Davos Agenda

SDIM23: 5 leaders share their hopes for progress on the SDGs

The World Economic Forum convened world leaders at the Sustainable Development Impact Meetings in New York to discuss how to accelerate progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The World Economic Forum convened world leaders at the Sustainable Development Impact Meetings in New York to discuss how to accelerate progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Image: Unsplash/Toomas Tartes

Kate Whiting
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Davos Agenda

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  • The World Economic Forum convened world leaders at the Sustainable Development Impact Meetings in New York to discuss how to accelerate progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Leaders from politics, business and civil society expressed hope in humanity that we can tackle global issues and the SDGs together.
  • Here are some of the key takeaways from sessions on topics from food security to health, AI and trust.

At the halfway point towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the world is at a crossroads – the choices we make and the actions we take now will define our future.

António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General this week warned world leaders at the UN General Assembly that "instead of leaving no one behind, we risk leaving the SDGs behind ... the SDGs need a global rescue plan".

Against a backdrop of interconnecting global challenges making progress that much tougher, almost two-thirds of chief economists (61%) surveyed for the World Economic Forum's latest Chief Economists Outlook expect the global economy to weaken in the coming year.

But the majority also expect private capital to be a driver in achieving progress towards some of the SDGs, from digital access to food security.

How economists see private capital helping to drive SDGs.
How economists see private capital helping to drive SDGs. Image: World Economic Forum

The Forum convened global leaders for the Sustainable Development Impact Meetings, a series of impact-driven dialogues on how to accelerate progress towards achieving the UN SDGs.

While the need for greater funding was a key message, leaders from politics, business and civil society also expressed hope in humanity that we can tackle global issues and the SDGs together. Here are some of the key positive takeaways.

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'Entrepreneurs are the solution'

Jacqueline Novogratz is Founder and Chief Executive Officer of not-for-profit Acumen, part of the World Economic Forum's Global Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs. She was speaking at the leadership panel session: Bridging the Gap: Financing Africa's Agricultural Growth.

At the UN General Assembly, the United States Agency for International Development and the government of Norway launched a new multi-donor fund designed to unlock hundreds of millions in financing for so-called agri-SMEs in Africa.

The Financing for Agricultural Small-and-Medium Enterprises in Africa fund has the potential to support 500 agri-SMEs and 1.5 million smallholder farmers, benefiting almost 7.5 million people and supporting around 60,000 private-sector jobs.

'Humans are driving positive change'

Jemilah Mahmood, Executive Director of the solutions-focused Sunway Centre for Planetary Health, Sunway University, in Malaysia, spoke at the session Exploring the Climate and Health Nexus.

Here she advocates a glass-half-full approach and believes it is crucial to share knowledge.

'I'm optimistic about what the future holds'

Mark Gorenberg is the Managing Director of AI investors Zetta Venture Partners. Speaking at a session on Automation and Augmentation: The AI Workforce, he said it's now possible to design drugs using AI to target specific cancers.

'AI can democratize access to opportunities'

Rwanda's Minister of Information Communication Technology and Innovation, Paula Ingabire, also joined the Automation and Augmentation: The AI Workforce session.

She said she was optimistic about the ability of AI to help scale health services that are currently overwhelmed, by helping radiologists identify cancer, for example.

'The SDGs are an enabler of business'

Svein Tore Holsether is President and Chief Executive Officer of fertilizer producers Yara International, which is currently working on creating green hydrogen molecules to produce green ammonia and green fertilizer.

Speaking at the session on Building Sustainable Trust in a Fragmenting World, he said the SDGs are not a barrier to business but can bring huge benefits "if you get it right".

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Davos AgendaSustainable Development
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