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UNDP Global

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Bali – With the world experiencing financial volatility, and with multiple risks heightened - excessive debt, polarized politics, climate change - doubling down on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals is our best bet to advance sustainability and greater inclusion, says Achim Steiner, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“We are still in a relatively good position to make the right choices, given that average economic prospects remain favorable - and rapid technological innovations open opportunities to accelerate our overall progress.” Yet, he noted that divergence between economies is creeping up, with emerging markets and several low-income countries facing slower growth – often for reasons beyond their direct control.

Steiner was speaking at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund Annual Meetings in Bali, Indonesia.

Steiner said it boils down to the choices we make. “Investing in health, education, and social protection provides people the skills and resilience they need in today’s fast-paced and digital world,” said Steiner. “These outcomes are the result of deliberate policy choices, and they show that investing in people pays off.”

In addition, Steiner warned that despite progress in the developing world towards building better systems and easing access to public services, people remain at risk to falling behind when they face conflict, sickness, unemployment or natural disasters, like the recent earthquake and tsunami in Palu, Indonesia.

And the recent report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sounded the alarm that the world is running out of time to address climate change before it tips the scales on the health of the planet.   

But there are opportunities to flip the switch on this trajectory, Steiner said, and look at innovative, tangible solutions to these critical issues that present a balance between people, planet, and prosperity. 

“Climate action provides an unprecedented opportunity to unlock massive economic and social benefits that can help us achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Recent studies have found that low-carbon growth could deliver at least US$26 trillion in economic benefits by 2030 and create over 65 million new jobs. Climate action and socio-economic progress are mutually supportive,” he said. “Investing in sustainable and resilient infrastructure enhances access to basic services, education and work opportunities.  New and improved technologies, carefully managed, could address many of the challenges that the world faces, including rapid urbanization, climate change and food insecurity – all of which tend to impact the poorest and most marginalised communities the most.”

Steiner also said the rapid evolution of financial technology, or ‘fintech’, presented opportunities to advance financial inclusion globally, particularly in economies where traditional financial access is scarce. “In recent years, the digitalization of finance has expanded access to financial services for hundreds of millions of people. Fintech can also help reduce cost and increase volume of remittances which constitute a significant inflow of resources for many developing countries,” he said.