SDGs: UN unlocks $54.5m of new funding amid worries of backwards progress during Covid-19

Pictured: People using firewood in Ambovombe

The new funding will be allocated to projects across Kenya, Madagascar and Zimbabwe in Africa, as well as Suriname and North Macedonia. More than 100 nations submitted proposals to the UN for new funding, and the UN has deemed these five as having the “most impactful and impact-ready” proposals.

Funding will be provided in the form of development impact bonds, issued by the Joint SDG Fund from the UN. The fund launched in 2021, initially providing $41m and then a further $17.9.

In Madagascar, the focus will be on SDGs 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) and 13 (Climate Action). The nation will launch a sovereign fund to finance renewable energy projects and expand energy access. Madagascar has considerable hydropower and biomass sectors and is now seeking to expand solar generation. It also needs to rapidly improve energy access; the UNDP estimates that only one in four people in Madagascar have access to electricity.

Similarly, Zimbabwe will use its share of the funding to launch a renewable energy fund, furthering SDGs 7 and 13. As in Madagascar, most renewable energy generation in Zimbabwe is currently from bioenergy. IRENA data shows that, in 2018, there was no supply from wind or solar. Zimbabwe has pledged to use the fund to also further progress on SDG 5, Gender Equality, supporting women into related jobs.

Also working on SDG 7 will be North Macedonia. Funding from the UN will be used to support a new financing facility to help households and businesses improve energy efficiency and self-generate clean energy. This initiative should advance progress towards SDG 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities, as well.

Meanwhile, the government in Suriname will use the funding to support farmers to develop sustainable and climate-resilient supply chains and access additional funding.

Finally, in Kenya, funding will enable the creation of a platform designed to prevent HIV. Kenya is grappling with a generalized HIV epidemic, with UNICEF estimating that more than 111,500 children were living with the virus in 2020.  

Through the Joint SDG Fund, the UN is expecting to unlock $5bn of investment across the 10 countries that have already received a share of funding.

The UN’s Special Envoy on Innovative Finance and Sustainable Investments Hiro Mizuno said the Fund offers “a sustainable investment model by leveraging the power of markets to accelerate businesses, empower communities, and provide a clear path to self-sufficiency”.

The launch of the fund came after the UN’s own annual report on SDG progress in 2021 revealed backwards progress in several areas. That report stated that the pandemic will have pushed at least 83 million additional people into chronic hunger; disrupted routine health services in 90% of countries and hampered gender equality and education.

On environment-related goals, while a reduction in emissions was recorded, the report warned that most national governments were not setting strong enough green recovery policies to lock them in. It also detailed a drop in investment in clean energy in many developing countries, as well as slowed progress in phasing out polluting cooking fuels.

Similarly, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s subsequent annual report showed the first reversal in progress, overall, since the SDGs were adopted in 2015.

Sarah George

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