Achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals by the target date of 2030 is going to be a tough challenge. But, as delegates at the Tata Consultancy Services’ hosted Reimagining Global Solutions session at Davos, heard, there are reasons to be optimistic.

From the world’s biggest simultaneous festival of concerts to a plan to incentivise philanthropy by the world’s 2,200 richest citizens, there were plenty of innovative ideas discussed at the MIT/Forbes event during the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting to raise the $350 billion that will be needed each year over the next decade to reach the goals.

Global Citizen, which describes itself as a movement of 100 million engaged citizens worldwide, used the event to launch Global Goal Live – The Possible Dream, a series of simultaneous concerts in September 2020 starring Coldplay, Pharrell Williams, Billie Eilish, Metallica and Miley Cyrus.

Hugh Evans, Global Citizen CEO, said: “The challenge of eradicating extreme poverty is not an easy one. Nor is the challenge of addressing climate change. The good news is we have a plan – the UN Sustainable Development Goals. What we don’t have is the financial resources to operationalise that plan.”

He said the most governments could be expected to contribute was around $70 billion and business a further $70-100 billion.  “That’s where the role of the ultra-high-net-worth community comes in.” Global Citizen plans to ask them to contribute 5% of the profits they make on their investments.

“So, they are in the position of being able to have everything they have, to increase their net worth and save millions of lives, give millions of people at chance at life and protect the planet. It is an incredible opportunity, and an incredible challenge,” said Chris Stadler, Global Citizen board member and Managing Partner of CVC Capital Partners.

Chris Stadler, Global Citizen board member and Managing Partner of CVC Capital Partners.

Business power for good

Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer of Proctor & Gamble said: “Businesses have the means to make a difference. When business can be a force for good and growth, you can drive a sustainable program to be able to make the world a better place.”

P&G’s messaging reaches five billion people worldwide and it recognised that these consumers are citizens who want the company to do good. As result P&G decided to focus on achieving gender inequality and health and education. 

So far the company had spent $1.1 billion on a range of projects including delivering 15 billion litres of clean water and supporting women-only enterprises. “Businesses can be the greatest force for good in the world,” he added.

Activist Eddie Ndopu, who became the first African with a disability to graduate from Oxford University, said that nine out of ten children with disabilities in the developing world “have never seen the inside of a classroom.”

“It is important for us to recognise that behind these statistics are real human beings with aspirations, with hopes, with fears, with anxieties,” he said. “Marginalised people, poor people are visionaries, they are artists, they are scientists, they are philosophers in their own right.”

Partnership for health

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, chairman of the Global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) – a partnership of pharmaceutical companies, the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, the World Bank and donors – said in its 20 years GAVI had Immunized over 760 million children, saving 13 million lives.

She said GAVI’s achievements showed what could be done when all parties came together to achieve development goals. Every dollar invested in immunization saved $54 in avoided health costs. “It gives the highest rate of return. I’m an economist and I have not seen anything like it,” she said. 

Professor Thomas Zeltner chairs an advisory group setting up the World Health Organisation Foundation, a body which will allow the WHO to receive private funding, currently prohibited by its charter.

The Foundation expects to raise $1billion for private donors worldwide but he said he had come to Davos to find four individuals prepared to each give $10 million to establish the new body. 

Seema Kumar, Vice President of Innovation, Global Health and Policy Communication at Johnson & Johnson, described how her company had given $500 million to help eradicate HIV and tuberculosis (TB).  They also recently supplied Ebola vaccines to support immunization in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, chairman of the Global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI).

A better future

Actor, singer and film producer Priyanka Chopra-Jonas, who will be one of the hosts of Global Goal Live, said she was inspired by the example of young female activists around the world. “In many countries around the world, women make one-third of what men make in the same job,” she said.

“There are places where women don’t have a choice in their own lives.  What is amazing about this generation, is that technology has given women the ability to have their voices heard. I want to be able to live in a place where a woman’s ability to succeed should be basic human right and not based on geography or chance.”

The TCS event ended with an announcement by Mohammad Al Gergawi, Dubai’s Minister for Cabinet Affairs and the Future, of a new programme called Global Coder to help lift five million young people out of poverty by training them as software coders. 

The world may have many problems to solve, but the session brought home how great ideas backed up by innovation and collaboration could provide many of the answers.  

You can keep up to date with our coverage of Davos through our live blog, here.