Who’s birthday is it? 

What are the SDGs?

Climate change, food insecurity, gender inequality, resource constraints, increased migration and mobility, unsustainable economic growth and consumption and production patterns, the recent financial and economic crises…. all pose complex andinterrelated challenges that must be addressed all together, reflecting how today’s world is highly interlinked. It is no longer possible or reasonable to imagine that we can deal successfully with issues without also working simultaneously on other areas.

To address the root causes of these common global challenges, world leaders came together in New York in 2015 to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS), a global action plan that aims to reach 17 social, environmental, economic and governance objectives by 2030.

By adopting an ambitious overarching strategy for sustainable development and guiding European policies towards transformation, the EU and its Member States can make a real difference, for people in Europe and around the world.

Jussi Kanner

CONCORD expert on sustainable development

The Sustainable Development Goals and their respective targets and indicators are part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which also includes a declaration setting out the overall vision and underlying principles.The 2030 Agenda also outlines what means – financial and non-financial – will be needed to implement this comprehensive goals and how progress can be monitored and reviewed.

Now, this Agenda needs to be translated into action at global, regional, national and local action, to bring about the change we want over the next 15 years. For this reason, also the EU and its Member States are expected to design and implement overarching, integrated Agenda 2030 strategies for domestic as well as international action.


The celebration in Europe

What is the role of the EU?

Sustainable development has since long been at the heart of the European project, as recognised in the EU Treaties. Similarly the Treaty declares the objective of promoting the well-being of its people. In order to achieve genuine well-being, we must address poverty, inequalities and environmental degradation and take decisions that balance all the dimensions of sustainable development. By signing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the EU also committed to people worldwide that they would translate this global agenda into EU action.

The Union’s aim is to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples […] It shall work for the sustainable development of Europe […] It shall contribute to peace, security, the sustainable development of the Earth, solidarity and mutual respect among peoples, free and fair trade, eradication of poverty and the protection of human rights (…)

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Treaty on the European Union

The person in charge of this Agenda at EU level is Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the European Commission. He is responsible for implementing and monitoring it. Let’s have a look at what he says on that matter:

United Nations General Assembly

The European Union has actively contributed to the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and many initiatives in Europe are going in the right direction. For example, Europe promotes the use of renewable energies, the reduction of food waste or women going to universities.

CONCORD members are monitoring closely to what extent EU institutions and Member States have set up the necessary governance structures to take this holistic agenda forward, whether strategies have been adopted with clear plans for implementation, whether robust monitoring accountability mechanisms have been set up and whether civil society is being engaged and has been building cross-sectoral alliances along the way.

Indeed, much remains to be done to build up a new economic model! We need to move towards a model that allows everyone to live in dignity and that respects the planet. Reducing inequality between and within countries must be a priority. For example, there is a Goal on equality between women and men, but the EU’s gender pay gap is still over 16%. There is a Goal on decent work, but close to 16% of young people in Europe are neither in work nor education. Regarding climate, the current decade is the hottest on record in Europe while beyond our borders, there is an unprecedented combination of climate-related crises. The latest example: 40 million people have been affected by flooding and landslides in Bangladesh, India and Nepal as a result of torrential rains since August. Four times the population of Belgium, nearly two thirds of the French population. What’s more, Europe heavily depends on imported resources for food, minerals, raw materials and we would need 2.6 Earths if everyone lived like an EU citizen.

The EU needs to address the incoherencies and challenge the power imbalances at stake. In many of its policies and practices, the EU negates progress towards  Sustainable Development, like using development policy to curb irregular migration, prioritising Global Value Chains over local food security, or ignoring the true cost of GDP-growth for people and planet.

Ever-Jan Brouwer

CONCORD expert on sustainable development


Our birthday wishes

CONCORD’s recommendations

Close the inequality gap

The EU must do more to reduce the extreme inequalities that exist both between and within countries. The benefits of globalisation are unevenly distributed as a result of unequal power relations between and within countries, and between poor host countries and the transnational companies that operate in them. This implies that the most marginalised and poorest people and countries must be given greater opportunities and a level playing field created. Key to this is to focus on redistributive policies (such as taxation and social protection) to reduce the concentration of wealth and power. A whole range of other policies would also need to be reviewed to this end, including international financing rules, trade policy, investment, agriculture, labour standards, and social policies such as education and healthcare.

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Respect human rights of migrants and refugees

The EU should establish a regulatory framework to ensure safe, regular pathways for asylum-seekers to deliver on its 2030 Agenda commitments. Additionally, it should ensure that cooperation with non-EU countries on migration and displacement upholds all human rights. The EU should refrain from using ODA to pursue its interest of securing borders and managing migrant flows.

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Help achieve gender equality and empower women and girls worldwide

Gender equality is, most importantly, a fundamental human right but also necessary for global development and the achievement of a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. Although many important steps have been taken, women and girls continue to suffer structural discrimination and widespread violence across the world today, and in some parts of the world we are witnessing serious backlashes against women’s and girl’s rights. The EU should step up its efforts to contribute to the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls worldwide.

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Care about our well-being, not only GDP

(GDP = Gross Domestic ProductTo ensure that all policies work in the interests of all people and the planet, we must radically review our definitions and concept of progress. Progress needs to be viewed in terms of improved well-being for all (mindful of gender, age, income, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, location etc.) while fully respecting the planet. The EU should adopt a common set of indicators which encapsulate the concept of “well-being” from the social, economic, environmental and governance perspectives. These indicators should be used to guide future policy and decision-making in all areas in addition to GDP.

Build a fair and just food system

The EU should make sure that all the EU’s investments in agriculture, whether in Europe or abroad, are sustainable, resilient and eco-friendly. This means: a focus on small producers, especially female and young, and on rural economies, ecosystems and biodiversity. The EU should also put the right to food at the centre of the EU’s contribution to sustainable agriculture and food security worldwide. This means: every human being has the physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or means for its procurement.

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Adopt EU budgets that deliver for people and planet

Future EU budgets should be sustainability-proofed. Sustainable development should not be yet another line in the EU budget, but each and every euro spent by the EU budget should contribute to sustainable development. This means for example that the EU should do away with harmful subsidies, and safeguard its support to the countries and peoples most in need by increasing the share of Official Development Assistance in future budgets.

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Inform and engage citizens in tracking progress

The EU often claims to be a global leader in sustainable development. Is this the case or plain lip service? The EU should ensure accountability and transparency to its citizens by reporting regularly on its progress towards sustainable development. The EU should also develop more meaningful ways of engaging with citizens and civil society while collecting feedback and designing new policies.

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CONCORD sent out a set of recommendations to implement Agenda 2030 in the EU. CONCORD members are also monitoring closely to what extent EU institutions and Member States have set up the necessary governance structures.



Our birthday evaluation

Monitoring the implementation of Agenda 2030

As we celebrate the 2030 Agenda’s second anniversary, it is time to take stock of where Europe stands in turning the goals and principles into reality. CONCORD members are closely monitoring to what extent EU institutions and Member States have set up the necessary governance structures to take this holistic agenda forward, whether strategies have been adopted with clear plans for implementation, whether robust monitoring accountability mechanisms have been set up and whether civil society is being engaged and has been building cross-sectoral alliances along the way.

To ensure a coordinated and coherent approach across the EU and to learn from one another, it is important that Member States can exchange, streamline and jointly agree on their approaches to implement and monitor the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

To this end, CONCORD calls on…

  • The European Council to dedicate the political responsibility for the 2030 Agenda to a high-level Council formation, to which the First Vice President should be accountable, to set up a high-level working party or Friends of the Presidency group dedicated to the 2030 Agenda and to mainstream the 2030 Agenda in all its other working parties.
  • The European Commission, to develop an EU Sustainable Development Strategy and concrete action plans for the EU institutions and Member States, respecting   the exclusive, shared and supportive competences of  the EU .
  • The European Parliament to organise debates related to the 2030 Agenda in all its committees and to set up a group of dedicated Members of the European Parliament, representing a wide spectrum of committees and political parties, in order to hold EU leaders to account.

CONCORD’s monitoring is based on a survey in which 26 of CONCORD’s national platforms across the EU answered 30 questions about the situation in their countries. Brussels-based network members did the same for the EU institutions. From the survey results this paper distills trends, good practices and recommendations for the future.

To go further: Voluntary National Reviews

Representatives from governments and other stakeholders such as civil society from around the world gathered again in New York in July to review progress made to deliver on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the first 22 months. Ten EU Member States – Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Sweden – were among the 44 countries to report on their national implementation of the 2030 Agenda. National platforms of CONCORD engaged in the process of drafting these national reviews, analysed the respective reports of their countries and pointed out their pros and cons.


Citizens’ Wishes

Money being better divided between people

World peace

End privatisation of common goods

Tackle climate change

More women in power

No racism

Invest in green energy

Better governance


Join the call !

If you too believe the European Union should act for sustainable development, share this call and video on Twitter, Facebook… and spread the word!

We have a world to transform. This Agenda shows us the way how.

Frans Timmermans

EU Commission Vice President, UN General Assembly, 2015