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The EU’s new strategy for sustainable development

Submitted by on 24 Mar 2015 – 10:16

EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica outlines the ambitious scope of the EU’s post-2015 development agenda.

Neven Mimica

Neven Mimica

In September 2015 the international community will come together in New York to agree a new framework for sustainable development.

 The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), agreed in 2000 and which are set to expire in 2015, were a group of eight time-bound and quantifiable objectives addressing extreme poverty. They have been extremely important in guiding development efforts made by developing countries themselves, as well as donor governments.  The MDGs have helped to focus attention and mobilise support; they have helped lift many millions out of extreme hardship.

  • As the world’s largest donor – and the world’s largest trading partner for developing countries – the EU institutions and member states have driven some of this progress in partnership with developing countries themselves and should be proud of their achievements.
  • The EU has helped, for example, to enrol 13.7 million new pupils in primary education, ensure that over 7.5 million births were attended by skilled health personnel and that more than 70 million people were connected to improved drinking water.

But work remains unfinished; around one billion people still live in extreme poverty.  And major environmental challenges remain – two-thirds of the resources provided by nature, including fertile land, oceans, drinking water and clean air, are in decline. Climate change and biodiversity loss have almost reached the limits beyond which there will be irreversible effects on human society and the natural environment.

This is why the EU is working with others in the international community to create a new set of Sustainable Development Goals.  UN insiders describe this as the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

As European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, achieving an ambitious and universal post-2015 development agenda, backed up with credible and proportionate means of implementation, is one of my top priorities for the coming months. I want to ensure that the EU remains at the forefront of the fight to eradicate poverty and to achieve sustainable development. The Summit in New York in September should approve a single overarching agenda addressing both poverty eradication and sustainable development. This is an unparalleled opportunity that we cannot afford to miss.

Over the last few months the European institutions have been playing a very active role in shaping the global discussion.  In November 2014 the European Parliament passed a resolution on the EU and the global development framework after 2015, calling for the EU to actively lead the process towards the definition of a single, comprehensive and integrated global development framework after 2015.  In December 2014 the European Council, which brings together the EU Heads of State and Government, reaffirmed its commitment to the post-2015 process and that achieving a transformative agenda is a key priority for the EU.

Photograph: Matt Paish, Flickr

Photograph: Matt Paish, Flickr

The ambition is there.  We have before us a rare moment of opportunity to radically overhaul the way the global community works together on poverty eradication and sustainable development.  An important innovation being discussed is the principle of ‘universality’ – the idea that the new agenda will apply to every country.  All will need to make some changes to put the new framework to work.  These would be adapted to each country’s individual context, but pursued with a collective sense of the global common good.  This is one of the ways in which the new framework will take into account the shifts in the balance of political and economic power between countries over the last fifteen years.

In addition to agreeing the agenda, we need to ensure that it is backed with appropriate financing and policies that will allow us to implement the goals we agree upon.  Implementation of the post-2015 agenda will need to be underpinned by a new and stronger global partnership, with all actors – public and private, from all countries – playing their role, and contributing their fair share to domestic and global progress.

The European Commission has recently set out its views on the new global partnership that is needed to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals in a new Communication (‘A Global Partnership for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development after 2015.’) We outlined a series of policy measures to be pursued by all countries, according to their respective capabilities, set out ambitious proposals on how the EU could contribute to such a partnership and suggested principles for a solid and credible review and monitoring mechanism at national, regional and global levels. The Communication will feed into EU positions in preparations for the Third Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa in July 2015 and the New York discussions later this year.

At the European Union we have chosen to designate 2015 as the European Year for Development. It is a major opportunity to make a difference in the lives of millions of people in some of the world’s poorest countries, to ensure their future wellbeing, as well as to contribute to the future wellbeing of our planet. The next few months will be decisive. You can rest assured that we will do our utmost to ensure that the post 2015 agenda is ambitious, universal and far-reaching, and which will help secure a decent life for everyone, no matter where they live.

Neven Mimica is European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development.