Giving Compass' Take:

• Homi Kharas explains how the United States could take the lead on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

• How can citizens encourage government engagement? What are the consequences of neglecting global leadership?

• Learn about the importance of U.S. aid for global welfare

If the U.S. is to exercise global leadership with its foreign assistance, it should view its contributions and support through a Sustainable Development Goals lens. This would reinforce the long-standing principle of U.S. assistance that it respect universal country ownership rather than a U.S. driven agenda.

The U.S. can and should resume its role as leading the world towards sustainable development. U.S. citizens agree: in 2017, two-thirds responded “yes” to the question “Do you think it will be best for the future of the country if we take an active part in world affairs?” The U.S. should align its foreign assistance with the SDGs and, using that framework, build local and international coalitions with a range of government and non-government actors, including business, civil society, and academia. To do that, it should consider:

  1. What the Federal or local government needs to do to get the U.S.’ own house in order. Global leadership on sustainable development should begin with credible domestic action.  A recent review of national baselines on SDG indicators warns that the U.S. must overcome major challenges to meet 12 of the 17 goals. Local mayors and governors are at the forefront when it comes to leading the domestic SDG agenda, rather than the federal government.
  2. How to catalyze and partner with the U.S. corporate sector, non-governmental organizations, and civil society. Sustainability concerns have become deeply embedded in many large corporations that now systematically look at business risks and opportunities stemming from climate change, pollution, decent work, and product safety. Indeed, in the U.S., businesses are moving way ahead of the government. The absence of strong U.S. initiatives could mean that U.S. businesses lose any first-mover advantages from setting global standards, developing new business models for development, or blending finance in novel ways.
  3. Where to engage internationally. First, official aid has become a far smaller share of the external financing for SDG investments. Second, non-aid sources of finance, particularly market-priced loans from official agencies, have become important. The U.S. has not had a large presence in these nongrant forms of development finance.

Read the full article about leading SDG progress by Homi Kharas at Brookings.