Agenda 2030 in Latin America and the Caribbean: So Close yet So Far

September 29, 2023

In 2015, the United Nations established 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by 2030, which are shaping global development agendas. We are currently approaching the final stretch of this journey, one that in Latin America and the Caribbean is filled with challenges and opportunities. 

With the aim of reviewing the progress of what is also known as the 2030 Agenda, the SDG Summit took place during the 78th UN General Assembly (UNGA78) on September 18th and 19th, 2023. Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the UN, issued a call to urgently advance the SDGs by mobilizing $500 billion annually to change the course that, without a change of direction, will not allow us to reach our goals. 

Despite its abundance of natural resources and cultural wealth, Latin America and the Caribbean face significant challenges in their pursuit of sustainable and inclusive development that improves the quality of life for their inhabitants. Our region is characterized by marked wealth inequality, a productivity gap linked to high levels of informality, growing polarization hindering consensus building, and high vulnerability to extreme natural phenomena and other effects of climate change. 

The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis have caused setbacks in various indicators related to the 17 SDGs. At the beginning of 2023, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) warned that only a third of the SDGs were on track to be achieved by 2030. The SDGs related to eradicating poverty (SDG 1), reducing inequalities (SDG 10), sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11), climate action (SDG 13), and promoting peace, justice, and strong institutions (SDG 16) were among the most delayed. 

In light of this situation, changing course to meet the goals set by the 193 UN member countries in 2015 requires strengthening multilateralism and adapting the global financial architecture to respond more effectively and swiftly to the needs of sustainable development in the region. 

It is essential to enhance the crucial role played by development banks in achieving these objectives, both in terms of resource mobilization and technical support on development issues. Latin America and the Caribbean, with an increasing number of countries classified as middle or high income, must develop innovative and impact-oriented financial instruments. Additionally, development banks must play a key role in building partnerships, whether with United Nations agencies and programs, the private sector, civil society, or other multilateral organizations, to avoid duplication of efforts and seek complementarities. Finally, it is necessary to continue working on implementing measures to ensure greater transparency and effective accountability, requirements for the legitimacy and efficiency of our actions as well as for mobilizing third-party resources. 

The SDGs provide a necessary framework for addressing the challenges faced by Latin America and the Caribbean. To achieve these goals, substantial investment in projects and programs that promote sustainable development is required, but that alone is not enough. It is also essential to invest in the production, analysis, dissemination, and use of data to measure progress and make evidence-based decisions in public policy formulation. Unfortunately, many countries in the region, especially in the Caribbean, lack reliable data, making it difficult to accurately monitor progress and setbacks. 

As we reach the halfway point toward 2030, we have a great responsibility to coordinate efforts to maximize the impact of investments in sustainable and inclusive development projects and programs. CAF, in particular, has strengthened its coordination with the United Nations system in recent years, signing more than 45 agreements with over 22 UN agencies and programs, resulting in effective cooperation for our countries. For example, in collaboration with UNDP during UNGA78, we launched a program to support our region in strengthening governance. We are working with PAHO on improving health service networks, and with UNICEF, we are working on early childhood protection in Panama. This demonstrates our commitment to working together to address development challenges that cannot be solved in isolation. 

Therefore, it is necessary to accelerate collective efforts to reach 2030 with results that meet expectations, in line with the "action-oriented" declaration adopted during the SDG Summit. We must strengthen the means for implementation, particularly in financing for development, by massively investing in just and equitable energy, food, digital transitions, and transformation in education, as well as robust social protection in our countries. Otherwise, the goals will not be met. 

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Patricio Scaff
Patricio Scaff

Ejecutivo Principal