, it has also left them more vulnerable and susceptible to contagion.” 

He also spoke about the need to address soaring inequality in a number of areas, “Inequalities are prevalent in access to quality education, health, and technologies as well as vulnerability to shocks, among other areas. We also see persistent gender disparities across the world. Inequality limits people’s choices and opportunities and engenders political and social tensions and global inefficiencies.”

This year, UNDP’s Human Development Report will focus on the critical issue of inequality in human development.

UNDP, as part of the UN Development System, advocates for leveraging existing or potential funding flows—internal, external, public, or private - to meet LDC needs. It also prioritizes advocacy for increased Official Development Assistance as catalytic funding for countries that need it the most including LDCs.

To help governments mobilize domestic resources, the OECD-UNDP partnership Tax Inspectors Without Borders Initiative, which held its board meeting on the sidelines of the spring meetings, assists countries in building tax audit capacity. It has so far supported some 50 programmes globally - 24 in Africa alone - mobilizing more than US$400 million in domestic revenues.

He  emphasized during the G20 meeting the potential of innovation in financial technologies to advance inclusion and sustainability, referring to the on-going work of the UN Secretary-General Digital Financing Task Force of the SDGs, which he co-chairs. He concluded his message to the G20 noting that progress towards the 2030 Agenda is the path not only to improve living standards and protect our planet, but also to ensure human security.

Streamlined, strengthened cooperation

Alongside the Spring Meetings, UNDP and the World Bank signed two landmark agreements April 12 to strengthen and streamline cooperation.

“The World Bank is a critical partner for UNDP,” Steiner said. “In the last two years, our vital partnership in Yemen has created emergency employment for 344,550 people, helping 2.4 million people from vulnerable households across the country buy essentials to survive and nearly 3.4 million access goods and services, such as water, food, health care, education, and roads.”

UNDP and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) also signed a five-year memorandum of understanding to accelerate progress towards sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific.