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Government and UNDP map out SDG investment for private sector to support recovery


The Government of Sri Lanka and UNDP in Sri Lanka announced the launch of the Sri Lanka SDG Investor Map (the Map), a market intelligence tool that seeks to direct private capital where Sri Lanka’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) priorities, Government policy and market opportunity intersect, as the country seeks to rebuild its economy sustainably, using the SDG framework as its guide. The methodology for the Map was created by UNDP SDG Impact.

Like many other countries, the Sri Lankan economy was also impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic with GDP growth contracting 3.6% in 2020 with a significant slowdown in tourism earnings which is a key source of dollar income for the country. Sri Lanka is building pathways to recover from its double crisis of sovereign debt and a balance of payment crisis, making it difficult to import essential items such as medicines, fuel and food. The current public debt is 140% of GDP and Sri Lanka’s plan is bring it down to less than 100% by 2032.

While Sri Lanka is pursuing an IMF program to stabilize its macro-economy and restructure its external debt, private capital, foreign direct investments, blended finance options and public-private partnerships, are all needed. The SDG Investor Map will be of importance when channeling these funds to investments for social and environmental objectives- towards green development, women’s economic empowerment, social sector development (example: health).

The Map will be a crucial tool to accelerate Sri Lanka’s recovery pathway and build forward better. The Map can be used by:

Investors wishing to explore Sri Lanka as an investment destination while also rendering benefits for local communities and the environment

Enterprises that want to adjust their business strategy towards inclusive models and are seeking market intelligence and investment rationale to validate their approach

Government agencies seeking to address entry level barriers for the private sector and to build an amenable ecosystem for the development of SDG enabling sectors

In Sri Lanka, the Map was the result of a strong collaboration between UNDP and Sri Lanka’s Sustainable Development Council, the nodal government institution responsible for coordination, facilitation, monitoring, evaluation and reporting on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka’s apex investment promotion agency, the Board of Investments (BOI) of Sri Lanka, also provided input and validation during the development of the Map and is a key partner for the Map’s launch. Through secondary research and over 50 consultations with public and private sector organizations, the Map has identified 15 Investment Opportunity Areas (IOAs) that cover investment themes and business models across 5 SDG priority sectors: Renewable Energy, Healthcare, Infrastructure, Food & Beverages and Consumer Goods.

At the event, UNDP called on the private sector to adopt the SDG Impact Standards, the independent and global management standards that guide businesses and investors in their decisions to optimize interrelated economic, social and environmental impacts. The forthcoming SDG Impact Standards Assurance Framework and SDG Impact Seal recognizes investors and enterprises who are more likely to be contributing positively to sustainability, reducing the risk of impact-washing.

Speaking at the event, Mr. W.A. Sarath Kumara, Deputy Secretary Treasury, Ministry of Finance stated, “Sri Lanka’s commitment to achieving the SDGs is explicit in our continued pursuit of national policies and development plans and programmes in alignment with SDGs over the years. Innovative financing mechanisms become imperative to synergize the government, private sector, and capital markets to generate the additional resources needed to finance the SDGs. The SDG Investor Map is therefore a timely intervention that would provide the potential investors with the required market information relating to potential investment opportunity areas.”

Highlighting how the map will inform Sri Lanka’s efforts to rebuild its economy sustainably, H.E. Ms. Hanaa Singer-Hamdy, Resident Coordinator, United Nations in Sri Lanka, said “a whole-of-society approach is needed to mitigate the immediate impacts of Sri Lanka’s economic crisis and assure the country’s long-term sustainable development. The Sri Lanka SDG Investor Map offers a compelling pathway for private sector entities to increase the alignment of their investments with the SDGs. It complements the recently launched United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework 2023–2027 by translating relevant country-level SDG gaps and priorities into private sector investment opportunities that will have lasting impacts on lives and livelihoods across the country.”

Commenting on the collaboration, Ms. Chamindry Saparamadu, Director General, Sustainable Development Council stated, ‘Partnerships underpin the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Each stakeholder has particular strengths to bring to bear in delivering on the SDGs. Partnership and collaboration between the Sustainable Development Council and the UNDP in creating Sri Lanka’s first ever SDG Investor Map provides a classic example of how the strengths of each agency was leveraged to produce an innovative solution that could help bridge the financing gap for SDGs in Sri Lanka’.

Highlighting UNDPs role, Ms. Malin Herwig, Officer-In-Charge, UNDP in Sri Lanka commented, “The SDG Investor Map has provided us market intelligence on SDG aligned investment opportunities for Sri Lanka at this critical juncture. UNDP together with the Government of Sri Lanka, through the Map, calls for development partners, IFIs and private impact investors to come together to formulate financing solutions to contribute to the country’s recovery and SDG acceleration.”

Ms Fabienne Michaux, Director of SDG Impact concluded, “While there is much to be done, there is a great opportunity for the private sector to integrate sustainability and the SDGs into their investments and businesses to help Sri Lanka build forward better. The Sri Lanka SDG Investor Map has done a large part of the leg-work by identifying those sectors that will have the most development impact and that are aligned to the Government’s SDG targets. This coupled with the adoption of the SDG Impact Standards which guides the private sector to manage their impact, will further the country’s ability to build a more resilient future, leaving no one behind”.

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