Consensus on how the EU can meet the SDGs?
25 January 2017
On Wednesday this week, MEPs on the Development Committee set out our position on the draft "EU Consensus on Development". The primary aim of the new Consensus must be to deliver on the promises we made in New York to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) between now and 2030. To do that effectively, we need to align both the centrally coordinated EU development programmes run by the European Commission and the bilateral aid programmes of individual EU countries with the 17 goals agreed by the UN. The Consensus document, like its predecessor, will, therefore, be negotiated by the three EU Institutions: European Parliament, the Council (representing the Member States) and the Commission, the aim being to reach agreement by the middle of the year.
That we should all pull in the same direction makes sense. Since the last Consensus was signed in 2005, coordination has improved: the EU External Action Service (EEAS) delegations in our partner countries now actively promote much more practical coordination between EU Member States on the ground and we are seeing more joint programming. But we also need a broader discussion on where the EU can add value on development policy and a list of EU priorities for action.
But how different should the new Consensus be from the old one? What needs to change in the next 15 years? These are different times from 2005, the year of the Gleneagles Summit and the Make Poverty History campaign, tougher times for the EU economically and politically. As a result, some governments are increasingly looking at the aid budget as a pot to dip into to tackle the immediate problems of the migration "crisis" and instability/global terrorism. Here the development community must remain vigilant, not because anti-terror and migration policies don't matter, but because we know that poverty is a key driver of conflict, fragility and migration. A clear focus on the eradication of global poverty as the long-term goal of EU development aid must, therefore, be our priority - and that needs proper resourcing.
We also need to keep in mind that the SDGs are universal goals. So alongside the Consensus on Development, we need EU action to implement the SDGs in our internal policies. The European Commission has published a communication on the "Next steps for a sustainable future" which is supposed to do just that, but it isn’t immediately clear how the Consensus and the Next Steps document will dovetail. The universality of the SDGs should mean even more focus on PCD (Policy Coherence for Development), and what I would like to see is a plan to do a sustainability check of the EU's wider policies e.g. farming, fish, trade policies, economic/tax policies.
Last but by no means least, the Consensus needs to spell out how the EU will make sure that by the end of the next 15 year period, we see a real, measurable improvement in people's daily lives. That can’t be done without improving gender equality and tackling inequalities within and between countries. And it can't be done without money: so yes let's keep pressure up for all to reach the 0.7% aid target, but let's also develop a radical programme of investment, global tax justice, improved governance and tackling corruption. Without it, we will never generate the financing for development promised at Addis to deliver the minimum public services needed to create a decent life for all and "Leaving no one behind" will never be more than a slogan.
Photo credit @ec.europa.eu