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UNCTAD’s SDG Investment Trends Monitor

By Gaia Gallotti

In a recent publication, the UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) revealed interesting updates on the latest trends in SDG investments and on the investment gap in developing countries.

The SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), adopted by the United Nations in 2015, are a set of common objectives, shared by developed and developing countries and created as a call for action by all countries in a global partnership to address pressing issues such as poverty, hunger, inequality across different areas and climate change. They’ve been at the frontlines of every country’s national and international efforts since 2015 and investment trends have always been rather stable, but new insights on recent changes show a change of pace.

According to the UNCTAD, SDG investments underwent significant growth in 2022, but have been generally stagnant since the adoption of SDGs. Developing countries have invested in many international projects pertaining to sectors aligned with SDGs, causing a 15% upturn in 2022, but this growth has been proved to be uneven: some SDG sectors only showed slow progress, while others were affected by stagnation and even negative trends in LDCs (Least Developed Countries, -9%).

Despite many positive results, the report states that during the first half of 2023, the number of SDG-related projects in developing countries has fallen by 7%, causing the annual SDG investment gap to widen from $2.5 trillion in 2015 to $4 trillion today. The report reveals that since 2015 there have been shortfalls which are one of the main causes for the SDG investment gap increase, along with the impact of global challenges such as the 2020 Covid pandemic and the food, fuel, and finance crises. Notably, the energy transition is responsible for more than half of today’s gap, which is approximately $2,2 trillion.

To raise awareness on these issues, the UNCTAD is preparing its 8th World Investment Forum, scheduled from 16th to 20th October in Abu Dhabi, which will mainly focus on policy action to boost SDG investment. The main theme, “Investing in Sustainable Development”, highlights the need for key investment challenges. The event will feature over 6,000 guests, including leading CEOs, heads of State, Ministers, sustainable finance and investment experts and other stakeholders.

The forum will consist of many summits, three ministerial meetings and over 130 thematic events concerning today’s biggest global challenges, from food security, energetic transition, universal healthcare supply chain resilience and productive capacity growth, especially in developing countries. Additionally, the event will take place right before COP28 in the same location, offering an opportunity for essential input on climate finance and investment that will directly fuel COP negotiations.

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