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Sustainable development targets need firm spending commitments

Submitted by on 04 Mar 2015 – 12:13

As part of Government Gazette’s extended focus on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, Linda McAvan MEP argues that Europe’s leaders must make firm spending commitments in order to tackle the challenges of poverty and climate change.

Photograph: Nana B Agyel

Will 2015 go down as the year global leaders took decisive action to secure a sustainable future for our planet?  That is the crucial question as the UN steps up negotiations on replacement targets for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the General Assembly in September in New York. Draft documents propose new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), applicable to all countries. Then just two months later in Paris, global leaders will come together again to seek a deal on combating climate change.

2015 has also been designated the European Year for Development and as we mark this year perhaps lesson number one is that development policy works. The MDGs have helped cut extreme poverty in half. Millions have been lifted out of poverty, millions more children have gone to school, been protected from malaria and over 2 billion people have been given access to clean water and sanitation.

But unless upcoming global talks in 2015 are successful, and matched by spending commitments and the right policies, our objective of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 and progress could be lost. This was why European Parliament is calling on the EU to play a leading role in these processes to make sure the goals are ambitious and have at their heart the eradication of extreme poverty, human rights, good governance, reducing inequalities and empowering women and girls.

“Poverty will never be history unless we tackle climate change.”

Securing funds to deliver on these policy goals is now a priority. A special international conference on financing development has been called for July in Addis Ababa. The European Commission has just published a paper calling on the EU to re-commit to the target of spending 0.7% of their national income on development aid, a move I applaud as essential to getting all global players on board.

Coming quickly on the heels of New York are the climate talks in Paris in December. For the world’s poorest peoples global warming is not a future problem but a real and present danger. We need a renewed sense of urgency and serious emission reduction targets backed up by policies to deliver them if we are to stabilise global temperatures. Poverty will never be history unless we tackle climate change.

I believe the EU should prioritise delivering results in these processes, using its important position in the world as the world’s largest aid donor and as a region that has pushed forward with binding legislation to tackle climate change.  Our aim should be to achieve genuine improvements in people’s livelihoods and encourage policies for better stewardship of the world’s natural resources. If the EU can achieve this in 2015, backing up words with concrete actions, it will do much to enhance its role in the global community. My colleagues and I on the Development Committee are ready to help meet this challenge.

Linda McAvan MEP is Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee for International Development (DEVE) and Vice President of the Labour Campaign for International Development. She is a member of the Socialist & Democrat (S&D) group in the European Parliament and represents Yorkshire and the Humber.