July 14, 2015

Rule of Law: Enabling Social Finance and Sustainable Development

Rule of Law Enabling Social Finance and Sustainable Development

Reporting from the United Nations’ Third International Conference on Financing for Development, John Buckley, BNY Mellon’s global head of CSR, discusses why rule of law is necessary to achieve the global sustainable development agenda.


Sustainable development has reached a critical milestone. The United Nations (UN) is moving toward ratifying the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – 17 overarching goals that will replace the Millennium Development Goals due to expire this year that will set the global stage and norms for development from 2016 to 2030. So where will the funding for sustainable development come from? As I noted in “What is Social Finance,” we’re at an important inflection point today with mainstream investors potentially playing a significant role in defining the way forward.  

Investment in emerging and developing markets is one of the next big social finance opportunities for investors. However, for mainstream investors to be able to direct capital toward environmental and social outcomes in developing markets, systemic change is necessary. At BNY Mellon, we believe that rule of law is necessary to achieve the global sustainable development agenda.

Rule of law, the legal principle that law should govern a nation, is a necessary precursor to unlocking investment in developing economies. It can protect human rights, enable citizens and businesses to safely and freely fulfill their goals. It can also decrease business risk, create investment opportunities and contribute to economic development and improved social conditions in these countries.

As the SDGs move forward, including rule of law will be key. In 2014, we entered into a two year, $1 million partnership with the United Nations Foundation to support the inclusion of rule of law in the SDGs. Through that partnership, we are working with top-tier legal and consulting firms, and other field experts to build the necessary momentum to ensure that rule of law is included in the final set of goals come September.
The opportunities and the impact of the SDGs could influence how trillions of dollars are spent to improve the lives of billions between 2016 and 2030. This is a once in a generation opportunity to influence the global dialogue by underscoring the role of the private sector in development solutions and demonstrate our collective ability to scale and accelerate progress.

As I write this, I am in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as one of few corporate representatives at the Third International Financing for Developing (FfD) Conference organized by the UN to catalyze conversations on the role of the private sector in supporting the SDGs and identify opportunities for collaboration and leadership. Stay tuned for our updates as we convene, debate and discuss the way forward.

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