On Friday, September 25, the United Nations formally adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are a set of 17 goals aimed at lowering global poverty, hunger, and inequality and addressing environmental challenges. Ahead of the U.N. Sustainable Development Summit—where the SDGs were adopted—the Global Economy and Development program at Brookings hosted International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde for a discussion on the IMF’s role in implementing the post-2015 development agenda and the SDGs.
Here are some of the main takeaways of the discussion:
1. Excessive inequality is particularly detrimental to sustainable growth.
Social issues like high levels of unemployment, particularly among youth, and income inequality are directly related to countries’ sustainability of growth, said Lagarde. Increasing the income and revenues of a country’s bottom 20 percent of earners has been shown to have a significant positive impact on sustainability. Steps that can be taken to drive down inequality include a combination of policy measures and redirected spending to focus on programs bringing direct benefits to citizens.
2. Women are critical to closing gaps in three areas of policy: learning, labor, and leadership.
Lagarde insisted that beyond being a humanitarian and moral duty, it simply is an “economic no-brainer” for countries to improve the education levels of females. Countries should encourage women to enter leadership roles because when they do, it creates a role model effect inspiring other women to seek leadership roles. Through empirical analysis, the IMF has been measuring the impact of additional learning in young girls and observed increases in country earning levels and GDP as a direct result.