Open letter to the United Nations

H.E. Ban Ki-Moon,
Secretary-General of the United Nations,
United Nations Headquarters,
New York, NY 10017

14th November 2014

Dear Secretary-General,

In the coming weeks negotiations to finalise the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for eradicating poverty will begin. We urge you to champion the cause of economic growth as the foundation stone for achieving long term poverty reduction.

No country has succeeded in significantly reducing poverty without sustained economic growth. The current SDG proposals list a wide variety of noble ambitions including securing food, health, education, and energy. Yet, poor attainment in these areas is in large measure a consequence of poverty and a lack of growth. There is a risk that presenting the SDGs as if they could be directly delivered by public action inadvertently casts ordinary people in the passive role of recipients of government largesse. Without sustained economic growth the resources required for effective public action will be limited.

Strong growth boosts employment opportunities, increases incentives for parents to invest in their children’s health and education, fosters entrepreneurship and innovation, and generates pressure for investment in essential infrastructure and for improved governance. Achieving the SDG targets will not be possible unless the agenda focuses squarely on individuals as active generators of their own income, lifting themselves out of poverty.

Economic growth has been the single biggest factor driving poverty reduction around the world. There is no magic bullet for delivering economic growth – it requires an effective state, productive firms, functioning cities, and access to energy. Helping societies to achieve economic growth thus means empowering them to create their own solutions. If the SDGs are to be successful in their central target of eradicating global poverty then a clear commitment to strong, sustainable economic growth needs to be at the forefront of the post-2015 development agenda.

 

Signed:

Professor Sir Paul Collier,
Director of the International Growth Centre (IGC) and Professor of Economics and Public Policy, Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford

Professor Tim Besley,
School Professor of Economics and Political Science, London School of Economics and Political Science

Professor Oriana Bandiera,
Professor of Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science

Dr Nancy Birdsall,
Founding President of the Center for Global Development

Professor Robin Burgess,
Director of the International Growth Centre (IGC) and Professor of Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science

Professor Francesco Caselli,
Norman Sosnow Professor of Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science

Professor Chang-Tai Hsieh,
Phyllis and Irwin Winkelried Professor of Economics, University of Chicago

Professor Ed Glaeser,
Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics, Harvard University

Professor Michael Greenstone,
Milton Friedman Professor of Economics and Director of the Energy Policy Institute at Chicago (EPIC), University of Chicago

Professor Jonathan Leape,
Executive Director of the International Growth Centre (IGC)

Professor Mthuli Ncube,
Former Chief Economist and Vice President of the African Development Bank

Professor Lant Pritchett,
Professor of the Practice of International Development, Harvard University

Professor James Robinson,
David Florence Professor of Government, Harvard University

Professor Dani Rodrik,
Albert O. Hirschman Professor of Social Sciences, Institute for Advanced Study

Professor Lawrence Summers,
University Professor and President Emeritus at Harvard University

Professor Silvana Tenreyro,
Professor of Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science

Professor Tony Venables,
BP Professor of Economics, University of Oxford

Professor Leonard Wantchekon,
Professor of Politics, Princeton University

Published on:

21 November 2014