This week the Secretariat released the approved Framework Document which provides the basic building blocks that will underpin the work of the Task Force. Developed in collaboration between co-chairs Achim Steiner and Maria Ramos, their sherpas Simon Zadek and Tim Kiy (respectively), and Secretariat director Tillman Bruett, the Framework Document reflects the priorities identified during the January 23 Inaugural Meeting in Davos and follow-up consultations with individual members. Read the whole thing here; read below for a summary of
- what we’re doing
- how we’re doing it
- why it matters
- what happens now
What we’re doing
The Task Force will work across all 17 SDGs, but our work will benefit from a deeper focus on a smaller subset. FIve themes have been selected for that in-depth focus.
Theme #1. Climate change. Financing for responses to climate change will be a major focus of the High-Level Summit on Financing and the Climate Summit, both of which take place in September under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General’s office.
Theme #2. Affordable and clean energy.Some of the most interesting experiments already underway, such as PAYGO models for solar and clean cookstoves, involve this area. But to achieve scale, there is a gap that must be closed between retail-level innovations and the national and capital markets.
Theme #3. Gender equality.This is both an SDG in itself and an enabler of all the others. It presents the Task Force with an opportunity to explore gender-lens investing and also the risks of an intensified gender digital divide as the pace of digital financing accelerates.
Theme #4. Decent work and economic growth. Like gender equality, this is an SDG of its own and an enabler of the others. It offers one of the most direct routes to ensuring that the digitalization of finance is understood in the broader context of the changing global economy.
Theme #5. Migrants and refugees.More than 65 million people—the highest figure since the end of World War II—are living as cross-border refugees or internally displaced persons. A Task Force focus on this theme would support the newly established global compacts on refugees and feed into their work at the intergovernmental level. This theme also has cross-cutting potential since remittance flows related to refugee status increasingly support SDGs across developing countries.
How we’re doing it
For each of the selected themes, the Task Force will answer four key questions:
- What’s happening now. What is the current experience in harnessing the digitalization of finance in this theme?
- Where is the opportunityfor digitalization of finance to make maximum impact?
- What are the barriersto realizing the opportunities, and how can those barriers be removed?
- Who needs to do what—with a special focus on the United Nations—to remove the barriers and seize the opportunities?
Why we’re doing it
As the Task Force discussed in Davos (and in the Accenture-led discovery interviews prior to Davos), recent innovations offer tantalizing glimpses of ways the digitalization of finance can advance the Sustainable Development Goals. Mobile payment systems, artificial intelligence, big data, and blockchain are all being deployed, for example, to accelerate financing for small and medium enterprise, catalyze uptake of clean energy solutions, improve the carbon profile of the built environment, and advance other SDG-linked goals.
The issue is scale and speed.With a few notable exceptions (see related story on Ant Forest)such innovations remain small scale. If the world is to achieve the SDGs by the 2030 deadline, the positive effects of the digitalization of finance must be scaled up, and rapidly. The downsides must be understood and mitigated too.
What happens now
Along with the power of its diverse membership of global leaders from different sectors, the other great strength of the Task Force is the value of its networks. The Task Force serves as a global platform to “crowd in” the best thinking and to “push out” that thinking to new audiences. The next step is to intensify the “crowding in” function of research and ideas aligned to our Framework.
Base Research. Accenture Development Partnerships is finalizing its research on the current state-of-play of digital financing linked to the SDGs, the key opportunities and major barriers, and the priority areas for further action.
Call for Contributions.We’re issuing an open, public invitation for contributions to be made on any aspect of the Task Force’s work, taking the framework into account. We’re also targeting specific individuals, institutions, and groups based on their expertise or perspectives.
The research and other contributions will be complemented and stress-tested via:
Sherpa Committee: Task Force member-appointed sherpas (subject matter experts) who will review, comment on, and guide the work.
Technical Network: A group of outside technical experts who provide peer review for knowledge generated and proposals considered.