By Jeffrey D. Sachs, Guido Schmidt-Traub, and Aniket Shah | May 20, 2015

A successful outcome of the Addis Ababa Conference on Financing for Development (FfD) will be a linchpin for the adoption and subsequent implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) following the September Summit at the United Nations in New York as well as the climate agreement under the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris in December. The stakes in the Addis FfD Conference are high. While important progress has been made, we are not yet on track for the outcome that the world needs in July. Fortunately, there is still time to agree on the major priorities, even though the details of implementation would have to come after the Addis meeting itself.

Most urgently, the Addis Accord should mobilize international action around specific financing initiatives that can generate tangible results over the medium term and create newsworthy headlines. We must all be able to return from Addis with a clear recognition that the glass may be half full, but that noteworthy initiatives have been launched that will put the Addis framework into action and create a pathway towards achieving the SDGs.

Drawing on the lessons from implementing the Millennium Development Goals we propose that governments consider at least six specific initiatives (click here for more details):

  1. A Global Fund for Education building on the Global Partnership for Education, aiming to disburse some $15 billion each year by the end of this decade.
  2. Adequate financing for health systems by mobilizing an additional $10 billion through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Gavi, or another pooled financing mechanism.
  3. A major financing effort in support of smallholder agriculture and nutrition by strengthening the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and/or the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP).
  4. Close the financing gap for major infrastructure initiatives, particularly for Africa.
  5. A smaller but vital commitment in Addis must be on mobilizing the financing for the data revolution that will underpin successful SDG implementation. This may require some $1 billion per year in low- and lower-middle income countries of which some $200 million would be needed in increased ODA.
  6. To establish a sound basis for follow-up, Addis must build on existing mechanisms to launch a multilateral process to systematically track all development finance flows, including international public finance, South-South Cooperation, private flows, domestic resource mobilization, and other instruments.

More information on the role of global funds and lessons from the MDG era is available here.

In addition to these specific initiatives, a successful FfD outcome should update the principles of the Monterrey Consensus for the SDG era, for example regarding public-private financing instruments, international public finance, domestic resource mobilization, tax cooperation, technology, and systemic issues. The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) has comprehensively reviewed these issues in an extensive background paper on FfD and issued practical recommendations by our Leadership Council.

Finally, the Addis document should be guided by a clear understanding of the financing needs in major SDG investment areas, including health, education, sustainable infrastructure, agriculture, climate change adaptation, ecosystem services, and so forth. While aggregate financing needs, including for infrastructure, may run to $2-3 trillion per year, each investment area requires a specific mix of public and private financing. For example, the Global Monitoring Report for Education has recently shown that meeting the education goals will require substantial increases in domestic funding and at least an additional $22 billion in international concessional finance. In other areas greater scope exists for private financing. The SDSN has analyzed investment needs (click here) and will issue a comprehensive briefing before the next round of FfD negotiations in New York.

The central point of the SDSN is that each area has its own unique mix of public and private as well as domestic and international financing. Addis needs to address these specificities to avoid that the very large headline needs of trillions of US$ drown out a clear understanding of the billions needed in key SDG areas. So while the world may need trillions in aggregate financing, Addis must squarely focus on how to mobilize the billions required in each area.

The combination of announcing eminently feasible and newsworthy initiatives, updating the core principles of the Monterrey Consensus, and establishing a clear understanding of the financing needs would create the positive momentum needed for a successful implementation of the SDGs and a strong climate agreement in Paris. The SDSN is ready to help in any way possible, and we hope that governments will use the remaining time to July to flesh out these and other specific deliverables. In this way Addis will become the historic success the world urgently needs.


This article originally appeared on the UN Financing for Development website