simon zadek

Year of Green Finance (2) – UN

On 6th December in New York, at the residence of Canada’s Permanent Representative to the UN, a new initiative was launched, the ‘Group of Friends on SDG Financing’, co-Chaired by the Canadian and Jamaican Ambassadors. Comprising about 30 Permanent Representatives, the initiative will seek to raise awareness and promote collective action, leveraging the strengths of the United Nations.

The following day, the President of the UN General Assembly, Peter Thomson, hosted a broader meeting of member state representatives on the topic of sustainable finance, and so initiated a stream of events and discussions on the topic under his leadership, building on his visible championing of the topic in the Inquiry’s briefing launched at the time of the General Assembly in September, “Financing Sustainable Development: Moving from Momentum to Transformation in a Time of Turmoil”.

The UN has historically had no role in the evolution of the global financial system, a role set aside for the Bretton Woods institutions and a growing set of specialist international bodies. It is no coincidence that there is no “UN Finance” although the UN has been deeply involved of course in the world of international flows of concessionary finance.

The advent of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate makes this historic separation of roles not simply out of date, but counter-productive. To have some institutions stewards for the SDGs, whilst others responsible for financial system reform and development is not merely a matter of specialization, which of course is needed in complex societies. It allows for divergence as long as they are not guided by a common set of policies and principles. Hence the emphasis placed on the need for ambitious national action that aligns the pursuit of sustainable development and financial system development, argued in the Inquiry’s second global report, “The Financial System We Need: Momentum to Transformation“.

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