A banner image of construction men. Image: Ricardo Gomez Angel / Unsplash

Achieving the SDGs despite slow growth

UNU-WIDER and UN DESA launch the 2024 World Economic Situation and Prospects report, 7 February 2024, online

Achieving the SDGs despite slow growth – UNU-WIDER and UN DESA launch the 2024 World Economic Situation and Prospects report

On 7 February 2024, UNU-WIDER co-hosts an event with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) to launch the 2024 World Economic Situation and Prospects report. Following an introduction by Shantanu Mukherjee, Director of Economic Analysis and Policy Division, and a presentation of the key findings from the report by Hamid Rashid, Chief of the Global Economic Monitoring Branch of UN DESA, a panel of esteemed experts debate the pathways and policies available to stimulate economic growth and accelerate progress towards the SDGs. 

Findings from the report

The world economy proved more resilient than expected in 2023 amid significant monetary tightening and lingering policy uncertainties worldwide.

These glimpses of resilience, however, mask both short-term risks and structural vulnerabilities. Underlying price pressures are still elevated in many countries; conflicts in the Middle East pose the risk of disrupting energy markets and renewing inflationary pressures; the global economy braces for the lagged effect of sharp interest rate increases and will likely keep rising, and the prolonged period of higher borrowing costs and tighter credit conditions are hampering investments.

Investments are necessary not only to resuscitate growth but also to fight climate change and accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Meanwhile, tight financial conditions, coupled with a growing risk of geopolitical fragmentation, pose increasing risks to global trade and industrial production.

While the world economy avoided the worst-case scenario of a recession in 2023, a protracted period of low growth looms large. Fiscal space remains very limited, especially in the Global South. For many countries, the lack of fiscal space restricts their capacity to invest in sustainable development and respond to new shocks. 

At the midpoint of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the world remains vulnerable to disruptive shocks, including a rapidly unfolding climate crisis and escalating conflicts. The urgency and imperative of achieving sustainable development underscore that strong global cooperation is needed now more than ever.

Panel discussion

The new report reveals the critical priorities for the international community to stimulate growth and accelerate progress towards the SDGs, including reinvigorating the multilateral trading system, reforming the global financial architecture, addressing the debt sustainability challenges of low- and middle-income countries, and massively scaling up climate financing.

Joining Hamid Rashid, the panel discussion includes Executive Representative Jussi Ojala (FCA), Research Fellow Richard Kima (UNU-WIDER), and Senior Economist Sanna Kurronen (The Bank of Finland Institute for Emerging Economies). The panel will be chaired by UNU-WIDER Director Kunal Sen, addressing two key questions:

  • How can the developing countries accelerate growth without increasing inflationary pressures or exacerbating financial stability?
  • How can the global cooperation support countries and help to avoid devastating debt crises
About the speakers

Mr. Hamid Rashid, Chief, Global Economic Monitoring Branch, leads the writing team for the World Economic Situation and Prospects. Previously, he served as the Senior Inter-Regional Adviser for Macroeconomic Policy in UN/DESA, advising finance, central banks and planning authorities in developing countries on how to design and implement policies to manage short-term economic shocks and realize the long-term goals of equitable growth and sustainable development. Prior to joining UN/DESA in 2010, Hamid served as a Senior Adviser in UNDP’s Bureau for Development Policy and also as the Director General for Multilateral Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangladesh. 

Mr. Jussi Ojala, Executive Representative of Private Sector Development at Finn Church Aid has over 20 years of experience spanning international cooperation, development cooperation, mediation, peacebuilding, and humanitarian aid. He has worked with Intergovernmental Organizations (U.N., E.U.), Government posts (Finland, Sweden), as well as with civil society (Finn Church Aid). Mr. Ojala has also consulted the OECD / International Dialogue for Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (IDPS) Secretariat during the Ebola response in West Africa 2014-2015. He has lived and worked in the Sudan and Eritrea, worked extensively in Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Somalia. 

Mr. Richard Kima is a UNU-WIDER Research Fellow, currently working on the Southern Africa – Towards Inclusive Economic Development (SA-TIED) programme in Pretoria, South Africa. Before joining UNU-WIDER, Kima was a research fellow at the Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Australian National University, where he investigated the resilience of the Australian economy to recessions over the last few decades. Prior to that, he completed a research fellowship at Monash University, where he conducted research on the effects of the interactions between uncertainty shocks and financial frictions for business cycle fluctuations.

Ms. Sanna Kurronen is a Senior Economist at the Bank of Finland Institute for Emerging Economies (BOFIT). 

About the report

The annually published World Economic Situation and Prospects report is one of the United Nations’ flagship economic reports. The report is produced by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), in partnership with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the five regional commissions: Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNECLAC), Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA).