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Sommet "Building Bridges"

Tatiana Valovaya

10 octobre 2019
Sommet "Building Bridges"

Building Bridges Summit
Remarks by Ms. Tatiana Valovaya
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva

President of the Swiss Confederation
Business executives,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to be with you this morning for the Building Bridges Summit. Today’s event marks the culmination of a concerted effort which demonstrates that, in Geneva and in Switzerland, stakeholders are coming together to commit to action on the SDGs through sustainable finance.
Geneva embodies a unique ecosystem and a model of inclusive multilateralism. It has a long history in forging the international governance system. This year we are celebrating 100 years of multilateralism, and this city is more than ever the place where multilateralism is alive and showing results.

Geneva is home to nearly 40 UN and other international organizations that play an essential role in setting global norms, standards and aspirations.

These organizations work alongside 181 permanent missions, over 400 nongovernmental organizations, as well as a significant number of academic institutions, think tanks, policy bodies, foundations and other entities.

Geneva is also renowned as a global financial centre and a hub for private wealth management. The city’s financial reputation is known to everyone on the world stage.

It is therefore very fitting that we gather to talk about the future of sustainable finance and how we, here in Switzerland, can drive the financial revolution that is congruent with the future we want.

It has been a long-standing priority for the United Nations Office at Geneva to build stronger linkages and collaboration among the city’s international development and financial sectors—two communities that are located close to each other, geographically speaking, yet often live in worlds apart.

Part of the challenge in the past was a missing keystone—that is, a universal agenda or platform that would serve all partners and drive them to act in unison towards common objectives.

That was then. Today, we have that unifying element and it is called the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Goals.

These Goals constitute a global political commitment for people, planet and prosperity.
Through this 2030 Agenda, 193 UN Member States have committed to a historic and common roadmap, which includes key objectives such as:

- realizing a low-carbon, climate-smart economy with decent jobs, inclusive growth and shared prosperity;
- ending extreme poverty and hunger;
- achieving equality for women and girls; and
- promoting peaceful and just societies, with respect for human rights at the heart of country-driven actions.

Yet, like many things in life, commitments, goals and principles are only valuable and beneficial if they are acted upon.

Mr. President, excellences, ladies and gentlemen, the UN is committed to working in partnerships all over the world to realize the SDGs. It looks different in every country, community and context.

In Geneva, we have taken action by establishing the SDG Lab two years ago to activate the Geneva and Swiss ecosystem, and beyond, to accelerate results on the SDGs. A first activity of this initiative was to foster stronger cooperation among the Geneva Ecosystem of actors and to build bridges – figurately and literally – as well as to forge unexpected partnerships between the city’s financial and international development communities.

Fast forward to today, this Summit and the Building Bridges Week is an outcome of this effort. The focus of the Building Bridges Week has been on identifying ideas, solutions and approaches to close the financial gap that exists in implementing the Global Goals.

A gap that is conservatively estimated at between US$ 2 to 3 trillion per year. With global wealth exceeding three hundred trillion dollars, financing the SDGs seems small.

There is urgency in closing this gap. Four years have passed since the SDGs were adopted and we are seeing a mixed picture. Progress is uneven. At the current rate, the international community will not reach the SDGs.

Realizing the 2030 vision is something that neither national governments, nor individual companies, nor anyone else can ever hope to accomplish independently.
However, financial institutions and private sector actors can seize upon the tremendous investment prospects that exist in financing sustainable development. The SDGs serve as a genuine market opportunity.
Because of their widespread adoption, the Goals indicate where societies are going – and intend to go – and where markets will be active in the not-so-distant future.

Mr. President, excellences, ladies and gentlemen, many of you in the room are business leaders. You know as well as I do that sustainable business is good business. You are fully aware that your clients are already seeking sustainable investments.

With millennials forecasted to constitute the largest segment in the investor community, such demand for high-impact investments will only increase. We are seeing promising signs from the wider finance community. The most agile actors in the financial markets are integrating sustainability into their portfolios. Similarly, investors, insurers and stock exchanges have adopted social responsibility and sustainable principles.

As you are aware, last month at UN Headquarters, the Principles for Responsible Banking – an initiative born in Geneva – were adopted by a group of 130 banks, committing their sector to sustainable business practices. Several other financial institutions have started to implement the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure.
While these and other actions are moving the dial in the right direction, we are not doing enough jointly to change our mindsets and behaviours and to see the opportunities in channelling additional finance towards the SDGs.

What can be done? Clearly, financing is the test of our collective seriousness for delivering on the SDGs by 2030. Business as usual is not going to last. It might continue in the short term and, in certain sectors, in the medium term. But the moment is now for companies and investors to take a long-term view at the solutions that will address the existential problems that we are up against.
We need to see greater investment in the green economy, not the grey economy. Place our bets on climate action and disinvest from fossil fuels and brown energy industries.

Make more loans available for women-owned businesses and support small- and medium-sized enterprises because they are the lifeblood of the economy. And work to build bridges with the UN system, NGOs and governments to pioneer new financial instruments that deliver sustainable returns and development outcomes.

Mr. President, excellences, executives, ladies and gentlemen, there is more than US$ 200 trillion in private capital invested in global financial markets, often at negligible rates of return, some even negative rates of return. These funds can be directed towards more productive sustainable investment projects.

In Geneva, we are doing our best to walk the talk and to show that building bridges may start with this week, but will continue well into the future with real, tangible action. Promising, Geneva-grown initiatives like the Pipeline Builder and the Swiss Blended Finance Centre are examples of prototypes that bring together the finance and international development communities to deliver investable SDG projects and financing to scale.

Initiatives like these and the Week and today’s Summit are crucial because, not only do they foster mutual understanding between our two very different worlds, but they also build trust that is fundamentally important for ongoing, sustained partnership in the SDG era.

It is my belief that here in Geneva we can develop a cadre of professionals who can navigate seamlessly between the financial and international development sectors. Actors who possess the knowledge and expertise to make a difference for finance and for development.

Banks and international organizations, alike, are challenged in finding the right talent who fully understand impact investments and know how to generate a bottom line that serves both the investor and the Global Goals.

Mr. President, excellences, ladies and gentlemen, my hope is to see the ideas, solutions and connections established this week carried forward and amplified to solidify Switzerland’s contribution to the 2030 Agenda.

We want to make this Week an annual event and use it as a litmus test on our efforts to collaboratively build a financial system that is aligned to the SDGs.

We are entering a decade of action to deliver the Goals by 2030. There is no time to lose. I thank you very much for your attendance, for your commitment and for the vital role that you and your institutions are playing to deliver long-term sustainable development.

I look forward to building bridges with you.