Rowing the Boat Together


Interview with Pertti Majanen

United Nations Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing (ICESDF) held an outreach event at the Aalto University Design Factory on April 3-4. The purpose of the event was to stimulate new partnerships, strategies and innovations for financing sustainable development around the world.

As the interest for the private sector is rapidly growing, both opportunities and risks need to be carefully studied. The multi-stakeholder outreach event gathered participants from all over the world representing private and public sectors as well as non-governmental organizations. The event was chaired by Ambassador Pertti Majanen from Finland who works as a co-chairman of the Committee.

Mr. Majanen, what is the mandate of the Committee? The Committee was established at the Rio +20 Conference (United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development) in 2012. It is based on The Future We Want outcome document adopted in Rio. We work closely together with another committee, Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, which was established at the same conference.

Our task is to propose options for the strategy of financing sustainable development. The strategy needs to consider financing for the new sustainable development goals, including unmet Millennium Development Goals. In addition the strategy needs to consider financing for environment protection as a part of the sustainable development agenda, especially the combat against climate change, desertification and biodiversity loss.

We apply the Monterrey Consensus which was a result of the 2002 Monterrey Conference (United Nations International Conference on Financing for Development). In Monterrey it was agreed that development should not only be dependent on Official Development Assistance (ODA). Instead, countries should look into other financial sources, such as taxation and private sources.

How does the committee work? In the committee we have thirty members, eighteen members from the developing world, and the rest from the northern countries. We have two co-chairmen, myself and Mr. Mansur Muhtar, a former Finance Minister from Nigeria.

The Open Working Group sets the goals for the sustainable development where as our committee looks at the financing part of it. The co-operation in our committee has been very good. We have not had any political disagreements so far. We wish to continue in the same practical and pragmatic way.

The final report will be submitted to the secretary General of United Nations in August. The intergovernmental negotiations of the post 2015 development agenda will start in September.

The final document will not be binding, how do you expect different countries to follow it? We need to send such a convincing, powerful and easily perceivable message that it will inspire people. The inspiration will hopefully be transformed into political will and decisions in respective countries.

Public and private sectors have been co-operating with each other for a long time, especially in fields like infrastructure, water and healthcare. Concerning sustainable development, however, there are fewer examples.

Companies are increasingly interested in environment projects which are often seen financially profitable from their point of view. Some companies think that they have a moral obligation to promote sustainability and reducing poverty. Others realize that we are obliged to do something together in order to save the world.

I remain optimistic. Timing is right and despite differences in interests, there is also a lot of good will. Financial and economic feasibility can be reached together.

What has the work given to you on a personal level? Before accepting the assignment I had already decided to retire. However, when the possibility was offered to me I found it very interesting. After consulting my wife I decided to take it.

As a co-chairman of the group I have been able to take full advantage of my previous 30 years’ of working experience. I once started my career in development issues and it was an attractive idea to finish with something that I once got started with It’s been one more great experience and learning lesson during my long career. I have great trust and esteem in the Committee’s expertise and co-operation will.

The outreach event was organized in co-operation with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and Aalto Global Impact of Aalto University.

This post was written by AGI

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