Paths to SDG

2020 Annual Report


Friday, May 7, 2021

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to its very core. COVID-19 has laid bare, and continues to exacerbate, deep inequalities and injustices while recent global climate data shows that the world remains on track for climate disruption. It is a critical time for us to hold firm in our commitments and not let the pandemic derail our ambitions.

While many challenges, and uncertainties, remain with the COVID-19 pandemic, what is clear is that if the world is to “build forward better” – and get back on a trajectory towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – we need to get the right policies in place and mobilize the financing required to bring them to scale as soon as possible. These two elements – more effective, integrated policy support and much greater financing – are the raison d’etre of the Joint SDG Fund, an innovative instrument designed to incentivize the transformative policy shifts and stimulate the strategic investments required to get the world back on track to meet the SDGs. It is seen by the United Nations Secretary-General as a key part of the reform of the UN’s development system by providing the “muscle” for a new generation of Resident Coordinators (RCs) and UN Country Teams (UNCTs) to really accelerate SDG implementation.

Despite the imperative to build forward better and get back on a trajectory towards the SDGs, the Joint SDG Fund is still far short of the annual US$ 290 million target envisioned by the UN Secretary-General and agreed to in the Funding Compact. Early substantive returns from the first two dynamic calls are encouraging, as it emerges in this Annual Report: cross-sectoral integrated policies have proven to be effective in accelerating the SDGs in 39 countries, 28 UNCTs developed SDG investments and financial instruments that have the potential to leverage billions from millions.

If substantively capitalised, the Joint SDG Fund can be the transformational instrument for the United Nations to achieve the SDGs in an emerging COVID-19 world. What’s more, while the United Nations development system reform is really taking hold at country level, RCs and UNCT Heads of Agencies alike have all identified the lack of pooled funding at county level as the greatest impediment to successful reform. We must change this.

The 2030 Agenda must remain our North Star. The SDGs must underpin everything that we do to accelerate progress in the Decade of Action. If substantively capitalized, the Joint SDG Fund is the best tool at the disposal of the United Nations development system to meet the SDGs.


Amina Mohammed
United Nations Deputy Secretary-General

Year in Numbers


advancing integrated policies on social protection and leaving no one behind.

SDG Financing

developing and implementing SDG financing strategies aligned with national plans/priorities.

financial instruments

designed and structured with the aim to leverage financing for the SDGs at scale.


being advanced with commitments from the Joint SDG Fund through the Joint Programmes.

UN entities

jointly working together to accelerate the SDGs in the Joint Programme countries.

million USD

in commitments made to SDG acceleration and financing through the 125 Joint Programmes.

million people

became eligible in the national social registries to received social protection and to leave no one behind.

% of Joint Programmes

reported positive contribution to enhancing United Nations coherence at the country level.

million USD capitalized

as contribution to the Joint SDG Fund as of 2020 well below the $290m per annum budget envelop.

% of capitalized funds

pre-allocated to the 125 Joint Programmes / Proposals in light of future pledged contributions.

Introduction & Context

The United Nations Joint Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Fund is an innovative instrument that identifies and promotes transformative policy solutions and catalyses strategic investments required to accelerate the progress to meet the 17 SDGs by 2030. The Joint Fund is also a key component of the UN Development System (UNDS) reform, serving as the “muscle” for the new generation of UN Resident Coordinators (RCs) and UN Country Teams (UNCTs) to enhance UN coherence, efficiency, and delivering as one for SDG acceleration at the country level.

In 2020, the world experienced an unprecedent global crisis unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused extensive disruptions to SDG progress. Recent reports by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs estimates that some 71 million people are expected to be pushed back into extreme poverty in 2020, the first rise in global poverty since 1998. Lost incomes, limited social protection, and reduction of fiscal space are especially having detrimental impact for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, especially women and children.

‘The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2020’ UN DESA (2020)

Against this backdrop, the Joint SDG Fund has approved commitments worth $166.4 million
The figure aggregates programmatic commitments approved by the Operational Steering Committee as of December 2020 along with updates to programme budgets in the portfolios. Therefore, there can be some differences and delays in operationalization of the budget as presented in the MPTFO Gateway.
, with initial investments starting in late 2019, in a diverse portfolio of joint programmes designed to promote integrated policy change in social protection and leaving no one behind and in developing SDG financing strategies and catalytic investments that has potential in leveraging additional resources at scale for SDG acceleration. This accounts for 115 per cent of the capitalized funds of $144 million, considering commitments from donors toward pledges of up to $169 million in contribution to the Fund by 2021. That said, this is well below the full capitalization of $290 million per annum that is required to fully implement the mandate of the Joint Fund as requested by the UN Secretary-General and endorsed by the UN General Assembly resolution A/RES/72/279 of 31 May 2018.

With its strategic investments, the Joint Fund is contributing to all 17 SDGs, with priority commitments to Goals 1 (no poverty), 5 (gender equality), and 17 (partnerships for the goals) that comprises slightly more than half of its portfolio (see figure 1). The Joint SDG Fund through its commitments to the Joint Programmes works to reverse the trend in the SDGs towards acceleration and to support the efforts of building forward better in response to the global crisis by investing in transformative changes and opportunities for SDG leverage across systems, sectors, and industries in a total of 97 countries/territories.

What we have achieved:
Highlights of Results

Outcome 1. Integrated Multi-Sectoral Policies to Accelerate SDG Achievement implemented with Greater Scope and Scale

Under Outcome 1, the Joint SDG Fund has approved investments worth $70 million, mobilizing $32 million in programme co-funding, in a portfolio of 35 joint programmes operational in 39 countries. The Joint Programmes, which were selected from a pool of 114 applications, aim to devise and implement integrated policy solutions for social protection with a focus on leaving no one behind (LNOB).

With twelve months of implementation, the Joint Programmes have made notable progress in launching and implementing activities in areas of cross-sectoral policy formation, capacity development, and leveraging partnerships for social protection, amidst navigating the challenges and risks presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key results under integrated policies for social protection & LNOB portfolio

The joint programmes have established cross-sectoral approaches, which were not present before, to address gaps in national social protection systems while leveraging the comparative advantages of Participating United Nations Organizations (PUNOs).

Through support to policy formation and capacity development, the joint programmes have directly and indirectly contributed to expanding social protection coverage to an additional 87 million people, reaching those otherwise left behind – especially women, children and informal workers.

The cross-sectoral policy solutions are leading towards progress in multiple SDGs and additional resource commitments, especially related to COVID-19 recovery. Continued progress and technical support are required to fully realize SDG acceleration.

Cross-sectoral integrated policies that
leave no one behind

The Joint SDG Fund invests in specific approaches to accelerate SDG progress in terms of scope and scale, including strengthening national capacities to implement integrated cross-sectoral SDG acceleration. This progress in promoting the multi-sectoral policies is captured in the outcome indicators (see Table 1).

Furthermore, the diagram in figure 2 illustrates how the Joint Programmes are linked and contributing to advancing social protection against a wide range of cross-cutting thematic areas of food security, healthcare, childcare, employment, disaster risk mitigation, education, labour markets, domestic care work and migration.

Table 1. Joint SDG Fund Outcome 1 indicators
Outcome 1: Integrated multi-sectoral policies to accelerate SDG achievement implemented with greater scope and scale

2020 Actual

2022 Target

1.1 # and % of JPs in which integrated multi-sectoral policies have accelerated SDG progress in terms of scope

31 JPs


34 JPs


1.2 # and % of JPs in which integrated multi-sectoral policies have accelerated SDG progress in terms of scale

25 JPs


28 JPs


For example, in Vietnam, the Joint Programme supported the Government’s efforts to revise a decree promoting a rights-based, integrated social protection system and expanding coverage to a wide-range of vulnerable groups such as children, elderly, persons with disabilities, and informal workers. In Ecuador, the Joint Programme provided technical support to the Government to develop a National Social Protection and Recovery Strategy. The strategy stressed the importance of an integrated multi-sectoral approach spanning areas of education, health, labour, and social protection. In Madagascar, the Joint Programme reinforced the national social protection system by expanding the social coverages to thematic areas that were not sufficiently development before including gender-based violence, supporting persons with disabilities, and provision of agricultural insurances.

This cross-sectoral expansion of social protection was possible due to the UN working together, in which the PUNOs were able to leverage their distinct expertise and partnerships with different Government offices, civil society, and other partners. Even in middle-income countries, the Joint Programmes through its integrated approach were able to identify gaps, implement integrated policy solutions, and, in turn, expand the coverages and support to reach the people that were left behind.
‘Portfolio of Joint Programmes on Integrated Social Protection and Leaving No One Behind Mid-Term Review’, Patrick Breard (independent external evaluator) (2021).

The UN Joint Programme on Strengthening Social Protection is a fantastic opportunity to reduce fragmentation in the social protection system of Uzbekistan.

Helena Fraser,

UN Resident Coordinator in Uzbekistan (December 2020)

Expanding social protection through
capacity development and partnerships

In addition to promoting integrated policies, some 25 joint programmes focused on developing the capacities of national and subnational officials. For instance, in Uzbekistan, the joint programme organized training courses for government officials on COVID-19 response, social security standards, social insurance and financing social protection. a The Joint Programmes also partnered with national universities and community institutions to design and delivery tailored training on social protection to reach the last mile. In Mongolia, the Joint Programme partnered with community cooperatives, pastureland users’ groups, and lifelong learning centres to provide social insurance training for herders or other beneficiaries. In Georgia, the Joint Programme engaged with universities to support the capacity building of medical professionals and functional assessment specialists in social protection.

The majority of the Joint Programmes focused particularly on designing, piloting, and improving the social registries that enable the outreach, identification, and registration for social protection schemes (see figure 3). In particular, the Joint Programmes focused on enhancing the efficiency and inclusion of the social registries. In Indonesia, the Joint Programme facilitated the updating of the national social protection registry, especially data for the population living under the poverty line. Through this effort, the coverage of national social protection scheme increased from 40 per cent to 60 per cent of the total population. In Ecuador, the Joint Programme partnered with the Government’s Social Registry Unit to construct a registry for young people working in the informal sector. The Government is currently updating the registry and is building the interfaces to guarantee seamless exchange of information with other public institutions. In Gabon, the Joint Programme supported the Ministry of Social Affairs in designing a social registry with over 500 thousand entries of eligible persons, which represents 25 per cent of the population. Moreover, the programme helped establish a one-stop centre and launched a digital data collection platform to enhance outreach and intake.

 This integrated and cross-sectoral approach to social protection policy formation and capacity building has contributed to some 87 million people becoming eligible in the social registries to be covered by national social protection schemes. In Brazil, the Joint Programme supported the expansion of the Happy Child Programme to add 306 new municipalities with some 500 thousand new beneficiaries entering the registry. In Mexico, the Joint Programme supported the Constitutional reform that took place in November 2020, which mandated the establishment of a national care system and improvements in the registry of domestic workers for the social security. Through such work, it is estimated that some 47 million, especially children, elderly, persons with disabilities, and domestic and migrant workers have become eligible for social protection. In South Africa, the Joint Programme worked with the Government and academic partners to design and increase the rollout of a special COVID-19 grant that reached some 19 million people, including 13 million children and 6 million adults. In Vietnam, the Joint Programme supported the Government in designing and improving the Government’s COVID-19 package that provided cash support to some 14 million vulnerable people that lost income due to the pandemic.

Innovations in Social Protection and Leaving No One Behind

Income generation for women in Costa Rica

The Joint Programme enhances women’s employment and income generation through development of a new e-commerce platform – Buy from Women - to enhance sales of products by women entrepreneurs and develop new business ecosystems. It is accompanied by microfinancing models for rural and indigenous women to address challenges in access to credit. These initiatives have been recognized by the Government as providing essential support to women in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and is included in the national sustainable development and poverty reduction strategy.

Integrated solutions for needs and rights of women with disability in Georgia

The Joint Programme introduced new guidelines and upgraded the national referral mechanism on domestic violence against women to reflect the needs of persons with disabilities. The first ever accredited online learning module for medical professionals addressing issues of women with psychosocial needs was developed with the State Medical University and Public Defenders Office. A network of over 30 organizations working on the rights of women with disabilities was established and capacitated. The concept of social inclusion centres was introduced in two regions to provide persons with disabilities with the possibility for professional skills development.

Geographical approach to targeting crisis cash response in Malawi

With the change of Government priorities due to COVID-19, the Joint Programme developed new targeting tools and guidelines for the urban emergency cash response to identify geographical hotspots of vulnerability. This was the first time the Government applied a geographical approach with universal registration to targeting and it was followed by a verification exercise to measure the accuracy using survey data, online mapping platforms, and high-resolution satellite imagery. The innovative process has improved targeting of social assistance to people that are most in need.


While these are encouraging results, the enhanced eligibility of coverage will need to be followed with actual delivery of social protection to the people and places that are most in need in the long run. Furthermore, we recognize that the early results on enhanced eligibility of coverage have mainly been concentrated in middle income countries, where there are capacities and resources to rapidly scale the social registries and social protection schemes. As assumed, additional support and resources are needed in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and conflict-affected countries, especially with the added impact of the COVID-19, to realize expanded social protection and SDG acceleration.

Ensuring pathways to SDGs and
COVID-19 recovery

The Joint Programmes under Outcome 1 were launched in January 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic substantially affected their rollout and implementation. Early on, the Fund allowed the Joint Programmes to re-purpose 20 per cent of their budget for COVID-19 response, which was used by a third of the programmes in addressing the socio-economic impact of the pandemic. Furthermore, all other Joint Programmes adapted their interventions to respond to the changed context and quickly pivoted to rolling out digital and other solutions to continue implementation. Amongst other, in Turkmenistan, the Joint Programme partnered with an international education institute to deliver training of trainers for social workers remotely and in Lao PDR, a hybrid model of in-person and remote training with opportunities to engage with international experts was developed. Furthermore, several Joint Programmes were requested by the Government partners to carry out vulnerability assessments or support the training of social workers that were working to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 also partially affected the timely financial delivery of the portfolio, with the average delivery rate being 40.9 per cent in 2020. The pandemic resulted in some delays in engagements with government partners, cancelation or delays in recruitments and contracting of technical assistance and research. The delays and impact to delivery were notable, especially in the LDCs, SIDS, and conflict affected countries. That said, with the inception phase complete, the programmes are showing signs of accelerated delivery in 2021.

There have been some countries – 13 out of the 35 Joint Programmes – that have reported increases in the amount of national spending on social protection. In Vietnam, the Government passed a resolution on social protection in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to provide timely social assistance and cash transfers for some 20 million people that are most in need. This entails a social protection package of $2.7 billion along with additional $296 million for enhanced social assistance for the elderly, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable population segments. In Thailand, the Government, as part of its COVID-19 response, committed $765 million in additional social transfers for children, persons with disabilities, and the elderly. In Saint Lucia, the Government increased its cash transfers by 50 per cent to children with disabilities and in foster care along with people living with HIV/AIDs. The Joint Programmes have been instrumental in supporting the Governments to devise social protection packages responding to the socio-economic impact of the global pandemic by addressing vulnerabilities and ensuring that no one is left behind. The Joint Programmes will work with the Government and local partners to sustain these increases in social protection budgets post-COVID.

These key results of the portfolio along with recommendations for further improvements – support exit and resource mobilization, contribute to global thought-leadership, finalize the portfolio’s theory of change – have been captured in a rigorous independent mid-term review of the portfolio completed in 2021. The Joint SDG Fund will work to provide the necessary mitigation actions against risks and challenges, while providing technical assistance and sharing of best practices to facilitate the Joint Programmes in addressing bottlenecks and producing a virtuous cycle across issues and sectors leading to transformative systemic change towards SDG acceleration and leaving no one behind.

What we have achieved:
Highlights of Results

Outcome 2. Additional Finance Leveraged to Accelerate SDG Achievement

Under Outcome 2, the Joint SDG Fund operates two separate, but interlinked components aimed at re-aligning public and private investments to bridge the financing gap to achieve the SDGs.

Component 1 – Reinforce the SDG financing architecture: The Fund supports the development of financing strategies and enabling frameworks for SDG investments.

Component 2 – Catalyse strategic SDG investments: The Fund supports strategic investment opportunities that can leverage public and private financing at scale to advance the SDGs.


In Component 1, the Joint SDG Fund has approved investments worth $59 million, which has been matched with $28 million in programme co-funding, in 62 Joint Programmes operational in 69 countries. The Joint Programmes are designed to strengthen financial planning and delivery, while creating an enabling environment to overcome impediments in financing the SDGs at the country level. The Joint Programmes develop and implement a new wave of SDG-aligned financing strategies, called Integrated National Financing Frameworks (INFF), to spearhead SDG acceleration by leveraging public and private financing. With six months of implementation in 2020, the majority of the Joint Programmes are on-track for laying down the foundation for devising the SDG financing strategies in partnership with Governments and other public and private sector partners.


In Component 2, the Joint SDG Fund launched an innovative call to source, design, and structure proposals from UNCTs with potential to leverage public and private finance at scale for the SDGs. Out of 155 proposals submitted, the Fund selected 28, providing design-stage grants of up to $200,000 each to further develop and test their concepts and instruments. The Fund also supported the matchmaking of the UNCTs with a wide range of partners including UN agencies, development banks, and other public and private investors to help finetune and develop the proposals. This process resulted in the designing of 59 financial vehicles/instruments based on intensive engagements with over 300 partners. Moreover, the Joint Fund selected four Joint Programmes – Fiji, Indonesia, Malawi, and Uruguay – for investments, committing some $33 million, while mobilizing an additional $8.4 million in programme co-funding. The four programmes will be fully launched in 2021. In addition, the Fund manages an active pipeline of 12 other proposals based on the design-phase work to further develop their instruments and partnership arrangements to become investment-ready.

Building the foundations for integrated SDG financing strategies

Key results under the SDG financing strategy portfolio

In 2020, the Joint Programmes supported the establishment or are setting up 35 national oversight committees led by Government partners for SDG financing.

With support of the Joint Programmes, 51 countries are developing SDG financing strategies informed by 108 research and diagnostic efforts conducted in the preparatory phase.

Although early in the implementation, one-third of the Joint Programmes have mobilized some $8.6 million in additional resources in support of implementing the SDG financing strategies.

The majority of the 62 Joint Programmes under Component 1 have carried out activities to lay the groundwork for the design and implementation of a national integrated SDG financing strategy. In this early stage with less than six months of implementation, most of the Joint Programmes are making progress under the inception and assessment and diagnostic building blocks of the INFF (see figure 4). In 2020, the Joint Programmes produced a total of 108 assessments, research papers, and guidance materials that proved essential in understanding the country’s financial landscape and in identifying solutions and leverage points. This included the completion of two development finance assessments (DFA), which is a tool assisting countries to operationalise the INFFs, with an additional 35 DFAs underway. In Uzbekistan, the finalized DFA provides a comprehensive analysis of the SDG financing architecture along with a Roadmap towards accelerating SDG financing in the country. In addition, 15 countries already completed the DFAs before launching the Joint Programmes, which is informing the development of the SDG financing strategies.

The Joint Programmes also completed a diverse range of other assessments and diagnostics including public expenditure reviews, fiscal space assessments, SDG investor mapping, feasibility studies on financial instruments, institutional and legal analysis, and market assessments. For example, in Cambodia, the Joint Programme carried out an assessment of the investors’ appetite for sovereign debt as a possible solution to bolster the country’s fiscal space and to return to the pre-COVID growth trajectory. In Colombia, the Joint Programme developed a SDG impact investors map identifying 22 investment opportunities and a SDG corporate tracker to aggregate private sector contributions to the SDGs. In Ghana, the Joint Programme conducted an investment case analysis for the delivery of Universal Health Care.

Successful SDG financing strategies require dedicated governance arrangements to ensure national ownership and provide oversight and coordination in decision-making and implementation of the strategies. In 2020, the Joint Programmes in 35 countries have supported the establishment of the INFF oversight committees or are in the process of negotiating the governance structures. Most of the national oversight committees are chaired by the Ministry of Finance, President or Prime Minister Office, or Ministry of Planning, and include a wide range of partners from public entities, private sector, development partners and international financial institutions.
Integrated National Financing Framework (INFF) Survey, UNDP (2021)

The SDG financing strategy is at the centre of an INFF, providing a framework that connects plans for recovery and sustainable development with the financing policies that will mobilise the investments needed to realise them. With support from the Joint Programmes, 30 countries announced that they would develop a new SDG financing strategy, while 21 countries committed to strengthen existing ones. The majority of the Joint Programmes plan to use the INFF to build a more integrated, holistic approach to financing the national plan, expanding partnerships with private financing.

The SDG financing strategies reflect the priorities of the government through their national plan and are in many cases aligned to the COVID-19 recovery efforts. The Joint Programme in Ghana has supported the development of COVID-19 Recovery Plans and Integrated Financing Frameworks for five local economies. More than three-quarters of the financial strategies stated plans to prioritise gender equality; some 65 per cent are prioritising climate resilience and/or clean energy; Social protection, health and education are also each emphasized in at least half of the countries. In Bangladesh, for example, the Joint Programme is supporting the national five-year plan to focus on three thematic priorities of climate finance, renewable energy, and water/sanitation and to bring engagements with the private sector partners. 

Furthermore, the Joint Programmes are using the INFF process to explore and introduce a wide range of reforms to strengthen public and private financing policies. The programmes have identified over 200 planned changes to financing policies and instruments in 39 countries; an average of over five instruments per country. These reforms cover a wide range of finance types and modalities with some 41 per cent relating to private financing, 34 per cent to public finance and 25 per cent to public-private modalities. For example, Bosnia and Herzegovina with support from the Joint Programme is exploring a range of private finance modalities that can unlock new sources of private capital over the next two-to-five-year horizon. South Sudan is supporting critical Public Finance Management (PFM) reforms and the preparation of national budgets for SDGs.

Although early in its implementation, the Fund is also seeing positive signs of resource mobilization for the full implementation of the financing strategies. One-third of the Joint Programmes were able to mobilize $8.6 million in additional resources in relation to the implementation of their SDG financing strategies. In Djibouti, the Islamic Development Bank and USAID committed to invest $2.9 million to support financial solutions for micro, small, medium-size enterprises as part of the financing strategy. Cape Verde mobilized an additional $600,000to expand the scope of the INFF to focus on youth and women’s entrepreneurship.

All in all, the Joint Programmes under component 1 have provided the foundation of devising and implementing SDG financing strategies that will help drive financing for a greener, more inclusive recovery from the pandemic and eventually for accelerating the SDGs.

“In the midst of the global pandemic, the Ministry of Finance of Mongolia is working toward protecting people’s livelihoods, keeping jobs, decreasing poverty, ensuring essential public service delivery and quality, and resolving public debt repayment without causing any negative impact on macroeconomy. Therefore, we are pleased to see the commencement of the Joint Programme to further strengthen Mongolia’s development financing framework.”

Sanjaa Mungunchimeg,

Deputy Minister of Finance, Mongolia (October 2020)

SDG Invest:
Designing and Structuring Catalytic
Financial Investments for the SDGs

In 2020, the Joint SDG Fund launched ‘SDG Invest’ to test an innovative approach to source, design, and develop financially catalytic joint proposals that could mobilize public and private financing for the SDGs. In response to the call for proposals, the Joint Fund received a total of 155 proposals from UNCTs, out of which 28 were shortlisted via a rigorous screening process. These proposals were selected based on their potential impact, anticipated financial leverage, partnership arrangements, innovation in reaching scale, and operational capacities. The most common impact areas were engagements with small and medium enterprises, followed by gender, and climate change. Historically under-represented sectors such as water infrastructure, waste management, health and tourism were also featured across the proposals.
All proposals are featured and marketed in a dedicated microsite of SDG Invest:

Key results under the SDG catalytic investment portfolio

In 2020, 59 financial vehicles/instruments to scale SDG investments were designed by 28 UNCTs with close engagement from over 330 public and private partners.

Through this process, the Joint Fund selected 4 Joint Programmes for funding, with a budget envelop of $41 million, while graduating 12 others into an active blended finance pipeline.

The Joint Fund contributed to capacity building of 19 PUNOs and expanding partnerships with public and private investors that submitted 89 letters of commitment/interest for future investment opportunities.

As a proof-of-concept window, the Joint Fund invested $3.7 million in design-stage grants to the 28 UNCTs to support the testing and design of the blended financing instruments to mobilize billions for the SDGs. In addition to leveraging SDG financing at scale, the investment proposals were also selected for their contributions to strengthening the UN system and national partners’ capacities in SDG financing. The Joint Fund together with Convergence, a global service provider for blended finance, supported the UNCTs in transforming the proposals into fleshed out financial solutions.

Through this exercise, the UNCTs designed 59 financial vehicles/instruments along with 27 complementary technical assistance facilities. The most common financial instruments were guarantees and credit enhancement facilities, followed by impact funds, green banks and other financial institutions, which in many cases were combined (see figure 5). For example, Fiji designed a facility to access concessional leading and guarantees. Iraq and Egypt proposed a guarantee scheme for small businesses in agriculture, water and energy sectors. North Macedonia prepared a green financing facility, which will partner with domestic banks to provide financing for renewable energy projects.

Furthermore, with support from the Joint SDG Fund, the UNCTs carried out 95 activities including design trials, investment pipeline assessments, market and legal assessments, and feasibility studies to inform the design of the financial instruments. Jamaica, for example, identified 25 potential investees as its emerging pipeline for the country’s first impact fund. Bolivia completed several market assessments to design the interventions with the most social impact and support to the COVID-19 recovery. Zambia conducted a feasibility study on interventions in agriculture. Sri Lanka initiated a study of the country’s financing architecture to inform the design of its proposed sovereign bond.

The Joint Fund and the UNCTs engaged with over 330 partners, from international financial institutions to private investors, at the global and local levels to ensure financial feasibility of the instruments and foster co-creation of the blended finance transactions. The Joint Fund partnered with 6 UN agencies – FAO, ILO, UNDP, UNEP, UNFPA, WFP – and the Global Fund for Coral Reefs to mobilize over 80 investors in thematic ‘Investor Advisory Groups (IAG)’ in support of the UNCT’s investment proposals. The Groups served as a sounding board for the proposals, co-created the pipeline of investments, and facilitated co-investment opportunities with over 30 virtual meetings hosted between September to December 2020. This process resulted in reception of 89 letters of commitments / interests from the external investors to engage in future investment opportunities. The vast majority of the UNCTs and investors found the interactions to be helpful and showed positive intention to continue to work together through the investment cycle.

Through this intensive design process, the Joint SDG Fund has selected 4 country proposals from Fiji, Indonesia, Malawi, Uruguay for its initial cycle of funding based on their stages of development and potential for leveraging finance at scale (see Box 2). The Fund will also manage an additional 12 proposals as an active pipeline within SDG Invest. Together, these Joint Programmes request a total of $125.9 million in funding from the Joint SDG Fund with plans to match this with $130.2 million in programme co-funding, which in turn hope to leverage over $5 billion in additional financial leverage from public and private investors.

Snapshot of the 4 Joint Programmes selected for initial funding under Component 2

Fiji: Investing in Coral Reef and the Blue Economy

The Joint Programme will use blended finance to combat coral reef degradation, which threaten the sustainability and livelihoods of the Fijian society. The programme plans to introduce three innovative transactions: 1) a special purpose vehicle for locally managed marine areas; 2) a blended finance facility to fund a sanitary landfill, and; 3) a direct investment in an eco-fertilizer factory. The Joint SDG Fund has committed some $5.5 million, which will be matched by $4.7 million in co-funding and is expected to unlock $50 million in financial leverage.

Indonesia: Driving Public & Private Capital Towards Green & Social Investments

The Joint Programme aims to create a new generation of financial products to combat climate change at scale. The programme will support the expansion of thematic bond issuances and green sukuk at the subnational level, collaborate with a network of 14 banks to launch SDG-linked loans for small businesses, and capitalise the growing impact investment ecosystem by operationalising an impact fund. The programme, which requires $12 million in funding, is expected to unlock an estimated $4.55 billion in financial leverage for the SDGs.

Malawi: Build Malawi Window – A blended finance vehicle for agribusiness

The Joint Programme aims to create a structured blended finance vehicle, the first of its kind in Malawi, to invest in agriculture and other manufacturing and service supply-chains. The Joint Programme will invest patient capital and operate a technical assistance facility to help source an investment pipeline. The programme, which requires some $8.4 million in funding aims to mobilize an additional $28 million in financial leverage.

Uruguay: Renewable Energy Fund – Innovative Finance for Clean Tech Solutions

The Joint Programme aims to provide funding for Uruguay’s energy transition to renewable energy. The renewable energy innovation fund is a blended finance window for green transition projects, which is coupled with a technical assistance facility. The programme which requires $11 million in funding aims to unlock $68 million in catalytic financial leverage towards the country’s renewable energy transition.

An independent analysis of the Joint SDG Fund’s Component 2 portfolio and active pipeline in comparison with a database of blended finance transactions have found the Joint Fund’s investments to have a distinct comparative advantage in sourcing and structuring blended finance initiatives in sectors and countries that have previously struggled to attract investments
Reflections & Recommendations on Component 2 of the Joint SDG Fund’, Convergence (2021)
. Over one third of the investment proposals were sourced from LDCs and one-quarter from SIDS, which have not seen a significant amount of blended finance activities so far. The investments also showed a strong commitment to gender equality with 63 per cent of the proposals targeting Goal 5. However, the Fund faced difficulties in generating SDG investments in fragile and conflict-affected countries and in thematic areas related to Goal 10 (Reduced Inequalities) and Goal 16 (Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions) that remain more complex and layered to fit into investable blended financing opportunities.

Overall, the results under component 2 clearly shows the capacity and potential of the Joint SDG Fund to leverage its partnerships with the UNCTs and other partners to source and support the design and structuring of pro-SDG financial instruments. In a survey of the participating investors, the vast majority, 94 per cent, responded that they would like to continue working with the Joint Fund in 2021, and 83 per cent shared their interest in partnering and investing in the presented financial vehicles. Also, on the UNCT side, 93 per cent of the UNCTs responded that they planned to continue to work on the proposals even if they were not selected for funding. These are positive indications from the Joint Fund’s partners on the Fund’s strengths and unique position to devise a globally diverse portfolio of UNCT-led blended finance initiatives that can leverage financing at scale to accelerate economic recovery and progress towards the 2030 Agenda.


“How to influence private investors to invest in impact? Investors are looking for rates of return…You can do something socially useful for the world with some of the frontier markets with a buffer from the Joint SDG Fund. You are combining your fiduciary obligations to your investors and doing something good.”

David Rubenstein,

Co-Executive Chairmen of the Carlyle Group (September 2020)

The Joint SDG Fund receives support from the

European Union

European Union and governments of:












the Netherlands