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Rethinking Sustainable Development Finance:  The Emergence of Global Public Investment
GFO issue 444

Rethinking Sustainable Development Finance: The Emergence of Global Public Investment


George Njenga Kiai

Article Type:

Article Number: 3

This article explores the "Time for Global Public Investment" report, advocating a shift to the Global Public Investment (GPI) model for sustainable development finance. GPI emphasizes mutual contribution, benefit, and decision-making, aiming to address global challenges like health equity and climate change. The article highlights expert contributions, hypothesized case studies, and discusses the potential challenges and opportunities of GPI. It concludes with a call to action for global leaders and policymakers, emphasizing GPI's role in fostering a more equitable, cooperative, and sustainable global future.


The transformative report “Time for Global Public Investment” by the Global Public Investment Network marks a pivotal shift in the landscape of sustainable development finance. Through its comprehensive essays, the report introduces the concept of Global Public Investment (GPI), a novel framework aiming to replace traditional aid models with a more inclusive, equitable approach to global funding.



The GPI Model: A New Approach to Global Challenges

The Global Public Investment (GPI) model is rooted in the principles of mutual contribution, benefit, and decision-making, marking a shift from the traditional donor-recipient dynamic, advocating for a more egalitarian and cooperative framework. This paradigm is particularly relevant in addressing critical global issues such as health equity, food security, climate crisis, and the complexities of tax and debt justice.


The GPI model’s relevance is sharply illustrated by the COVID-19 crisis, which highlighted a stark inequality in global health responses and financial structures that is touched upon by various contributors to the report. In the words of Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director UNAIDS:


“The only way to fight pandemics effectively and fairly is to treat them as a global priority. That did not happen with Covid-19 and it did not happen with the AIDS crisis decades earlier. These mistakes have only served to exacerbate the inequality crisis. While high-income countries were able to invest 14% of their GDP to cope with the crisis, low-income countries could afford just 3% and were not even relieved from debt repayments. In sub-Saharan Africa in 2022, debt repayments were on average four times higher than health investments. … Pfizer and Moderna handed a combined USD 23.8 billion to shareholders during the pandemic, more than the GDP of Cambodia, Cyprus, or Senegal.”​​


Contributions and Perspectives

The “Time for Global Public Investment” report brings together a remarkable array of voices, offering a rich mosaic of insights into the future of global cooperation and finance. Enrique V. Iglesias, reflecting on his extensive experience in development finance, sees the GPI framework as a crucial evolution for the United Nations and global governance, drawing parallels with historical milestones like the creation of the United Nations itself. He underscores the necessity of a new cooperation instrument to meet the urgent environmental and social challenges of our time, positioning GPI as a creative response to the climate crisis and a step towards protecting global public goods.


Academicians Thomas Piketty and Simon Reid-Henry delve into the intricacies of global wealth redistribution, advocating for a global wealth tax as a means to address the stark inequalities that mar our world. They propose that such a tax, if implemented, could generate significant funds for addressing global challenges such as climate change, health, and poverty, thereby making a strong case for GPI as a mechanism for fair and equitable global development.


African Perspectives: Stephen Chacha and Martha Bekele from Development Initiatives discuss the critical role of GPI in reinforcing regional public investment for regional public goods, emphasizing the importance of African leadership in the co-creation of GPI. They note the outdated global financial architecture’s inadequacy in addressing the needs of African countries, highlighting the importance of decolonizing aid, mobilizing fresh resources, and shifting away from donor dependence​​.


Civil Society’s Role: Nana Afadzinu of West Africa Civil Society Institute and David McNair of One Campaign highlight the transformative potential of co-creation in GPI, which can drive change by incorporating local knowledge, expertise, and partnerships into decision-making processes. They stress the importance of civil society organizations in promoting equity, ownership, and innovation, thus contributing to a more inclusive development architecture​​.


Latin American Insights: Andrea Ordóñez from Southern Voice and Carolina Cosse from Mercociudades (Municipal cities) emphasize GPI’s twin pillars—prioritizing public financing and fostering effective governance structures—as particularly resonant within the Latin American context. They discuss the importance of regional integration, local governance, and the need for a financial framework that accommodates local diversity. The discussions also touch on the historical impact of the Global North on the Global South, especially in climate change, advocating for a recalibration of international cooperation that emphasizes collective participation​​.


Global South and Middle-Income Regions: The report also highlights the spirit of South-South cooperation and the necessity of GPI in ensuring the provision of public goods at both regional and global levels. It calls for a truly multilateral framework where all contribute, decide, and benefit, thus fostering a more democratic, equitable, and sustainable world. This approach is seen as crucial for middle-income regions, especially Latin America, where public financing and governance structures can significantly impact addressing contemporary challenges​​.


These contributions showcase a collective vision for a GPI model that transcends traditional donor-recipient narratives, advocating for a system where all nations, irrespective of their economic status, contribute to and benefit from a global pool of resources aimed at addressing shared challenges.


Case Studies and Examples


Health Equity in Sub-Saharan Africa

A GPI initiative could focus on enhancing health equity in Sub-Saharan Africa, where resources for healthcare are often limited. By calling for the pooling of contributions from multiple countries, GPI offers a framework for those wishing to invest in essential healthcare infrastructure, training for medical personnel, and access to medications. This collaborative approach not only addresses immediate healthcare needs but also builds a foundation for long-term health system resilience.


Climate Resilience in Southeast Asia

In Southeast Asia, facing the brunt of climate change, GPI principles could be invoked to support sustainable development projects requiring, for instance, funding in renewable energy initiatives, sustainable agriculture practices, and coastal protection measures. By emphasizing the sharing of knowledge and resources, the GPI model enables countries in this region to develop climate resilience strategies that are both locally relevant and globally informed.


Education and Digital Connectivity in Latin America

GPI could guide investments in education and digital connectivity projects across Latin America with a focus on bridging the digital divide, providing access to quality education, and equipping young people with the skills needed for a rapidly changing job market. Using the GPI framework, these efforts can be coordinated and scaled up, ensuring that investments have a meaningful and lasting impact.


Sustainable Agriculture in South Asia

In South Asia, GPI could be an enabler for those wanting to support sustainable agriculture initiatives. These could involve the development of climate-resilient crops, improvement of water management systems, and training for farmers in sustainable practices.


GPI Challenges and Opportunities Ahead



  1. Political Resistance: Implementing GPI requires a shift in the traditional power dynamics of global finance, which may face resistance from established interests.
  2. Risk of Co-optation: There’s a significant risk that established powers might not only resist the progressive changes GPI aims to bring but also attempt to co-opt the initiative for their own ends, diluting its transformative potential​​.
  3. Logistical Complexities: The transition to a GPI framework involves logistical challenges, including establishing new governance structures and ensuring equitable participation from all nations.
  4. Economic Variability: Different economic capacities and priorities of nations could pose challenges in standardizing contributions and benefits.



  1. Fostering Global Cooperation: GPI offers a platform for enhanced global cooperation, promoting shared responsibility and mutual benefit.
  2. Innovative Financing for Development: GPI could lead to more innovative and effective financing mechanisms, targeting critical areas like climate change, health, and education.
  3. Equitable and Sustainable Growth: By focusing on equity and inclusivity, GPI has the potential to drive sustainable growth and development, benefiting all nations.



Moving Forward with GPI:

The success of GPI relies on collective action and the global community’s unified effort, including a wide range of stakeholders from various sectors. The report highlights essential steps to gain momentum for GPI:

  • Refining the Proposal: Continuous enhancement of GPI to meet technical feasibility and political appeal, involving a diverse stakeholder co-creation process.
  • Practical Application: Encouraging early adopters to implement GPI principles, demonstrating its versatility and impact.
  • Building Support: A broad engagement strategy to win support for GPI, necessitating extended dialogue for a comprehensive GPI framework by 2030.
  • Integrating Initiatives: Aligning GPI with existing campaigns and regional leadership efforts, especially in areas impacted by COVID-19 and in need of a green new deal.


Civic Engagement:

The critical role of civic action is underscored in driving GPI forward, emphasizing the need for civil society’s active involvement in promoting investments for marginalized communities and addressing financial disparities. GPI champions a participatory approach in decision-making and policy design, ensuring equitable representation and impactful change, ensuring that no one is left behind.



Diving into the “Time for Global Public Investment” report is like opening a map to uncharted territories of global finance. It’s not just an x-ray of the status quo but a treasure map pointing us towards a world where fairness and sustainability aren’t just buzzwords—they’re the bedrock of our collective journey forward. Imagine trying to nudge the heavyweight cart of global finance onto new paths without tipping the whole thing over. That’s the essence of what this report proposes with its Global Public Investment (GPI) model.


As we navigate the stormy seas of today’s global challenges—be it the climate crisis knocking on our doors or the widening chasm of health disparities—the GPI model throws us a lifeline. It’s about rolling up our sleeves and working together, where everyone chips in, everyone benefits, and everyone gets a say. Picture this as a collaborative effort to not just patch up the ship but to set a course to new, more hospitable shores.


The report paints a picture of a world where the financial scaffolding is built to support every nation, not just the ones with the fattest wallets. By rallying behind GPI, we’re essentially joining forces to cultivate a global neighborhood that’s more united, sustainable, and flourishing.


Consider this report as an invitation to shake up, rebuild, and breathe new life into the cogs of global finance. Together, let’s pave the way for a tomorrow where sustainable development isn’t just an ideal—it’s our reality.


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