Last month, the world gathered in New York City for the annual United Nations General Assembly, and to mark the halfway point for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—ambitious goals adopted by world leaders in 2015 in an effort to end all forms of poverty by 2030, fight inequalities, and tackle climate change. While we’ve seen a number of unexpected global events since efforts to achieve the SDGs began in 2016 — the COVID pandemic alone introduced new challenges to overcome — the commitment to the goals remains strong and the focus on solutions grows ever stronger.
As a contribution to this focus on solutions, MCC asked what lessons we might find in our own evidence base. To do this, we mapped every signed investment we’ve ever made to the 17 SDGs to understand how the agency is supporting partner countries in their SDG ambitions. The results made clear MCC’s efforts to invest in poverty reduction through economic growth span the full range of the SDGs. In addition to every project supporting Goal 1 to End Poverty and Goal 17 on Partnerships, MCC’s portfolio strongly supports Goal 9 on Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure, with over 92% of the agency’s investments supporting innovative infrastructure.
As an agency committed to the use of data and evidence in our pursuits, it is especially gratifying to see the quantitative result of this mapping. But at this halfway point, with so much work still to come for those of us committed to the SDGs, what evidence-driven lessons can MCC take into the future?
First, this mapping shows that if you want to meaningfully affect people’s experience of poverty — to address the reality of need across a multifaceted human life — it turns out infrastructure is absolutely critical. There is dissonance in that lesson because people tend to associate progress on SDGs with programs that visibly interact with women, men, and families. Roads, power lines, and sewers? None of these seem to have a human face, and yet their presence or absence fundamentally affects the day-to-day decisions and experiences of individuals living nearby. This SDG mapping demonstrates in numbers what MCC has found in experience: that reliable infrastructure has a real and meaningful impact on the extent to which individuals have personal control over their livelihoods, their families’ well-being, and their own future. When we look at the depth of need for public infrastructure that meets the aspirations of a population, this is a lesson we hope others carry as well.
Second, it is affirming to find that these Global Goals remain intertwined and universally longed for. MCC’s approach to defining investments rests firmly on countries’ articulation of their own economic needs and goals. As a result, this mapping reveals that when countries set their own path to poverty reduction through economic growth, they collectively seek progress on all of these goals. MCC is sometimes asked why its portfolio is so varied, and we have always said it is because our country partners are in the driver’s seat when it comes to steering the direction of the investment. We are proud to see how much this has also driven our efforts towards advancing the SDGs.
Number of SDGs MCC is Supporting in Partner Countries
Finally, and most importantly, the combination of this mapping and MCC’s experience makes clear that real partnership is the key to progress. Yes, funding is a part of that and MCC brings significant grant financing to the table. But it is our partner countries who carry the responsibility of implementing these investments and driving the regulatory, policy, and procedural change needed to convert MCC’s financing into meaningful social and economic progress. We know there is no such thing as an “MCC win;” there is only joint success with our partners. MCC has spent two decades working side by side with other country governments in full understanding that we must go together — each of us leaning on the other to carry their part — or we will not go at all.
As we move forward into this next push to realize the hope of the SDGs, these are the lessons MCC will carry with confidence.