How DFC investments are advancing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

By Elizabeth Boggs Davidsen, Vice President, Office of Development Policy

In 2015, the United Nations established an extraordinary set of 17 development goals aimed at dramatically improving the quality of life and future prospects for everyone on the planet. Seeking in part to end poverty and hunger, ensure healthy lives, establish gender equality for women and girls, and provide access to affordable and sustainable energy by 2030, these Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are both broad and ambitious. Launched as a wide-ranging follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals, they serve as a global call to action to transform our world so that people and the planet can thrive.

For the three years leading up to my joining DFC this spring, I led an initiative at the United Nations Development Programme, SDG Impact. Throughout my career in development finance, working primarily on engaging the private sector in development projects, I came to see how crucial it is to measure and document a project’s impact. All participants in a project, from government funders to private investors to staff on the ground, need to know what’s working and why. At SDG Impact, we produced a set of tools that help fund managers, bond issuers, and private companies select areas where they can make a difference, target their interventions for optimal results, and document their impact. Now, I’m hoping to use what I learned at the UN and other international organizations to guide DFC’s efforts to target and evaluate its impact.

For DFC, the 17 SDGs mirror our equally broad mission — to tackle the most critical challenges facing the developing world. As the U.S. Government’s development finance institution, DFC has a critical role to play in advancing the SDGs, as well as a model for mobilizing the immense private investment that these sweeping goals will require. At this year’s UN General Assembly, we are proud to contribute to several initiatives that will advance the Sustainable Development Goals and achieve a meaningful impact in people’s lives.

Expanding vaccine manufacturing. First, in conjunction with Citi, DFC will support critical COVID-19 manufacturing capabilities in the developing world. DFC will provide a risk management solution to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, that will allow it to quickly pre-purchase and distribute up to 2 billion COVID-19 vaccines throughout the developing world. This collaboration will significantly advance SDG 3 — Good Health and Well-Being at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated health challenges around the world.

Increasing food security investments. At the UN Food Systems Summit, DFC also announced our commitment to invest $1 billion in food security and agriculture projects over five years. By providing financing and insurance to our private sector partners, we will make significant progress on SDG 2 — Zero Hunger. This commitment will enable DFC to bolster food security through projects that provide training and essential equipment to the world’s smallholder farmers, boost agricultural production, and strengthen agriculture value chains to reduce food waste.

Addressing the climate crisis. Third, we announced our support for the SDG7 Energy Compact of the United States of America, launched at the UN High Level Dialogue on Energy by Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Kerry. The compact highlights a series of climate-focused initiatives across the U.S. Government to advance SDG 7 — Affordable and Clean Energy. DFC is proud to be part of this compact, with our bold commitments to a portfolio with a one-third climate focus starting in fiscal year 2023 and with net-zero emissions by 2040. With a long-term goal of combatting climate change and boosting DFC’s work in resilience and adaptation, these commitments also advance several SDGs including SDG 11 — Sustainable Cities and Communities, SDG 12 — Responsible Consumption and Production, SDG 13 — Climate Action, SDG 14 — Life Below Water, and SDG 15 — Life on Land.

Increasing our focus on gender equity. Intersecting all these initiatives is DFC’s longstanding commitment to advance gender equity. As DFC works toward mobilizing $12 billion to gender equitable financing that will benefit 15 million women and girls by 2025, we understand that our work to expand access to vaccines, invest in food security, and address the climate crisis will all bring strong benefits to women and girls while delivering tangible progress on SDG 5 — Gender Equality.

By outlining so many seemingly insurmountable obstacles and offering a blueprint forward, the Sustainable Development Goals are both sobering and hopeful. They challenge us to envision a world free of our most intractable problems and suggest that by collaborating on solutions, the international community can make this vision a reality. With strong impact measurement tools in place, we can also demonstrate the real progress we are making toward achieving these goals. As this year’s United Nations General Assembly reminds us all of our shared responsibility, DFC is prepared to play a pivotal role in advancing inclusive and sustainable prosperity across the planet.

U.S. International Development Finance Corporation. Investing in development and advancing U.S. foreign policy. Twitter: @DFCgov