Countries should remove obstacles to investment and step up collaborative action to ensure that the global recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic is green, inclusive and sustainable, a United Nations forum heard on Monday.
Government officials, business leaders and UN representatives gathered online during the opening summit of the seventh World Investment Forum with the theme of “Investing in sustainable recovery” to address the key challenges facing investors in a post-pandemic world grappling with the looming threat of climate change.
"The first challenge is to mobilise global investment for the UN Sustainable Development Goals: What we need is a broad-based, equitable recovery that runs at the same speed for everyone – no one should be left behind," Abdulla Shahid, president of the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly, said at the forum. "Let us work to ensure that recovery plans and programmes are aligned with SDGs and climate targets at each step of the process."
The 2021 World Investment Forum comes at a critical time for global investment and aims to address the main obstacles facing the investment-for-development community worldwide. Organised by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad), the forum aims to tackle the challenges and opportunities arising from the new industrial revolution, the need for sustainable development and the improvement of economic resilience.
"Recovering from the Covid-19 crisis and building forward better will not be possible without reigniting investment as an engine of growth," said James Zhan, director of the investment and enterprise division at Unctad. "We need a big push for investment in sustainable and inclusive recovery."
The role of the private sector is critical in driving growth, boosting jobs and contributing to sustainable development, according to Mr Shahid.
"Global stimulus packages committed $3.5 trillion of public funds towards a post-pandemic recovery," he said. "While only a tenth is destined for developing countries, the private sector can leverage these funds to multiply the impact 10 times. This will provide one-third of the total investments needed to reach the SDGs."
Sustainability and resilience must be fully ingrained into countries' policies and companies' corporate culture, Mr Shahid said. Foregoing this could expose them to further risks in the future, more debt and more setbacks.
"A focus on sustainability and resilience will fundamentally and strategically change how countries, companies and communities think about competitiveness and investment opportunities," the UN official said.
The global investment community must remobilise investment, channel it into SDG sectors, particularly in poverty ridden countries, and redouble efforts to ensure that it generates sustainable development, executives at the forum said.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been particularly devastating for women, the poor and vulnerable groups, Amina Mohammed, deputy secretary general of the UN, said.
"As investors you have enormous leverage on our future," she told the forum, adding that without bold action, the impact on economies will be devastating.
Many developing economies are in a "spiral of financial distress" as they face higher borrowing costs and are forced to divert funds from public spending into servicing debt, Ms Mohammed said.
"The future must be inclusive, just, prosperous and sustainable," she said.
Bill Winters, chief executive of Standard Chartered, said that the global economic backdrop is "encouraging" with a strong rebound expected this year and the next on the back of monetary and fiscal support.
However, with governments slowly withdrawing some of this support, Standard Chartered is "carefully monitoring" this withdrawal and watching out for factors that can disrupt growth including new Covid variants, oil prices, inflation and supply chain disruptions, Mr Winters said.
The executive also highlighted the need for investments in developing economies.
"The need to work in a collaborative way has never been greater than right now," Mr Winters said.