Credits Photo: © UN in Guatemala/ Héctor Morales
Published on March 28, 2024

Four ways the UN is galvanising Guatemala’s SDG acceleration

At the 2023 Sustainable Development Summit, the Secretary-General, António Guterres, reiterated the United Nations’ commitment to supporting countries’ efforts to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He laid on the table “six key transitions” – food systems, energy, digital connectivity, education, jobs and social protection, and biodiversity, pollution and climate change – aimed at catalysing investments and accelerating SDG progress in key areas.   

Mr. Miguel Barreto, the UN Resident Coordinator in the country and lead for the UN Country Team’s efforts to advance the SDGs in Guatemala, sees these pathways for SDG acceleration as more than just buzzwords. Instead, he recognises the six transitions as a powerful lens to view all of Guatemala's development efforts and a framework for aligning policy, programme and investment decisions across social, economic and environmental dimensions, while incorporating gender equality and cultural relevance. Thereby, the six transitions reflect Guatemala's unique needs and amplify the existing efforts by the Government, the private sector, civil society, communities and local actors, with the support of development financing. 

Here are four ways the UN team in Guatemala and national partners are translating these ambitions into real change.  

Leveraging existing investments in a cohesive way 

Guatemala is already seeing how strategic investments in these six transformational areas can ensure tangible, scalable impact. For example, with the new UN Joint SDG Fund Digital Window, agencies are revamping Guatemala's digital public infrastructure.   

One of the current programmes is the Digital Public Infrastructure and Connectivity project, jointly developed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), with the coordination of the Resident Coordinator’s Office (RCO). A US$ 3 million programme that will affect change not only towards digital inclusion and accessibility, but also for education, climate change and social protection.  By empowering citizens with digital skills, the programme enables them to access better education, participate in climate-resilient practices, and advocate for their rights, ultimately contributing to a more equitable and sustainable future.  

Fostering partnerships for impact 

This approach has also transformed how the UN Country Team works with partners such as the European Union. By analysing Guatemala's needs through the lens of the Global Sustainable Development Report and Guatemala's Voluntary National Reviews, they are able to identify the most critical investment pathways aligned with the six transitions. Leveraging the strengths of each UN agency and the EU Global Gateway Strategy permits the creation of a combined ‘offer’ to support Guatemala's journey. Looking ahead, this will cater to digitalization, social protection and the green economy.  This integrated approach ensures efficient use of resources and avoids duplication of efforts while contributing to systems-thinking in cooperation.  

Putting people first in decision-making 

Ensuring that the principle of “leave no one behind” is upheld when adopting this accelerated approach, the UN Country Team is putting fairness and equality first. This means transforming outdated economic models, markets, incentives and policies within and between countries, to ensure everyone has a chance to thrive.  

Under the leadership of the Resident Coordinator’s Office, the UN in Guatemala is actively working on championing youth empowerment and the creative economy, believing that these hold immense potential for positive change. They are also collaborating with UNICEF, UNDP and UNESCO on the National Innovation Awards (Premio Nacional de Innovación), fostering a culture of innovation across science, technology, industry, education and services.  

Mobilising new sources of finance 

With an estimated global deficit of US$ 4.2 trillion per year to achieve the SDGs, it is imperative that our global community bridge this funding gap. The main financing source for countries like Guatemala is the national budget. Therefore, aligning this with the SDGs is crucial.  

While Guatemala does not officially have an SDG-based budget, progress is underway. For example, allocating 1.4 per cent of GDP to social security and welfare programmes shows some progress, while highlighting the financing gap for inclusion-focused SDGs. 

But public funds alone are not enough to achieve the SDGs. Countries like Guatemala are already facing immense pressure from global crises. Recognising this, the UN team in Guatemala will explore innovative approaches to align the six catalytic areas with investment opportunities, drawing on the expertise of key stakeholders and together with UN Women, actively promoting women's leadership and participation in decision-making processes to address the specific challenges faced by women and girls. 

Achieving the SDGs in Guatemala requires collective effort and innovative solutions. By diversifying financing, leveraging public-private partnerships, and harnessing the power of technology, efforts are actively underway to bridge the funding gap and build a more equitable future for all Guatemalans. 

The global commitment to the SDGs and the six transitions is a testament to the shared resolve for a sustainable future; a path that requires collective action and unwavering dedication from all. Turning this into reality will take good governance, political-will and social consensus. It will require strong policy and regulatory frameworks, and capable public institutions to translate plans into reality and attract the necessary investments. 

In Guatemala, the UN team is leveraging all partners for catalytic change, with resources to translate these pathways into tangible progress for all, thanks to the active and integral engagement of its agencies on the ground. 


Originally published by United Nations DCO



The Joint SDG Fund's joint programmes are under the prestige leadership of the Resident Coordinator Office and implementing United Nations Agencies. With sincere appreciation for the contributions from the European Union and Governments of Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and our private sector funding partners, for a transformative movement towards achieving the SDGs by 2030.