OPEC Fund Quarterly - 2023 Q1

When the UN adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable expressed the lofty ambitions of the signatory states: The 17 goals and 169 targets would aim at nothing less than "transforming the world", the document proclaimed. Halfway through to 2030, in this issue the OPEC Fund Quarterly is taking stock of the delivery to date in areas where the organization also makes valuable contributions.

The OPEC Fund for International Development OPEC FUND QUARTERLY 1 2023

The Sustainability Agenda: Halfway to 2030 The OPEC Fund and the SDGs


Facing global headwinds Finding resilient solutions

The OPEC Fund Quarterly is published four times a year by the OPEC Fund for International Development. The OPEC Fund works in cooperation with developing country partners and the international development community to stimulate economic growth and social progress in low- and middle-income countries around the world. The organization was established by the member countries of OPEC in 1976 with a distinct purpose: to drive development, strengthen communities and empower people. The OPEC Fund Quarterly is available free. If you wish to be included on the distribution list, please contact us via opecfund.org . Back issues of the magazine can be found on our website. The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the official views of the OPEC Fund or its Member Countries. Any maps are for illustration purposes only and are not to be taken as accurate representations of borders. Editorial material may be freely reproduced, providing the OPEC Fund Quarterly is credited.

EXECUTIVE EDITOR Nadia Benamara EDITOR Axel Reiserer EDITORIAL TEAM Howard Hudson, Carlos Opitz, Basak Pamir, Nicholas K. Smith, Julia Zacharenkova PHOTOGRAPHS Abdullah Alipour Jeddi, Carlos Opitz (unless otherwise credited) PRODUCTION Iris Vittini Encarnacion

PUBLISHERS The OPEC Fund for International Development Parkring 8, A-1010 Vienna, Austria Tel: (+43-1) 51564-0 Fax: (+43-1) 51392-38 www.opecfund.org

DESIGN Robin Turton, More Tea Design Ltd PRINTED IN AUSTRIA Druckerei Odysseus This publication is printed on paper produced from responsibly managed forests.

FRONT COVER ILLUSTRATION: onetime – stock.adobe.com; Valentina Sabelskaia/Shutterstock.com; Robin Turton


EDITORIAL 4-5 A game of two halves SPECIAL FEATURE 6-33 SDG delivery: Recent setbacks are threatening years of progress 6-11  Halftime for the Sustainable Development Goals 12-15 An urgent need to correct course: The fight against poverty 16-19  Food and water, the inseparable twins 20-21  “Health is the

35-37  Interview Ulrike Haarsager: “We need to focus on development impacts at least as much as financial risks” IN THE FIELD 38-39 Building a bridge to Asia: How the OPEC Fund is helping to make infrastructure and health projects a reality DEVELOPMENT NEWS 40-43 40  Fighting climate change in Panama 41  Supporting critical infrastructure; Enhancing cardiovascular healthcare in Uganda 42  Syria and Türkiye earthquake relief action 43  Developing Niger’s solar energy sector; Supporting SMEs in Viet Nam SPOTLIGHT 44-45 Joint vision, shared mission: The OPEC Fund at the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week EVENTS 46-47 The OPEC Fund at the United Nations Conference of the Least Developed Countries OPEC FUND 48-50 48-49 New development funding 50  OPEC Fund debuts on the capital market


The fight against poverty

PHOTO: Lucian Coman/Shutterstock.com


Employment and training

first wealth”: The delivery of the health SDG

22-25  Small

enterprises suffer big impact from slowdown 26-28  Renewables now!

PHOTO: vic josh/Shutterstock.com


Building a bridge to Asia

The challenge to keep the lights on in the developing world

29-30  Interview Mueid Al Raee:

“We need to rethink how we run our economies”

30-31  Interview Fuad Albassam: “Our goal is the long-term perspective of clean energy” 32-34  Industry and infrastructure – Keys to a sustainable future

PHOTO: PMU/Dam Vac Bridge Project


OPEC Fund in London

PHOTO: Magnifical Productions/ Shutterstock.com





Dear reader,

In September 2015, the international community embarked on a long and arduous journey: With the adoption of resolution A/70/1 the United Nations General Assembly agreed on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets and promised “action over the next 15 years in areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet”. Halfway through this process we are asking in our latest issue of the OPEC Fund Quarterly the simple question: “Are we nearly there yet?” It is a question every child asks when travelling and every parent dreads. It normally gets a shrug and a non-committal response such as “soon” or “you’ll see”. This is apparently no longer good enough. Today parenting websites and car rental companies are offering detailed advice on how to answer the question in a better way. One general rule applies: “Tell them the truth and be clear about the duration of the trip instead of promising you’ll get there soon.” We have taken a leaf out of this book and adopted the same approach for our examination of where the world stands on delivery of the SDGs. This is a big question. Countless publications, conferences and research papers are

either in preparation or already available as we are reaching halftime on this long journey into the light. The UN – as global leader of the Sustainability Agenda – is currently preparing a comprehensive report based on global monitoring data and will organize a dedicated SDG Summit during the General Assembly high-level week in September 2023. Heads of state and government will gather to follow-up and review the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The OPEC Fund didn’t want to wait that long. Instead, we set ourselves an ambitious, yet smaller goal: In the current issue we are examining the delivery of various SDGs that are most relevant to the OPEC Fund, our mission and delivery. While acknowledging that all 17 SDGs are of equal importance, we focus on goals 1 (poverty), 2 (hunger), 3 (health), 4 (education), 6 (water), 7 (energy), 8 (employment), 9 (industry) and 13 (climate change). Our review combines global trends with the OPEC Fund’s specific contributions to its core areas of activity. The framework is of particular importance to the OPEC Fund as our institution has enthusiastically embraced

the Sustainability Agenda from the outset and today specifically declares: “Our vision is a world where sustainable development is a reality for all.” When deciding on a development project the OPEC Fund measures it against applicable SDGs and regularly monitors implementation and delivery: “Everything we do must be viewed through the lens of impact”, says Ulrike Haarsager, who heads development effectiveness at the OPEC Fund, in an interview (see page 34). The overall picture that emerges is that SDG delivery after a strong start in many areas has recently hit several roadblocks, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine representing the two biggest hurdles. According to the World Health Organization, the global health crisis to date has directly taken almost 7 million lives. The worldwide economic cost of the pandemic is expected to total US$12.5 trillion, the International Monetary Fund says. The crisis showed huge differences in countries’ exposure to external shocks and their capacities to respond. The war in Ukraine added another layer of challenges and uncertainties ranging from geopolitics and global


PHOTO: SasinTipchai/Shutterstock.com

macroeconomics to tangible impacts on consumers worldwide: The government of Egypt was one of many that saw itself forced to set fixed prices for bread following dramatic price increases for staple foods and commodities. But as our guest author Kurt Bayer, an economist with first-hand insights into global developments as a former board member of the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, writes the problems with the delivery of the SDGs predate the current challenges: “Failure to achieve the targets does not call forth sanctions.” (see page 8) This only increases the importance of the work of international institutions dedicated to financing global development. Together big players

such as the World Bank and nimble actors such as the OPEC Fund all form a giant network which can serve as a global safety net. It is far from perfect and it has too many and too big gaps, but it does indeed serve this purpose. As our examination shows, multilateral institutions are more and more in the lead when it comes to the delivery of sustainable development. Given this and other emerging tasks, these global players will need strengthening to sustain this effort. But that is a topic for a separate conversation to which we will turn in a future edition.

Big players such as the World Bank and nimble actors such as the OPEC Fund all form a giant network which can serve as a global safety net.

We wish you an interesting read.

Axel Reiserer, Editor



W hen the UN adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the resolution bore a title that already expressed the lofty ambitions of the signatory states: The 17 goals and 169 targets would aim at nothing less than “transforming the world”, the document proclaimed. Halfway through to 2030, in this issue the OPEC Fund Quarterly is taking stock of the delivery to date in areas where the organization also makes valuable contributions. DELIVERY RECENT SETBACKS ARE THREATENING YEARS OF PROGRESS


ILLUSTRATION: Valentina Sabelskaia/ Shutterstock.com/Robin Turton



After years of steady progress, delivery of the goals has hit a roadblock. Unforeseen events and unmet promises are taking their toll. In economics and policy-making, paradigm changes take a long time. But the further the goals slip away, the more pressing they become By Kurt Bayer, Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies

PROFILE: KURT BAYER Kurt Bayer is Senior Research Associate at the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies and Emeritus Consultant at the Austrian Institute of Economic Research. His research interests focus on crisis prevention and resolution, industrial and innovation policies, anti-corruption and transparency and EU economic policy. In prior positions Mr. Bayer was a researcher and board member at the Austrian Institute of Economic Research (1971–1995), Deputy Director General for Economic Policy and International Financial Institutions at the Austrian Ministry of Finance (1995–2008), Board Director at the World Bank (2002–2004) and Board Director at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (2008–2012).

W hen the UN General Assembly in 2015 agreed on the Agenda 2030, its SDGs consisting of 17 individual goals, marked a major milestone in Global Economic Governance. In contrast to

For emerging economies and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) this was a big symbolic step forward: not to be

singled out as laggards, but instead included in a global framework where each country in the world is held responsible for the global common

their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs, agreed in 2000) which contained eight specific development goals with quantitative targets to be achieved by 2015, the SDGs targeted not only less developed and emerging countries, but all members of the United Nations. In this way, they created the space for a world community, stressing that the 17 global goals needed to be pursued by all countries in the world.

good. While this was a major conceptual and

consciousness break with a general “us vs. you”, often

hierarchically applied mindset, the daily policy task to make progress frequently did not live up to this commitment. One of the most obvious deficiencies is the fact that rich countries so far have not lived up to their promise to transfer US$100 billion per year to LDCs to combat climate change. 1

1. The UN Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022 (p 20) states that in 2019 (latest available year) developed countries transferred only around US$80 billion to LDC https://unstats.un.org/ sdgs/report/2022/The-Sustainable-Development-Goals-Report-2022.pdf Evidence from the COP meetings points to even less money in later years.




What are the main novelties – and weaknesses – of the SDGs?

Innovations Following in the footsteps of the MDGs in a more differentiated way, the SDGs widen the narrowly economic definition of what “development” means for countries, both rich and poor. They took their cue from the UN Human Development Indicators which emphasize that “people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of a country, not economic growth alone” 2 . Thus, goals like reducing poverty, access to education and drinking water, preserving oceans, combating climate change, ensuring gender equality, healthcare, sustainable consumption and production patterns as well as infrastructure, clean energy security, equitable income distribution, strong accountable institutions and global partnerships, and a number more

specific goals which define people’s lives enter into the portfolio of the countries’ policy-makers and international financial institutions. This is a “beyond growth” agenda, whose proponents have been opposing the traditional neoclassical economic model focusing on GDP growth as the main development indicator. The economists’ discussion of how to measure human well-being, i.e. the state of a society’s development, and which type of policies to pursue in order to increase well-being, goes back a long way. Already in 1930, John Maynard Keynes published an article on “The Economic Possibilities of Our Grandchildren” 3 where he referred to the beyond-income aspects of a “good life”, in his view achievable because of massive productivity increases which required only about 15 hours of

weekly work to earn adequate income. Many economists have followed this “beyond growth” perspective and attempted to create other than GDP metrics to measure human well-being. The intergovernmental Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), for instance, created the Centre on Well-being, Inclusion, Sustainability and Equal Opportunity (WISE) 4 , with a view to capture the wider economic aspects. Many other institutions have followed, however, GDP per capita still remains the most widely used measure for economic success. Still, in economics and policy-making, paradigm changes take a long time. If governments and policy-makers keep referring to and addressing the wider dimensions of the SDGs consistently, given time we can expect their wider acceptance.

2. https://hdr.undp.org/data-center/human-development-index#/indicies/HDI 3. http://www.econ.yale.edu/smith/econ116a/keynes1.pdf 4. https://www.oecd.org/wise/


Problems One conceptual problem with the SDGs is that all 17 goals stand side-by-side. They neither take account of overlaps, and much more importantly, of trade- offs between them. For instance, pursuing the goal of combating climate change (SDG 13) may entail, in specific cases, the destruction of employment opportunities in polluting industries (SDG 8); or the goal to achieve food security (SDG 2) may increase global warming (SDG 13) or endanger sustainable agriculture (SDG 15). It is the task for policy-makers to manage such tradeoffs. Another problem with SDGs is that failure to achieve the targets does not call forth sanctions. While there is adequate monitoring of progress (always an important agenda item at the annual "COP" UN Climate Change Conferences), the most severe sanction lies in the publication of the monitoring reports and a potential “naming and shaming”. What happens in reality is that individual countries and international financial institutions, like the World Bank and some regional development

banks, pursue individual SDGs. As an indicative framework, the SDG process is by far superior to the so-called “Washington Consensus” pursued previously by the Bretton Woods Institutions 5 , with a heavy bias towards privatization, deregulation and external competitiveness as enhancing GDP growth. This model, fashioned after the

post-war experience of industrialized countries, proved to be a positive role model only in very exceptional cases. It prematurely forced developing countries into world trade, caused high external indebtedness and a number of the specific problems which the eventual switch towards the SDGs is trying to remedy.

5. These are the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group, both created at the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference, designed to create a new world governance order after the end of World War II.

CONCLUSION The SDG concept is a major step forward as a development framework for all countries of the world. It lays out a much wider umbrella of development and well-being targets than narrow economic metrics like GDP or GDP per capita can describe. In this way, while statistically cumbersome and difficult to communicate because of its high degree of differentiation, it is able to represent the multiple facets of real life around the world. Problems with tradeoffs between targets or overlaps need to be worked out individually when country policies are implemented. It is a matter of concern that after nearly uninterrupted progress with many SDGs until the COVID-19 crisis, there has been a severe reversal since. The Ukraine war has exacerbated these reversals. Once more, it is the most vulnerable countries and within them the most vulnerable people who are most heavily affected.

One conceptual problem with the SDGs is that all 17 goals stand side-by-side. They neither take account of overlaps and much more importantly, of tradeoffs between them.



“WITHOUT DATA, WE DRIVE BLIND” The UN Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022 helps assess delivery of the 2030 Agenda By Howard Hudson, OPEC Fund

T he following articles were guided by the UN’s SDG Report 2022. This authoritative progress report contains over 2.3 million data points on around 200 countries and territories, and was compiled by more than 50 international and regional agencies. Yet despite the exhaustive work of all concerned, questions remain. Why are some goals specific and quantifiable (e.g. “double the global rate”, “ensure universal access”) while others are vague and aspirational (e.g. enhance, expand, upgrade)? Did advocacy influence the goal setting? Did politics muddy the waters? Or is some data more difficult to gather in certain parts of the world? The latter is a case in point. According to the African Governance Report 2019: “On average fewer than 40 percent of the indicators for the SDGs have sufficient data to track progress accurately on the continent… [and] over half of the data source types on SDG indicators on Africa are estimation, modelling or global monitoring.” The Sudanese sponsor of that report, Mo Ibrahim, head of the eponymous foundation, concludes: “Without data, we drive blind.”

Our articles attempt to switch the headlights back on to the 2030 roadmap. We shine a light on progress to-date at the midway mark. We interrogate the data – and official narratives – by interviewing experts from the worlds of research, media and international development. We then set our contributions in context, before looking ahead to milestones on the path to 2030 – including the UN Climate Change Conference COP28, to be held later this year in our member country United Arab Emirates.

On average fewer than 40 percent of the indicators for the SDGs have sufficient data to track progress accurately in Africa.

The African Governance Report 2019



After decades of progress the fight to deliver global subsistence levels has gone into reverse. The COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have been enormous setbacks. The consequences could be dire By Carlos Opitz and Axel Reiserer, OPEC Fund


P overty is a phenomenon that determines the entirety of human existence. Below a minimum subsistence level no development is possible and humanity is condemned to the basic struggle for survival. The former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, once summed up the all-encompassing dimension of what it means to be poor: “When I am asked, ‘What, in your view, is the worst human rights problem in the world today?’, I reply: ‘Absolute poverty’.” So, when the international community convened and agreed on the SDGs in 2015 there was mutual agreement that “No Poverty” had to be first. It came with a firm commitment “to leave no one behind” and the acknowledgement that poverty is more than the lack of income or resources. People live in poverty if they lack basic services such

as healthcare, security and education; they also experience hunger, social discrimination and exclusion from decision-making processes. The commitment to eradicate poverty was made before the background of significant progress. The proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty fell from close to 60 percent in 1950 to 8.4 percent in 2019. Similarly, the UN’s Human Development Index also shows a substantial and steady rise from 1990-2019. Progress in fighting poverty significantly accelerated with the (almost) universal acceptance of the market economy and free trade as the unchallenged growth and development model: Since 1990, the number of people living in extreme poverty decreased from 1.8 billion to 776 million in 2013. Yet a closer look could have shown us

even then that the development was by no means uniform or equal: According to the World Bank, almost 800 million of the one billion people lifted out of extreme poverty lived in China, while India slashed its corresponding rate by more than 50 percent. This means that most of the global poverty reduction was ultimately achieved by those two giant nations. In the World Bank’s assessment in both cases progress was “driven by decades of sustained high economic growth, fueled by a massive shift of workers from low-productivity agriculture to higher-productivity industry and, more recently, services.” In other words: globalization. As China became the factory of the world and India the global business service center the idea that an improved economy will benefit all participants (yet not to the same extent) was captured in the



More than four years of progress against poverty has

been erased by COVID-19

Number of people living in extreme poverty in 2022:

581 million Pre-pandemic projection

657-676 million

aphorism: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. As Ian Goldin, Professor of Globalisation and Development at Oxford University, put it: “Globalisation has been the source of the greatest improvements in livelihoods in the history of humanity.” The global financial and

Current estimate

economic crisis of 2007-2009 inflicted a first massive blow to the development model of unfettered capitalism as the


The world was already significantly off course on the global goal of ending extreme poverty.

new economic orthodoxy. That crash necessitated massive state bailouts of systemic banks and industries, financed on the back of taxpayers and leading to falling living standards, steep rises in equality in some of the world’s richest nations and dramatic political consequences with the triumph of right- wing populism. Correspondingly, as funds became scarce efforts in poverty reduction were scaled back. Between 2015 and 2020, poverty reduction slowed to 0.6 percent per year, "the slowest rate over the past three decades", according to the World Bank. As a result, "the world was already significantly off course on the global goal of ending extreme poverty.” The consequences of that crisis were far from over (they still are not) when the COVID-19 pandemic, first registered in China in December 2019, further exposed the fragility and vulnerability of the globalization model. The worldwide public health crisis plunged the global economy into the deepest recession since World War II with a fall in output of 5.2 percent in 2020, according to the World Bank. The closure of borders led to unprecedented supply disruptions memorably symbolized by the giant container ship Ever Given, which ran aground in the Suez Canal in March 2021, blocking this vital route of global trade and causing worldwide disruption. However, the means to combat the crisis were very unevenly distributed: While, for instance, Germany was able to respond to the pandemic with three fiscal packages totaling 10.3 percent of GDP, Gabon only found funds equaling 0.83 percent of GDP for COVID-19 related spending (with additional plans for 1.2 percent GDP), according to IMF data. The pandemic also dealt the hardest blow in decades to the fight against poverty. According to the UN SDG Report 2022, for the first time in a generation the number of people in extreme poverty is increasing. Between 2015 and 2018, global poverty continued its historical decline, with the extreme poverty rate falling from 10.1 percent to 8.6 percent. The number of people living on less than US$1.90 a day dropped from 740 million to 656 million over this period.

performance as well as the deepening impacts of climate change could push that number even higher, to 95 million, leaving the world even further from meeting the target of ending extreme poverty by 2030. While the projected number of people living in extreme poverty in 2022 before the pandemic was 581.3 million, it now stands at 676.5 million. This places 2022 as the second- worst year for poverty reduction in the last 22 years after 2020. Several years of progress have been lost. Given these trends the World Bank is clear in its assessment: “The global goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030 [will] not be achieved”, it says in its Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report 2022. According to the Bank’s calculations 574 million people – nearly 7 percent of the world’s population – will still be living in extreme poverty (now calculated at US$2.15 a day as opposed to US$1.90 when the SDGs where agreed in 2015) in 2030. While the UN has a zero target, the World Bank – perhaps more realistically – had aimed for a 3 percent target. Today neither seems attainable. But the world is not only off course when it comes to ending extreme poverty. The World Bank report shows that in 2019 nearly half of the world’s population (47 percent or over 3 billion people) lived in poverty when measured as living on less than US$6.85 a day.

The World Bank

COVID-19 has made a severe dent in that progress. Nowcasts suggest that the global poverty rate increased sharply from 2019 to 2020, from 8.3 percent to 9.2 percent, the first rise in extreme poverty since 1998 and the largest since 1990. This erased more than four years of steady gains. It also means that an additional 93 million people worldwide were pushed into extreme poverty during the pandemic. The year 2020 marked a historic turning point – an era of global income convergence gave way to global divergence. Little progress has been made since then in catching up to the pre-COVID trend. Forecasts for 2022 estimate that 75 million more people than expected prior to the pandemic will be living in extreme poverty. This is the largest one-year increase since global poverty monitoring began in 1980. Rising food prices and the broader impacts of the war in Ukraine, sluggish global growth and China’s weak

The container ship Ever Given, which ran aground in the Suez Canal in March 2021



Sub-Saharan Africa ccounts for 60% of people living in extreme poverty

Available data points to an increase in poverty that is large by historic standards. The incomes of the poorest 40 percent of the world’s population fell by 4 percent in 2020. The World Bank speaks of the “largest shock since 1945”. The pandemic also increased global inequality. In terms of lost income, the world’s poor paid the highest price: The percentage income losses of the poorest were estimated to be double those of the richest. The global Gini coefficient representing income inequality (from 0 for complete equality to 1 for complete inequality) increased by a little over 0.5 points during the pandemic, from 62 points in 2019 to an estimated 62.6 points in 2020. By contrast, earlier years had seen a shrinking gap between the global poor and others. The pathways countries have followed since the pandemic have exacerbated global inequality, with richer countries recovering more quickly than poorer countries. Extreme poverty is projected to become increasingly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa, where high population growth is coupled with stubbornly high extreme poverty rates. Eight of the 10 countries with the highest number of people living in extreme poverty are in sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for 389 million people or 60 percent of the world’s poor. Delivering the World Bank’s 3 percent goal by 2030 would require the regionto achieve growth rates about eight times higher than historical

rates between 2010 and 2019. While the available data makes for grim reading, projections do not provide much respite. Especially the war in Ukraine has enormous repercussions. The country was one of the biggest exporters of grain, fertilizers, sunflower oil and other essential commodities in the world. Shipments have resumed but only after prices skyrocketed – leaving 345 million people in 82 countries facing acute food insecurity, according to the World Food Programme. The situation is equally precarious when it comes to energy supplies. A recent scientific paper by researchers from the University of Groningen, Netherlands, says that the war has triggered an energy crisis that directly affected household energy costs for heating, cooling and mobility and indirectly pushed up the costs of other goods and services throughout global supply chains. Calculations by the research team show that the increase in household energy costs will result in cost-of-living pressures that could push an additional 78-141 million people into extreme poverty. Can the world still attain SDG 1 or at least reverse the recent setbacks and return to a path of progressive poverty reduction? The World Bank report does not provide much comfort: “The target [is] nearly out of reach – and there is an urgent need to correct course.” UN Secretary-General António Guterres in February 2023 called for a massive

increase of US$500 billion each year in extra financing from the world’s most developed nations to meet the 2030 Sustainability Agenda. The World Bank argues that strong fiscal measures can make a noticeable difference. Yet while this has allowed wealthy nations to weather the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic, developing economies have fewer resources and can spend less: Low- and lower-middle income countries were able to offset barely a quarter of the impact of the pandemic. To make the most efficient use of limited resources the World Bank recommends targeted cash transfers instead of broad subsidies, the prioritization of public spending for long-term growth and the mobilization of tax revenues without hurting the poor. Have recent developments buried the hope that countries can grow their way out of poverty? Stefan Dercon, Professor of Economic Policy at Oxford University, says: “It is hard to think of escaping from extreme high levels of poverty in a country unless we actually get the economy to grow. Economic growth is a part of it, but that doesn’t define the escape from poverty. So you also talk about progress in health, progress in education, progress in a number of different indicators. And I would say take-off means that you get your country to grow, but you also make sure that what happens to the poorest groups in your society, their lot is actually improving as well.”




The agriculture and water and sanitation sectors are intertwined, as are the challenges to delivering

their respective SDGs on time By Julia Zacharenkova and Nicholas K. Smith, OPEC Fund

“W e do want global goals and there is a strong advantage with that to communicate and rally behind it and advocate,” said the UN’s Joakim Harlin. “But the problem with global goals is we aggregate and it masks a lot of disparities and the goals might not then be relevant for all countries.” This remark might sound like a critique of the midpoint progress of the UN SDGs, which aim for a 2030 completion. However, Harlin gave this statement in an interview in 2012. At the time, he was a senior water resources advisor for UNDP and was speaking with UN-Water, an interagency that coordinates international work on water and sanitation, about the sector’s important role in the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, better known as Rio+20. In 2012, hopes were high for the conference’s two main themes: building a green economy and improving international coordination. “The water issues are super important,” Harlin had said. “But if we look specifically what’s lagging behind now in terms of reaching goals and the

links to hygiene and health, sanitation is one of those areas that is lagging most behind.” Those words might apply to 2012, but they are also eerily prescient in 2023 and the state of all the SDGs linked to water. The Water-Energy-Food Nexus No one is really ranking the importance of one SDG above another, but one thing is clear to anyone with even a passing interest in the global goals: you cannot

build a sustainable future for all without adequate food and water. No two sectors are quite as linked as SDG 2 – Zero Hunger and SDG 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation. You cannot

We are facing an unprecedented global food crisis and all signs suggest we have not yet seen the worst.

David Beasley, World Food Programme, October 2022

PHOTOS: Eskinder Debebe / United Nations Photo; (above, centre right): Jeffrey Michael Walcott



end hunger and achieve food security without also ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation systems, and the energy to power them. These interlinked areas are often referred to as the Water-Energy- Food Nexus, where any progress (or regress) in one area will have an effect on the other. With seven years remaining to achieve SDG 2, the world is moving in the wrong direction and the goal is becoming increasingly out of reach. Projections from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) state that nearly 670 million people will still be facing hunger in 2030 – that’s 8 percent of the world population, which is the same as in 2015 when the 2030 Agenda was launched. Progress towards SDG 6 is not much better. According to the UN Sustainable Development Goal Report 2022, at the current rates, 1.6 billion people will lack safely managed drinking water, 2.8 billion will be without safely managed sanitation and 1.9 billion won’t have basic hand hygiene facilities. Despite hopes that the world would emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 and food security would begin to improve, world hunger rose further in 2021. Conflict, the climate crisis and the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, compounded by the war in Ukraine and the subsequently soaring fertilizer prices, are combining to create a food crisis of unparalleled proportions. In 2021, around 2.3 billion people were moderately or severely insecure, with 11.7 percent of the global population facing food insecurity at severe levels. “We are facing an unprecedented global food crisis and all signs suggest we have not yet seen the worst,” stressed World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley in October 2022. Hunger hotspots FAO and WFP warn that acute food insecurity is likely to deteriorate further

THE OPEC FUND FOOD SECURITY ACTION PLAN Addressing global food insecurity and protecting the most vulnerable and affected populations has always been a priority for the OPEC Fund. Since its establishment in 1976, the Fund has committed US$2.6 billion to agriculture projects, representing more than 10 percent of its total operations. It has specifically targeted investments in rural infrastructure, development of production and storage facilities, trade in agricultural goods, as well as training, capacity and institution building. In June 2022, the OPEC Fund announced its US$1 billion Food Security Action Plan. Channeling

public and private sector loans, as well as grants, the facility is helping developing countries that were hit by the fallout from the war in the Ukraine, which pushed up food and fertilizer prices worldwide. The three- year plan is providing immediate assistance to cover the import costs of basic commodities such as seeds, grains and fertilizers, while supporting medium- and long-term security of food supply in partner countries. It is by building up the resilience of agriculture sectors and strengthening regional food value chains – all to future-proof against global shocks.

in 19 countries or situations – called hunger hotspots – during the outlook period from October 2022 to January 2023. Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen remain at the


highest alert level, meaning they have populations facing starvation either now or in the near future. “Hotspots of very high concern” are the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Kenya, Pakistan, the Sahel region, Sudan and Syria, as they have a large number of people facing critically acute food insecurity, coupled with worsening trands that are expected to further intensify life-threating conditions in the coming months. “Hotspots of high concern” include

Guatemala, Honduras, Madagascar, Malawi, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, in which acute food insecurity is likely to deepen further. Sanitation – the forgotten little brother “Sanitation has always been given the separate treatment,” said Shyama V. Ramani, UNU-MERIT Professorial Fellow and Founder-Director of the Friend In Need India Trust, an NGO that deals with sanitation issues. SDG 6 may nominally be about water, but the sanitation component is just as

Sanitation has always been given the separate treatment.


Shyama V. Ramani, UNU-MERIT Professorial Fellow

Zimbabwe, a landlocked country in Southern Africa, is one of the hunger hotspots of high concern. Persistent economic challenges, high food and fuel prices, and the impact of localized dry conditions on 2022 crop production are expected to worsen acute food insecurity conditions. During the peak lean season from January to March 2023, an estimated 3.8 million people are projected to face acute food insecurity – a deterioration of 29.8 percent from last year. With the value of the national currency in freefall combined with soaring global inflation, this figure is likely to rise even further. To help improve food security in the country, the OPEC Fund has approved a US$15 million

the small-scale farming sector and increase farmers’ participation in market-oriented and climate-smart value chains. “In Zimbabwe, nearly 70 percent of the population depends on agriculture as a source of livelihood. In order to support food security, there is an urgent need for coordinated global partnerships among international development financiers,” says Bah Aly Bah, OPEC Fund Country Manager for Eastern and Southern Africa. “The country has some 1.3 million smallholder farmers and around 18,000 medium to large scale farmers. However, agricultural productivity remains low and malnutrition is a major problem. Through the financing of the SACP the OPEC Fund has significantly contributed to improving the productivity and sustainability of smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe,” highlights Bah. The project will target urban and rural agricultural production and food-trading corridors in 5 provinces and benefit 78,000 small- scale farmers. Fifty percent of the beneficiaries will be women and at least 30 percent will be youth.

important, as it relates to other SDGs such as health and the conservation of ecosystems. One of the many issues of eliminating open defecation, one of the SDG 6 targets, is not so much building a toilet, but maintaining it too. Additionally, not all toilets are created equal. “Many governments are now admitting that pit latrines are dangerous and not a solution,” Ramani added. Though pit latrines do take a step away from open defecation, flooding and seepage into groundwater can lead to far worse problems. According to the UN SDG progress report, most of Africa and West, Central and South Asia are acutely impacted by poor sanitation services and have shown little progress towards developing safe sanitation systems. “I don’t think it’s on track at all,” she said of realizing SDG 6’s target of universal access to safely managed sanitation services, adding that 2040, not 2030, might be a more realistic target. The gender angle Global gender inequalities remain pervasive. Women are more likely than men to experience food insecurity, and

loan in support of the Smallholder Agriculture Cluster Project (SACP) under its Food Security Action Plan. Co-financed with the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) and the private sector, the

program will help transform

Bah Aly Bah, OPEC Fund, Country Manager for Eastern and Southern Africa



the gender gap is growing. The gender gap in food insecurity continued to rise in 2021 – 31.9 percent of women in the world were moderately or severely food insecure, compared to 27.6 percent of men – a gap of more than 4 percentage points, compared with 3 percentage points in 2020. Globally, one in three women experienced moderate or severe food insecurity in 2021 and nearly one in three women aged 15 to 49 years (571 million) were affected by anemia, with no progress since 2012. According to the UN’s Gender Snapshot 2022, unclean water claims the lives of more than 800,000 women and girls each year. Can we still end hunger and thirst by 2030? Right now, as many as 828 million people are unsure of where their next meal is coming from. It is clear that concerted action is urgently needed to meet the targets of SDG 2 and 6 by 2030. Agrifood systems must be transformed in ways that ensure they deliver lower cost and safe nutritious foods that make healthy diets more affordable for all, sustainably and inclusively. Water and sanitation services similarly need to be modernized to reduce knock-on effects such as waterborne diseases. As a global community, we each have a role in bringing forward those left behind by making our agrifood and water and sanitation systems more inclusive and sustainable. Though the clock is ticking past the halfway point to 2030, time has already run out for many people in securing safe food and water.


Although Sierra Leone is endowed with vast water resources, the country faces severe constraints on domestic and agricultural use. These resources are unevenly distributed and in the dry season there is not enough water available to meet the country’s needs.

inhabitants of Freetown with a reliable and safe water supply, which is set to reduce waterborne

illnesses and mortality by about 50 percent. Low levels of

development often affect women and children the hardest, something the Freetown project will work to

mitigate. Specifically, it will reduce sexual harassment experienced by women while fetching water as approximately 60 percent of the project beneficiaries will be women. In several communities, where

Demand for water in the country’s capital and largest city Freetown is higher than the current supply. Little water reaches the eastern edges of the city and, as the city’s population expands, the situation is worsening. Inadequate water supply in several areas has forced many residents to draw water from springs, streams and shallow groundwater resources. In many cases, this water is contaminated, increasing the risk of diarrheal diseases and cholera. In 2021, the OPEC Fund committed US$20 million in support of the Freetown WASH and Aquatic Environment Revamping Project. The project will provide the 1.4 million

children trek long distances to fetch water, the project will help cut child

labor and accidents.



Nevertheless, it’s not all doom and gloom. Notable progress has been made in regards to some indicators, while huge challenges remain. According to the UN, universal health coverage improved from a global average of 45 out of 100 in 2000 to 67 in 2019. Significant strides have also been made in increasing life expectancy and reducing child and maternal mortality. The number of children dying before their fifth birthday in 2020 was 14 percent lower than it had been in 2015. Major progress was also made on increasing access to clean water and sanitation as well as on reducing malaria, tuberculosis, polio and the spread of HIV/ AIDS. The number of people requiring treatment and care for neglected tropical diseases (NTD) declined from 2.19 billion in 2010 to 1.73 billion in 2020. However, more efforts are needed to control a wide range of diseases and address many different persistent and emerging health issues. The UN’s most recent progress update in 2022 points out additional global health concerns and how COVID-19 continues to pose challenges to people’s health and well-being. According to the WHO, as of February 2023 the virus had infected more than 750 million people worldwide and 7 million people have died. The pandemic may be in retreat in advanced economies, but it is far from over. COVID-19 has severely disrupted essential health services with 92 percent of 129 countries reporting interruptions, triggered an increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression, lowered global life expectancy by 1-2 years, derailed progress towards ending HIV/ AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria, and halted two decades of work towards making health coverage universal. As a

As the COVID-19 pandemic strained global resources beyond imagination, the delivery of the health-related SDG is falling behind. But it’s not all doom and gloom By Başak Pamir, OPEC Fund

“T he first wealth is health” wrote the American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1860. His statement is a reminder that a good life – meaning the well-being of people and communities as well as economies – can only be built on sound foundations. Health is a fundamental human right and a key indicator of sustainable development. Thanks to big advances in technology, science, policies and investments, humankind has made great strides towards better health in the last decades. However, it is not a story of perfect progress. As the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the weaknesses of our healthcare systems and strained resources beyond imagination, advances towards the health-related SDGs are falling even further behind. SDG 3 seeks to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”. The goal addresses all major health priorities, including reproductive, maternal and child health; communicable, non-communicable and environmental diseases; universal health coverage; and access for all to safe, effective, quality and affordable medicines and vaccines. It also calls for more research and development, increased health financing, and

The number of people requiring treatment and care for neglected tropical diseases declined by 46 million between 2010 and 2020

strengthened capacity of all countries in health risk reduction and management. How far are we from achieving these goals in the aftermath of the global pandemic? According to the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO), the rate of progress is one quarter or less of what is needed to achieve the 2030 objective. Additionally, other global crises such as war and conflict, increasing levels of food insecurity, political instability and the growing impact of climate change are holding back progress to achieve health- related goals because they are weighing down on the economic performance. Lower growth means less money to spend.




The OPEC Fund is supporting the construction and equipment of the Uganda Heart Institute in the nation’s capital Kampala. The facility will serve not only the four million people living in and near Kampala, but Uganda’s entire population of some 40 million by offering increased access to cardiovascular services from currently 12,000 patients to over 60,000 patients per year.

PHOTO: Kehinde Olufemi Akinbo/Shutterstock.com

The OPEC Fund & SDG 3 Long before the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the fundamental importance of public health, the OPEC Fund had made healthcare one of the priorities of its activities. Over the years the institution has provided more than US$1.1 billion to the sector in developing countries, supporting the development of primary to tertiary healthcare and training facilities, manufacturing of medical supplies and increasing the number of hospital beds. When the world faced the COVID-19 pandemic, the OPEC Fund moved immediately in support of governments and the private sector – announcing a US$1 billion response program. Sovereign loans were directed initially towards emergency relief efforts, for example the purchase of medical supplies such as testing kits and laboratory equipment. Later the OPEC Fund focused both in the public and private sector on minimizing the economic disruption caused by the pandemic: ensuring access to capital for small and medium- sized enterprises sustained employment levels and created new jobs, while strengthening supply chains helped maintain international trade and promote connectivity.

result, immunization coverage dropped for the first time in 10 years, and deaths from TB and malaria increased. The UN stresses that urgent and concerted action is needed to set the world back on a trajectory towards achieving SDG 3. What should countries focus on in the post-pandemic era to improve health systems? “Healthcare needs to be prioritized within government spending. The funds, domestic or external, need to focus on the building blocks of healthcare such as strong

surveillance and monitoring, primary healthcare and robust supply chains. Another fundamental building block is decentralized manufacturing of medical measures,” says Mamta Murthi, Acting Managing Director of Development Policy & Partnerships and Vice President for Human Development at the World Bank. COVID-19 highlighted the need for increased investments at country and international levels to recover the health systems and improve primary care to achieve the health-related goals.

Funds need to focus on the building blocks of healthcare such as strong surveillance and monitoring, primary healthcare and robust supply chains.

Mamta Murthi, World Bank, Acting Managing Director of Development Policy & Partnerships and Vice President for Human Development


PHOTO: World Bank

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