Speeches & Transcripts

Speech by World Bank Group Senior Vice President Mahmoud Mohieldin on "Unlocking Means of Implementation for the SDGS and Creating an Enabling Environment"

July 18, 2016

Mahmoud Mohieldin, Senior Vice President for the 2030 Development Agenda, UN Relation and Partnerships UN High-Level Political Forum Ministerial

As Prepared for Delivery

The challenges we face in achieving the SDGs are immense.

Today 700 million people still live in extreme poverty. This is morally unacceptable, and unsustainable along multiple dimensions.

The Sustainable Development Goals provide a clear global mandate to address poverty, and at the World Bank Group, we are guided by two goals: to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity.

Reaching these goals will require structural changes, key investments in physical and human capital, and the unleashing of private sector capacity. These kinds of changes can be tremendously difficult, but if we are end poverty and boost shared prosperity in every country, then we must begin that work today.

Certainly, it will require more official development assistance -- especially in the poorest and most fragile countries -- but it will also require deep reforms that draw private sector investment and unlock the potential of local entrepreneurs and create good jobs.

The most daunting challenges of the future will not be confined within national borders. They will spill over these boundaries and affect all of us, unless we take collective action.

Global public threats -- like climate change, antimicrobial resistance, pandemics, forced displacement -- these affect all of us and require us to work together to solve them and improve our collective quality of life and economic security. If we don’t address them, then many millions of people will be trapped in poverty, and millions more will fall back into it -- and some will express their frustration in frightening ways.

We will have to address these challenges in the context of a sluggish and uncertain global economy, leaving us with constrained resources, possibly affecting flows of trade and investment. Other factors include globalization and urbanization, current climate impacts, or fragility. By 2030, an estimated 62 percent of the global poor will live in fragile and conflict-affected situations, jeopardizing the “leave no one behind” commitment.  These challenges have weakened confidence in institutions, testing our resolve and our capacity to respond. 

Growth itself is not enough. To assure the political support needed to enact challenging reforms, which sometimes require years to bear fruit, people must share in the benefits of a growing economy. If not, they will reject reforms that lead to national growth, and will turn away from the shared sacrifice needed to address global public threats that affect us all.

As the Bank Group worked with our UN colleagues and other partners to try to accelerate progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals, we learned that there are three interrelated elements for successful implementation of these national and global goals: good data, solid financing, and skillful delivery.  


To achieve the 2030 Development agenda, we need a more rigorous and systematic approach on improving data. We need better data to diagnose problems, design policies and programs for local conditions, monitor progress, make mid-course adjustments, and scale up the approaches that work. The data and research has to be accessible, useable, and relevant to government policymakers and development practitioners.

Good data is a precondition for meaningful conversations about country ownership of the SDGs -- across all ministries -- to ensure coherence of policy design and monitoring across all 17 SDGs. We also need better coordination among international organizations, the UN, and other implementing agencies. Promoting greater alignment of agency programs around identified priorities can improve implementation. Sharing knowledge across countries can help unlock new solutions, while using data to allocate resources efficiently to high-impact programs helps ensure that public expenditures are wisely spent.

The Bank Group is strengthening household data surveys to improve targeted policymaking.  Poverty-fighting efforts have been constrained by a lack of data in many countries. We have identified 57 countries which conducted only one or zero poverty surveys between 2002 and 2011.  We are committed to undertake a household survey every three years in the 78 poorest country, by 2020.

We’re supporting universal civil registration of births, deaths, and other vital events through the new Global Financing Facility in support of Every Woman Every Child. About $100 million will be committed to achieve a target of reporting causes of death and providing legal proof of registration for all by 2030.  We are also committed to improving data accessibility and analytics in support of tracking progress on the SDGs. We have aligned our own internal Corporate Scorecard with the SDGs and are working towards greater harmonization with the Results Measurement System for our fund for the poorest nations, IDA.

Since the adoption of the MDGs, over 80 World Bank Group countries have benefited from our technical and financial support to improve production of key statistics. To measure the status of statistical capacity in each country, the Bank Group has developed an index to track a country’s status and progress over time. In 1999, the average for our borrowing countries was 54 out of a possible 100 points while in 2014, the average increased to 68. The WBG is committed to support these efforts.

Our own World Development Indicators and the Global Monitoring report will help to inform global reporting and data for the SDGs, in alignment with the UN statistical commission.  And the World Bank Group is core partner for the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development data and will support its work.


Official development assistance (ODA) is still important, especially for the poorest nations, but it’s not enough to reach the SDGs. As part of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the multilateral development banks (MDBs) agreed to a collective mobilization of $400 billion over a 3-year period.  Even that amount falls far short.

Going forward we need to leverage scarce ODA to meet the SDG targets.  Key actions include the mobilization of domestic resources, reduction of illicit financial flows, and provision of policy advice to help countries attract private investment. We estimate that developing countries could increase domestic resource mobilization anywhere from 2 percent to 4 percent of their GDP. The World Bank Group is partnering with the IMF to help countries on tax administration, while IFC and MIGA are working to leverage scarce ODA to attract private sector capital, and to de-risk investments.  And of course, financing can also help nations shift policies, for instance toward renewables and away from coal and other fossil fuels.

IDA, our fund for the poorest, embodies a commitment to the core tenants of the 2030 agenda, including the humanitarian-development nexus, climate change, fragility, and identifying smarter financing through partnerships between the public, private and CSO sectors.  As part of our 3-year IDA replenishment (IDA 18) our focus areas also include investment in inclusive societies; short and long-term climate risks; severe shocks and crises; and gender equality -- all SDG priorities.  IDA has catalyzed and developed a greater focus on data-driven approaches and will expand the use of spatial mapping and spatial data analysis to assess job dynamics, urbanization trends, and infrastructure impacts.  IDA also leverages public and private money to stretch ODA.

This year, in response to two critical global challenges, the World Bank Group established the MENA Financing Facility which is unlocking financing for support to refugee hosting communities across Lebanon and Jordan. In addition, this year, the Bank Group, in partnership with the MDBs, the UN the G20 and others, helped to deliver the first Global Infrastructure Forum where support for increased financing and strengthened capacity for creating “deliverable projects” was discussed.


We need to build a shared commitment to the 2030 Development Agenda at the country level. At the same time, we need to help countries leverage global partnerships to deliver on these commitments. Existing partnerships must be strengthened, new partnerships must be formed -- and the private sector must be an integral part of these new arrangements.   Our approach should be to move further upstream and tackle threats at their source, especially those that that affect the entire planet.  We also need to manage risk and uncertainty, while scaling up support for innovative social protection programs for those just above or close to the poverty line.

One example of a new partnership is the Pandemic Emergency Facility (or PEF). The World Bank Group, along with the World Health Organization and many other partners, created the PEF, which will use pre-arranged public and private financing -- including resources from insurance and capital markets -- to prevent a severe outbreak from becoming a more deadly and costly pandemic.

At a recent meeting I attended in Colombia about the first 1000 days of SDG implementation, participants noted a need for greater awareness of the goals; the right incentives for different actors, in particular the private sector; and more learning from experiences of early implementation, including south-south cooperation and “twining” technical experts with countries who need their help, work in which the Bank Group is already engaged.

The Bank Group’s The Global Delivery Initiative (GDI) is focused on creating partnerships among international development practitioners, implementing agencies, NGOs, academia, and private sector to identify what interventions have been successful in overcoming challenges and barriers for development implementation. GDI is working on connecting technical know-how with the right delivery challenges to have a better impact on policy design and implementation. Supporting this effort is a “Trajectories” tool which benchmarks and identifies the ability of countries, based on current levels of performance, to achieve, under-achieve, or over-achieve their SDG targets. We have already done this work with 11 countries and will be working in more nations this coming year.

The World Bank Group is taking these experiences and lessons seriously and is reflecting on them in our operations and support for the 2030 agenda. In addition to the elements I’ve already mentioned, we are more closely integrating SDGs into our engagement with our client countries and partners.

One way we’re integrating this work on the SDGs is through our engagement with client countries on their national planning. We use a data-rich country diagnostic tools as we participate in country-led dialogue on partnership agreements with countries. As we build our joint workplans for several years ahead, the SDGs will be a regular part of this conversation.

Our newly established global practices and cross-cutting solution areas roughly align with many of the 17 SDGs, representing deep knowledge and experience in virtually every cross-sectoral area.

Working together, we can help nations meet their national SDG goals, and we can build more durable global public goods to address long-term problems such as climate change, fragility, pandemics, and stunting.

Yet each of these require greater focus on the right financing, data, and delivery, partnering in a more systematic way.  And we need to act immediately, if we are to have an impact by 2030, and if we truly want to build a world that is more just, prosperous, and secure.