Nicholas Rosellini is the UN resident coordinator and UNDP resident representative in China.
Our world is still facing major challenges. While great strides have been made in reducing extreme poverty, social progress and environmental sustainability are threatened by rising inequality and climate change. To find solutions for these challenges, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was designed to engage all countries to collectively take action; it is a pledge made by all for all.
Yet the needs to finance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development on the global scale are staggering; in Asia-Pacific alone, the total required for infrastructure is $8.3 trillion between 2010 and 2020, or $750 billion per year. A key challenge in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals is to allocate public resources and catalyze private investments in ways that are aligned with the SDGs－in essence all available resources need to be aligned to meet the SDGs.
While much of this financing is expected from government revenues, foreign direct investment (FDI) will play an increasingly important role. The latest data from the UN Conference on Trade and Development show that, in 2017, against the declining FDI flows to most developed countries, FDI to the developing world was on the rise. China's Belt and Road Initiative, given its massive investments and financing flows, can potentially unlock the resources needed. It's our responsibility to do more by exploring how these investments can trigger or support "accelerators" for achieving SDGs.
Originally intended to generate new trade and investment opportunities and boost economic development, the Belt and Road Initiative can be a powerful platform for resource mobilization and integration. Importantly, it can also fill in the financial shortages and development needs in under-invested countries with the enormous financial and political backing from China and other countries.
The Belt and Road Initiative's pathway to success, however, is not without challenges for China and the countries engaging the initiative. It is important to recognize that investors and countries along the Belt and Road are still exposed to financial risks and liabilities, project failures, increasing public debt, and a lack of capacity and transparency. The Belt and Road Initiative and the SDGs can and should be mutually reinforcing, yet this needs a blended approach, combining economic outcomes with human development, keeping in line with the needs of a receiving country's priorities to reduce these financial risks.
Innovative solutions for financial cooperation, mitigation of investment risks and long-term stability in capital flows must be actively implemented and aligned with inclusive and sustainable outcomes to leverage opportunities and effectively promote a new sustainable growth engine; and it is one in which the private sector plays a key role.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently affirmed that inspired business leaders are crucially needed to succeed with shaping an inclusive and especially sustainable economy. Indeed, the business community acts as the backbone of the Belt and Road Initiative－not only bridging the funding gap needed to achieve the SDGs, but also as catalyzers for positive development impact.
The private sector has the capacity and the responsibility to build green infrastructure in partner countries along the Belt and Road through their investments. Chinese and international enterprises can contribute significantly to the efforts of the countries along the two routes to move toward low-carbon economies, while creating decent jobs and livelihoods, and improving health and education of the people.
In addition, cities along the Belt and Road can enhance their connectivity and sustainability by creating a cooperation network that capitalizes on their complementarities and synergies. A promising example is the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, comprising nine cities in Guangdong province and two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao, which is to be a catalyst for the Belt and Road Initiative. This is one reason the 2018 High Level Policy Forum and Business Dialogue will be held in Guangzhou, the center of the GBA, on Thursday and Friday. Cities, hubs and metropolitan areas play a key role in creating regional connectivity, in strengthening cooperation networks and in seeking innovation and will be, therefore, crucial in the advancement of sustainable development.
Forming strong partnerships and building capacity is the core of successful implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative and the SDGs. As a long-term partner with an extensive global network and expertise, and through tangible exchanges and a strong network among stakeholders, the UN Development Programme hopes to further strengthen the Belt and Road Initiative as a powerful platform for economic growth and regional cooperation to effectively use resources for the long-term implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Published in China Daily