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Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 17 is critical in this Decade of Action to bolster the other 16 SDGs and accelerate implementation. Yet, progress on several targets of Goal 17 has been slow in the Asia-Pacific region. While countries are struggling to recover from COVID-19 and job disruptions, the rising costs of living due to high inflation and abrupt food and energy price shocks have exacerbated development challenges and further hampered progress toward Goal 17.
Mobilisation of necessary financial resources remains a key challenge for accelerating the SDGs in developing countries. Government budgets remain stunted due to slow economic growth and continued large fiscal spending for socio-economic recovery efforts following the pandemic. Debt is dangerously high in many developing countries, putting some at a high risk of debt distress. Although official development assistance (ODA) has increased amid the pandemic, it is far from meeting commitments and insufficient to address the many competing priorities that developing countries, especially least developed countries (LDCs), face. Trade, a key engine of growth, is stalling, impacted by pandemic-related border closures and restrictions imposed in the wake of the geopolitical tensions. Developing countries, particularly LDCs, can least reap trade benefits due to limited resources and expertise to engage with bilateral, regional, and multilateral trade partners. Although capacity development and multistakeholder partnerships are critical to attaining the SDGs, progress has been subdued. There is an urgent need to pool multiple actors with relevant resources, capacity and expertise to create the synergies and levers required to deliver system transformations.
Accelerating the implementation of Goal 17 requires expanding the fiscal space and improving the mobilisation of public resources. There is an urgent need to address immediate debt vulnerabilities and restore long-term debt sustainability with extended support from the international community. Developing countries need to scale up sustainable finance through the uptake of innovative and targeted approaches, especially incentivising the private sector to align and increase their investment in the SDGs. Additionally, benefits in international trade for developing countries need strengthening. This can be done through the adoption and acceleration of customs and trade digitalisation and regional cooperation and integration to streamline trade procedures and reduce trade barriers and costs. Further, development partners can provide capacity development and technical assistance to developing countries and strengthen partnerships among the governments and other stakeholders to mobilise resources more effectively, efficiently, and at a greater scale.