Innovation for sustainable development: Leaving no one and no place behind

Territorial innovation policies for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals: A world which leaves no one and no place behind

High-level panel - Auditorium
Wednesday, June 19, 2019
11:30 to 13:00

Disparities in growth and access to resources among regions and cities call for a localised policy support, which customises innovative solutions to specific needs and capacities. Innovation in the broader sense can enable the achievement of concrete results in fighting territorial inequalities if the underlying approaches integrate both "leave-no-one-behind" and "leave-no-place-behind" statements into combinations of relevant actions and partnerships at the appropriate territorial level. This debate will combine perspectives from diverse stakeholders on issues such as: Are territorial inequalities expected to exacerbate in the future? What challenges are countries and cities facing in addressing them? What opportunities come with technologies, new governance models and social innovations?

Key points

  • Rwanda’s decision to provide public services online has improved access for the people and helped to develop the knowledge-based economy.
  • When properly used, digital technology can reduce the gaps between rich and poor within and between countries, and between urban and rural communities. If not used properly it can increase the gaps.
  • Developing country governments must create institutional structures to ensure a flow of inward investment.
  • Public policies must take gender perspectives into account when developing urban public spaces.


When Rwanda was rebuilt after the civil war the government realised it needed to build a digital economy to move the country forward and create opportunities for young people. It began by putting all public services online, to make them fully accessible. This move to digitise public services encouraged the use of ICT and for everyone to become connected.

This has generated networking opportunities across the country. To encourage entrepreneurship, and support small and medium-sized enterprises, the government introduced enabling regulations, gave strong financial support, and leveraged support services. It estimates that digitisation has reached 7.5 million people and created 40,000 jobs.

The massive increase in mobile phone use prompted the government to encourage a foreign investor to open a factory in Kigali to make affordable smart phones. The factory is now almost ready to start exporting them to surrounding countries.

Economic growth can also increase the gaps between rich and poor. In Europe, some inhabitants enjoy considerable wealth, while only a few miles away people live in abject poverty. Some of the most economically advanced countries could learn from the example of Rwanda and help SMEs to network, so the flow of knowledge will provide then with a window on the wider world.

At times this inequality within countries is mirrored by the differences in educational achievement, often because the education system fails to realise that the world is changing. Given how fast digitisation is changing the world, policymakers should be careful not to use outdated solutions to solve 21st century problems. Instead, they should seek new solutions and policies that include digital technology.

However, there is a downside to economic growth in Africa. Guinea’s economy has grown by 10 % a year over the last three years because of revenue from the bauxite mines. If not managed carefully, this could increase the gap between rich and poor as well as destroy the local environment. The government is now working to transform this situation into an opportunity. It has introduced institutional structures to support the population, and is using incoming investment for public services such as health and education. It is also boosting small businesses by supporting banks to provide loans to SMEs, which otherwise cannot obtain loans. It is also giving the most vulnerable people, who do not have bank accounts, access to services via digital transfers.

Another form of inequality in Brazil is between men and women in cities. Women are often afraid to use cities’ public spaces because of the strong possibility of being harassed by men. Today, the majority of city policymakers and administrators are men, who fail to understand or to consult women about their security fears. Women must be brought into decision making in order to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 11: To make cities and human settlement inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.


One of the powerful images of the Bolsa Familia (state funding for the poorest families in Brazil) is of people holding a yellow card, which says they are entitled to cash from the state. They are smiling because for the first time they are made to feel they are members of a state that is working to support them.

Organised by


Jamira Burley
Head of Youth Engagement and Skills
Global Business Coalition For Education
Christel Alvergne
Souad Abderrahim
Mayor of Tunis
Leticia Pinheiro Rizério Carmo
Young Leader - Brazil
Arup Banerji
Regional Director
World Bank Group
Charlina Vitcheva
Deputy Director General - Joint Research Centre - EC
European Commission