Embracing the Business of Development

9/29/2015
Stanford Social Innovation Review

After years of diplomatic wrangling, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have become gospel for next 15 years. There’s no doubting their high ambition, with 17 main goals and no fewer than 169 subsidiary targets. But these lofty aims seem little more than a dream unless we answer one fundamental question: Where’s the money coming from?

Financing the SDGs is quite literally a “trillion-dollar question.” Yet the best the Addis Ababa Summit (where government leaders met to discuss financing of the SDGs) could do was reiterate a 40-year-old demand: that the West follow through on its 0.7 percent (of gross national income) commitment for aid!

That is looking in the wrong direction. The problem with public aid and philanthropy-based development isn’t just that there’s not enough money (that problem itself is worsening after the global financial crises); it’s that the development sector is wasteful, and worse, doesn’t replenish its own pot.

Some answers lie buried in the last goal on the list—number 17 if you’re still counting: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development. This may seem like a wooly idea, but it will make or break the other 16 goals.

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