The reform of the international global financial architecture is one of the highest issues on the G20 agenda since many of the low-income and lower-middle-income countries lack adequate access to low-cost, long-term financing to achieve SDGs
Arguably one of the most influential economists of our times, Jeffrey D Sachs was a star speaker at the just concluded World Sustainable Development Summit (WSDS) organised by TERI. A Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Advocate for the United Nations, he has made significant contributions in the fields of sustainable development, economic development and the fight to end poverty. Recognised amongst the top three most influential living economists globally by The Economist and amongst the 100 most influential world leaders by the Time, he has been also a contender for the Nobel prize several times. He is also a recipient of Padma Bhushan by the government of India. In an exclusive interview with Rajiv Tikoo and Naina Gautam, Sachs talks about the progress on SDGs and how to accelerate the progress to achieve them. Excerpts:
How important is TERI’s WSDS from a global point of view?
The WSDS, now more than 20 years running, has been a formative global event from the start. It has played four core roles. First, it has mobilised India’s remarkable effort for sustainable development, which are now in full swing. Second, it has brought a remarkable group of leaders together each year for brainstorming, and exchange of ideas. Third, it has highlighted emerging technical, especially India’s digital technologies, as scalable solutions. Fourth, it has prepared the way for India’s global leadership in sustainable development, as exemplified by this year’s presidency of the G20.
India is holding the G20 presidency. COP28 is in the UAE. How can these two opportunities be leveraged in furthering the voice of the global south on unresolved issues on climate action?
We are moving in these years from a North-Atlantic-led world to an emerging-economy led world. The BRICS are now larger in annual output than the G7 countries (with GDP measured in purchasing power terms, as per the IMF). The new geopolitics is now multipolar, not unipolar. The idea of a “US-led” world, much believed in by Washington, is out of date. The world now is led by India, China, the US, Europe, African Union, ASEAN, Brazil, and so forth, that is, truly a multipolar world, with multi-regional diplomacy and cooperation needed to solve crucial global problems.
How do you assess the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing Ukraine war on the achievement of SDGs by 2030 and what are your observations about India’s progress on SDGs?
The pandemic and the war have been major setbacks. We are far off track to achieve the SDGs. Nonetheless, despite the heavy shocks, we can say that India, Africa, and East Asia have continued with very robust growth. This is a good sign for the emerging economies. The key, now, is to ensure that the SDGs can be financed on reasonable terms for all countries, even the poor countries. The reform of the international global financial architecture is, therefore, one of the highest issues on the G20 agenda, since currently, many of the low-income and lower-middle-income countries lack adequate access to low-cost, long-term financing to achieve the SDGs.
How detrimental is going to be the impact of new challenges like growing protectionism and carbon border tax on achievement of SDGs globally?
The biggest obstacle to sustainable development is the war in Ukraine and the geopolitical tensions between the US and China. The key message of the G20 should indeed be “one Earth, one family, one future,” in line with India’s great wisdom of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. With that wisdom, the war in Ukraine can end at the negotiating table rather than the battlefield, and the tensions among the great powers can be decisively reduced.