by Jessica Polfjard and Tomas Tobe*
The European Union must be the driving force for reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals, where progress has come to a halt or has even been reversed.
The UN 2030 Agenda is crucial for ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring peace and prosperity worldwide. As stakeholders convene in New York for the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development we have a unique opportunity to build momentum for the agenda’s implementation.
The European Union needs to be the driving force and accelerate our efforts. Three concrete measures are needed.
Russia’s unprovoked and illegal war against Ukraine has upended the security landscape and exacerbated a number of global crises. Many countries who have just come out of the pandemic are now faced with geopolitical and economic shocks.
Consider global food markets, which were already in a precarious state because of extreme weather, strife and economic shockwaves. Last year, the Global Report on Food Crises pointed out that up to 811 million people are facing hunger worldwide. As Russia and Ukraine are both major exporters of cereal crops and oils, the war risks having devastating consequences.
Many developing nations are also cash-stripped and run large deficits. According to the International Monetary Fund, over 40 countries already find themselves in or close to “debt distress.” At the same time, developing countries often also face major challenges when it comes to job creation and climate for private investments.
The 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a globally endorsed framework to move towards sustainable economic, environmental and social development.
The goals provide policy guidance, which should be translated into strong commitments by all stakeholders to address the threats to global food security, stimulate economic growth and facilitate employment in a post-pandemic world, particularly in the most vulnerable countries.
Unfortunately, the latest progress reports make for dismal reading. The 2022 report paints a bleak picture, warning that “years, or even decades, of development progress have been halted or reversed … putting the very viability of achieving the SDGs by 2030 at great risk”.
This year’s HLPF will therefore provide a rare opportunity for a genuine political reset, which is urgently needed to reverse the downward trend and quickly accelerate SDG implementation.
The EU should be the driving force to make this happen, and take concrete action.
First, we need a clear EU implementation and governance strategy, with concrete measures and targets, as well as strong leadership and a high degree of policy coherence. This will cement an effective EU approach to SDG implementation and set a good example for others.
Second, the EU needs to intensify cooperation and accelerate progress on SDG 17, partnerships for the goals. The EU is uniquely placed to accelerate progress on partnerships, given its proven track record as a champion of multilateralism. We also have to increase engagement with regional and local governments, civil society, and the private sector.
Third, Europe could do better. In our development policy in particular, it is time to push for a new approach that centres on strengthening trade ties and boosting investment and job creation. The private sector plays a crucial role in achieving the SDGs, and it is high time for EU policy to reflect this.
With the active involvement of the European Parliament, the European Commission and member states at the HLPF, we have a great opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the 2030 Agenda and urge the international community to follow our lead to make up for lost time and ensure that no one is left behind.
*chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Development and European People’s Party vice-coordinator on the European Parliament Committee on Environment, Public Health & Food Safety
**first published in: www.euractiv.com