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Looking Forward to Sustainable Development

National and regional development banks have already shown that they can act as pioneers for sustainable development and catalysts for climate finance. In the interests of both planet and people, governments should rely on them much more in implementing the 2030 development agenda.

PARIS – Back in 2015, the world gorged itself on multilateralism. Addis Ababa, New York, and Paris: the year featured landmark international summits that, together, marked a critical step forward to put a world increasingly fractured by climate change, social inequalities, and renewed forms of conflict on the path to sustainable development. Despite considerable progress made in bringing sustainable development to the top of the international agenda, the 2015 summits have not yet led to solutions commensurate to the projected systemic change.

That may be because the summits took place in the wrong order and did not produce a new framework and methodology for efficiently directing investments toward meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It would have been better to start in New York, where the General Assembly of the United Nations endorsed an unprecedented to-do list designed to kick-start what former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called a transformative “people-centered and planet-sensitive” process. Then, governments could have concluded the historic Paris climate agreement to address the most pressing SDG: Goal 13, to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.” Finally, the deal struck in Addis Ababa would have provided the necessary means for properly funding this new collective ambition.

Now, we must urgently switch gear, “from summits to solutions.” That means acknowledging that the international community is Janus-faced. On one hand, the post-2015 agenda compels all countries – whether in the Global South or North – to look to the future and make the changes needed to establish development trajectories that reconcile planet and people. On the other hand, the global community continues to look to the past in failing to create the instruments to do development differently, and relies on “business-as-usual” practices in trying to meet the SDGs.