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Special Event on SDG Acceleration Actions

On the Margins of 2020 HLPF

“SDG Acceleration Actions to Build Back Better”  

Statement by H.E. Mr. Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog 

14 July 2020 

Madam President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of Government of India and National Institution for Transforming India, I express my solidarity with all the countries fighting the pandemic, and addressing the social and economic crisis induced by it, in one way or another. These are truly unprecedented times. Every action we take will influence the world we envisioned when we joined hands five years ago for realising the 2030 Agenda. Collective action through international cooperation is more relevant and important than ever before. In this context, I would like to congratulate UN DESA for making available the SDG Acceleration Actions repository – which is an excellent platform for knowledge sharing through good practices.

2.. I would like to begin by discussing the progress on one of India’s registered SDG acceleration actions. Yesterday, we presented India’s second Voluntary National Review. Our VNR Report titled, “Decade of Action: Taking SDGs from Global to Local”, highlights not only our progress on the Goals, but also captures the inclusive and participatory process followed in its preparation. We are aggressively expanding our renewable energy programme and have set ambitious targets. We have increased our renewable energy capacity by 75% since 2014 and aim to achieve our ambitious target of 450 GW by 2030. We have made the global pledge, as part of our Nationally Determined Contributions, to have 40% of cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel sources. Our renewable energy sector has become a prime destination for global investors, with a potential to attract USD 10 billion of annual investments.

3. We have been consistently and rapidly improving our business and investment ecosystem. In the global Ease of Doing Business rankings, India has jumped 79 places in the past five years: from 142 in 2014 to 62 in 2019. Our structural reforms in taxation, FDI regime, and insolvency and bankruptcy have contributed to this improvement.

4. 21st century challenges need 21st century solutions. The role of innovation is critical in designing solutions for SDG acceleration and building back better. Today, India has the third largest start-up ecosystem in the world, with the third largest number of unicorns. We firmly believe that these disruptions in the innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem will accelerate our pace of achieving the SDGs.

5. An example of a recent transformative solution which is presently being implemented as a response to the pandemic is the “One Nation, One Card” initiative, which ensures right-based access to food supplies and covers over 800 million people at cost as low as 3-5 US cents. This is operationalised through beneficiary cards issued by the sub-national governments. By leveraging the technological capacity meticulously built over the last few years, India is all set to roll out interoperability in making access to the Public Distribution System location independent. A momentous step to ensure that no one is left behind, especially the inter-state migrants.

Madam President,

6. Today, India runs the world’s largest health insurance scheme. Our Ayushman Bharat covers 500 million persons, who form the bottom 40 per cent of our population. We are creating 150,000 Health and Wellness Centres across the country. In April this year, we developed the mobile app Arogya Setu, for the fight against the pandemic through contact tracing, which was downloaded over 100 million times in its first couple of weeks.

7. The COVID-19 pandemic has also made us realise the power of collectivised problem solving. Invigorated and renewed synergy between the government and the private sector has resulted in over 400,000 PPEs and 220,000 N-95 masks being manufactured in India, every day. In February this year, we were producing none. This aligns closely with our flagship Make in India approach, through which we aim at becoming a globally competitive manufacturing hub.

8. Our Aspirational Districts Programme aims at accelerating transformative socio-economic improvement in 112 districts of the country with relatively greater development challenges. By improving the lives of over 165 million citizens in these districts in terms of health, education, basic infrastructure, agriculture and water, and financial inclusion and skill development, the initiative highlights the efficacy of the cooperative and competitive federalism approach to development.

9. Sharing SDG acceleration actions and successes will be incomplete without discussing SDG localisation in India. Fostering sub-national peer-learning and competitiveness is the approach we took when we released the world’s first government-led sub-national SDG Index in 2018. The SDG India Index and Dashboard, which annually ranks our States based on their SDG performance, has reshaped the SDG framework adoption and localisation discourse in the country. It has resulted in sub-national entities instituting monitoring systems and preparing development strategies aligned to the goals of the 2030 Agenda, which are customised to the local and hyper-local context.

10. In terms of utilising fast paced technological disruptions, I cannot emphasise enough on the importance of having an integrated approach towards problem solving in public policy. We did not address financial inclusion by looking at bank accounts in isolation. An ecosystem built around the convergence of 385 million new bank accounts, 1.2 billion unique identity of Aadhaar and mobile telephony, has been key to this success. This integrated approach has been instrumental in increasing efficiency of transfers in terms of turn-around time and de-duplications.

Madam President,

11. Before I conclude, I take this moment to express our profound gratitude and deep appreciation for the front-line workers, doctors, nurses and scientists across the world who have been risking their lives to keep us all safe.

12. The first half of 2020 has underscored the importance of responsive and adaptive policy making, more than ever before. When challenges are dynamic and unprecedented, peer learning and knowledge exchange are of utmost significance. We are deeply committed to foster this spirit and accelerate progress on the SDG targets by not only focusing on the recovery but by building back better for long term transformation.

Thank you, Madam President.