SDG Financing

Promote long-term investment frameworks for the SDGs

Financing the Sustainable Development Goals


The SDGs call for major societal transformations that require significant fiscal outlays as well as private investments. They are first and foremost a public investment program in core energy and transport infrastructure, but also for digital connectivity, water and sanitation, health, education and the environment. In collaboration with UNDP, the IMF, the OECD and other key partners, the SDG Transformation Center’s work on SDG financing has four major objectives:

  1. Assess SDG financing gaps globally and for specific countries and country groups.
  2. Explore financing pathways and mechanisms to complement domestic resource mobilization in support of the SDG Stimulus and reforms of the Global Financial Architecture (ODA, blended finance, MDBs/PDBs, FDI, private sector, commercial credit risk ratings, Green/SDG Bonds etc.).
  3. Support countries’ efforts to develop long-term budget frameworks aligned with the SDGs.
  4. Provide recommendations to share fairly and globally the burden of financing for human-induced adaptation and L&D costs among responsible countries.

Our work

Long-term investment plans are essential for national success in achieving sustainable development. Economic development is a high-return activity. High-priority investments in developing countries – whether for electrification, water and sanitation, public transport, or schooling – have economic returns far above the cost of capital. Yet sovereign borrowers in the emerging economies are often in a bind. They face very poor credit ratings and very high borrowing costs. The result is that they are unable to finance essential capital needs and their sustainable development is starkly impeded.

Careful research by the SDSN and the International Monetary Fund have revealed the very large financing gap facing the nations in the poorer half of the world.

Through our work we emphasize the need for increased access to financing in developing countries (a) at long maturities and low interest rates; (b) directed at high-return activities including education, health, and infrastructure. We work with UN agencies, the OECD, Multilateral Development Banks and other key partners to unlock SDG financing. We also work with countries to channel larger funds into long-term sustainable development which requires sound long-term budget and investment frameworks. In our work, we also provide special analyses and support to countries that are structurally vulnerable, including Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which face particular SDG financing, implementation and data challenges.

We seek to increase our engagement with global, national and local stakeholders, including the private sector, to scale-up and align international financial flows to SDG needs and commitments.

If you want to learn more about SDG Financing, please contact our experts: Isabella Massa

Our most relevant publications

Policy Paper

New SDSN paper - Adaptation, Loss and Damage: A Global Climate Impact Fund for Climate Justice

Ahead of COP28, a new paper by Jeffrey Sachs, Isabella Massa, Simona Marinescu, Samory Toure and Guillaume Lafortune investigates increasing climate costs triggered by human-induced climate change. The authors argue that increased funding for adaptation and loss and damages, particularly for SIDS, must go hand-in-hand with long-term resilience and sustainable development pathways.

Policy Paper

The Case for Long-Term SDG Financing

This paper underlines four priorities to scale-up and align global financing flows for the SDGs: (i) Reform of the Global Financial Architecture, notably by expanding funding from Multilateral Development Banks and Public Development Banks; (ii) More and better targeted Official Development Assistance ; (iii) Revised sovereign credit ratings that consider the long-term growth potential of SDG investments and (iv) Long-term investment planning, fiscal frameworks, project implementation, financial operations, and relations with partner institutions in developing countries, in order to be able to channel much larger funds into long-term sustainable development.

Policy Paper

SDG financing needs an urgent global reboot

At the mid-point on the way to 2030, SDG financing is under pressure and unevenly distributed across areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet. This article discusses some of the steps needed to close the SDG financing gap and enhance SDG investment effectiveness, including reforms of the global finance system, and more targeted financing solutions.

Policy Paper

Vulnerability and SDG Financing Gaps Chapter, Global Solutions Journal - Issue 9, p. 188 - 198

In the Global Solutions Journal, SDSN sheds light on how the lack of enough public spending is among the main reasons why the SDG Agenda is far off-track around the world, and especially in highly vulnerable countries. In the latter, financial resources to cover the total financing needed to achieve the SDGs are far beyond what countries can generate from their own domestic resources. Traditional and innovative targeted financing mechanisms considering countries’ specific vulnerabilities should be facilitated.

Policy Paper

Adaptation, Loss and Damage: the Case for Climate Justice

Based on an extensive survey of the literature and original analysis of climate data, the paper provides a pilot conceptual and methodological framework for assessing adaptation and loss and damage (L&D) costs. It makes an initial attempt to frame a new dedicated Global Climate Impact Fund that shares - fairly and globally - the burden of financing for human-induced adaptation and L&D costs among responsible countries. The paper contributed to discussions at COP27 in Egypt.

Policy Paper

The Decade of Action and Small Island Developing States: Measuring and addressing SIDS’ vulnerabilities to accelerate SDG progress

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) face a unique set of structural vulnerabilities that hinder their development progress. To support the UN effort to develop a sound and robust Multidimensional Vulnerability Index (MVI), this Working Paper presents a new pilot framework to measure the degree of structural vulnerability of different countries and country groups, and to assess the relationship between structural vulnerability and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Learn more about SDSN's reports, publications and data visualizations in our library