Seeing the Forest Through the Trees, and the Trees Through the Forest


One of the most memorable pieces of art I’ve seen in the last year or two was a photo mosaic of a cityscape. Looking closely, I saw hundreds of tiny photos of skies, some hazy and polluted, some with puffy white clouds, some sharply blue. The way they were configured on the large canvas made the entire picture a scene of the city’s skyline.  You step back, and see one image then step forward and see many others.

The piece struck me because I was living in a polluted city then, but I’ve since reflected on it when considering how we draw conclusions from analysis.

It’s similar to UNDP’s work in providing support to regional priorities in Asia and the Pacific. Our team’s work is focused on how to finance those development priorities, to try to see what regional trends tell us about a particular country’s financing needs and vice versa.

So how do we address how countries effectively mobilize and manage financing for SDGs?

To explore this, UNDP’s Development Finance Assessment methodology was used to establish evidence to introduce policy and institutional reforms for managing domestic and international sources of finance for SDGs.

The report being jointly launched today by UNDP, China and ASEAN looks at each country in ASEAN and their financing available for SDGs – public, private, domestic, international -- to identify opportunities and challenges around integrated approaches to financing. An essential piece of the study examines China’s growing role in financing in ASEAN countries.

Across ASEAN, extreme poverty and huge progress has been made on many SDGs. However, urbanization, climate change and inequality pose major challenges to achieving the SDGS.

The good news is that overall, finance is growing and diversifying rapidly – such as domestic resources, intra-regional flows and finance from China and other countries outside the region. Domestic public and private resources are growing most rapidly, each increasing by around $200 billion between 2007 and 2015.

Despite growth in the scale and diversity of finance available at the regional level, the picture is uneven at the country level as some key finance flows remain scarce and some are growing very slowly. Left unchecked, this will constrain our ability to achieve the SDGs.

While this is the big picture, looking closer, we find that each country snapshot tells its own story.

Where the most pressing priority for some countries is domestic revenue mobilization, in others it is stimulating domestic and foreign investment. Some need to address policies for the private sector, while others are focused on how to use ODA strategically. Yet all countries are looking at most of these areas in tandem and will require looking at these investments through an innovative lens for greater impact.

Now taking a step back and looking at the larger regional picture again, one can see a theme: Opportunities for reforms that can increase the cohesiveness and effectiveness of financing policies that transform how we finance and ultimately meet the SDGs. Seeing the big picture in this new light, one sees the value in integrated financing approaches that fit within each country snapshot.

It is critical that financing is not an afterthought but instead a lens through which we see the road to meet the SDGs.

ASEAN-China-UNDP Regional Report on Financing the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in ASEAN

More on the Development Finance Assessment and Integrated Financing Solutions approach

Development Finance Sustainable development Goal 17 Partnerships for the goals Partnerships Sustainable Development Goals Blog post blog series

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