Today and tomorrow are important days for the Agenda 2030. EU Member States have just adopted the conclusions on the global Agenda and the European Parliament is expected to adopt its report on “EU action for sustainability”. Following Member States’ lead, it is time to call on the European Commission to: strategise, implement and deliver!

Mirage or oasis? From adoption to implementation of the universal agenda

Remember September 2015 and the elation when the world adopted the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, thus setting us on a new path towards peace, prosperity and environmental sustainability in a world where no-one is left behind? At that time the EU was justifiably proud of brokering a deal at the UN for a new kind of global development model where the environment and human rights are fully respected and all countries would take a path towards a sustainable future.  

The European Commission, having taken admirable strides with EU Member States to forge a strong and ambitious position ahead of the UN negotiations, suddenly went quiet. It assured us that EU was already at the forefront of sustainable development and that there was no need for major transformative action – just some tweaking.

Things are very different in EU Member States, some of whom having developed implementation plans for the Sustainable Development Goals. Now, they have all issued a wake-up call to the European Commission.  

As the Council Conclusions make clear, EU governments want to see the 2030 Agenda driven forward as an ambitious plan of action . The Commission and Member States have no choice but to act jointly in many areas. if we want to make the SDGs a reality in Europe and beyond. It is a universal Agenda and many countries in the global south have already embraced it in full.  This time it is the EU that is lagging behind.

People, Planet, Peace and… Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development

CONCORD believes that the 2030 Agenda and the balanced integration of the four dimensions of sustainable development (social, environmental, economic and governance) must be the guiding framework for all EU policies and plans in both domestic and international action. This calls for a re-thinking of current approaches and stepping up efforts for greater coherence between EU policies for sustainable development. EU policies must play for the long-term goals instead of fighting short-term symptoms. So for example, when we celebrate World Refugee Day this 20 June, remembering the many migrant deaths of the past decade, we must step up our efforts to address the root causes of forced migration and displacement, promote and protect migrant rights and create legal and safe pathways. This requires the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda, both at home and abroad, leaving no migrant or refugee behind.

Social and economic progress for all is dependent upon the health of the planet’s natural resources: GDP driven growth will not deliver on so many aspects of the 2030 Agenda. Measuring progress using GDP alone ignores the reality that current growth model exacerbates inequalities, ignores environmental degradation and climate change impacts and is completely gender blind. It says nothing about the quality of our health, community and education services or our work-life balance. We should be measuring real progress based on people’s well-being within all four dimensions of sustainable development. This would be an alternative but compelling vision for the future of Europe and its citizens.  

From engagement to action  

So we are turning now to the European Commission and asking them to resume this leadership role, to assess what they really need to do to turn the global SDGs into European action, to provide a time-bound implementation strategy to 2030 and to set up the institutional mechanisms to deliver in a transparent and accountable way. The Member States’ and our concerns will be echoed in the Parliament’s report scheduled for adoption tomorrow. An EU level implementation strategy would also support those Member States currently lagging behind.

And while we all wait for the Commission to draft such a strategy by mid-2018, we call on the EU to already put sustainable development at the front and centre of the ongoing reflections on the Future of Europe (see “6th scenario” below) and the next Multiannual Financial Framework. Failing to do so, we will surely fall short of the transformation we all signed up to.

Scenario 6: Sustainable Europe for its Citizens

Imagine if the European Union became the driver for sustainability in Europe and beyond. This is what it could sound like…

This scenario was imagined by SDG Watch Europe