Opinion and Editorial

Together, we can make a cleaner world

Habiba Al Mar'ashi
Filed on November 19, 2019 | Last updated on November 19, 2019 at 07.17 pm

The population of the world currently stands at 7.2 billion with 75 million being added each year.

The world is under immense strain owing to multiple issues such as poverty, climate change, conflicts, and rising inequalities. Finding a long-term solution through sustainable development has become the central challenge of our times. Experts predict that these crises will only worsen unless we change course. The population of the world currently stands at 7.2 billion with 75 million being added each year according to the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. According to their projections, the world population will be nine billion by 2040.

The good news is that as the world progresses towards the sustainable development agenda, there are real time solutions and technologies and the know-how needed to tackle the issues plaguing our world. There is a need for concerted, collected, and dedicated efforts to ensure that the coming generations do not have to face extreme poverty, climate change consequences and inequality as threats to their existence. As we enter a new era of increased interconnectedness, where environmental, social and economic issues are not restricted to geographical boundaries, there is a need for fresh, cutting-edge ideas to help usher in the age of sustainable development.

Through my years of experience in promoting sustainability in the Arab region, I believe focusing attention on the interlinking of environmental, social and economic change as well as coming up with a shared image for a future with guaranteed avenues for social inclusion, economic development, and environmental sustainability, is the only approach that'll work. As changing business practices and technologies introduce more opportunities, we must also be vigilant against the new risks and challenges. The only way we can ensure a shared future of prosperity and dignity is if we work together now.

Although there is sufficient financing available for ensuring sustainable development, it is not being channelled at the scale and speed required to ensure that the SDG goals are achieved. According to the World Bank and the Allianz Global Wealth Report 2018, the gross world product and global gross private sector financial assets stand at approximately over $80 trillion and $200 trillion respectively. The UNCTAD World Investment Report 2014 estimates the financing gap needed to achieve the SDGs in developing countries at $2.5-3 trillion per year.

The UN has announced setting up of the Global Investment for Sustainable Development Alliance (GISD) which'll have 30 influential leaders from the corporate world who will be tasked to free up trillions of dollars from the private sector to finance the Sustainable Development Goals. It is a huge honour both personally and for UAE that I have been invited to be a part of this exclusive group of leaders.

Although the developmental financial needs are estimated at trillions of dollars per year, I am confident that there is no shortage of money from the private sector which could be invested in sustainable development. All that is needed is a push in the right direction through a combination of factors such as an enabling policy environment, incentive structures and institutional conditions.

The GISD Alliance is focused on using the expertise of its members towards coming up with solutions to stimulate long term investment in development and speed up progress towards achieving the UN SDGs. I firmly believe that every challenge brings exciting opportunities and solutions. Investing in the UN SDGs makes economic sense as it has been estimated by multiple studies that if the SDG goals are met, $12 trillion of market opportunities along with 380 million new jobs could potentially open up. Furthermore, if actions are taken to mitigate climate change it would result in global savings worth $26 trillion by 2030.

The new multipolar world needs to find solutions. New forms of global governance will need to be enabled and the clock is ticking.

Habiba Al Mar'ashi is President & CEO, Arabia CSR Network

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