Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals: The EU must continue to lead the way

Addis. New York. Paris. Three summits that shaped development policy in 2015, all with the potential to transform the way we do, and finance, sustainable development, writes Linda McAvan MEP.

International agreements are now in place to help tackle poverty, inequality and climate change for the next 15 years. Now that the ink is dry, it is time for the hard work to begin. The EU is the world’s largest donor and a trend-setter when it comes to sustainable development and climate legislation. It has a significant role to play. So what needs to happen next?

Implementing the SDGs

Turning words into actions must be the focus of 2016. As chair of the European Parliament development committee I see, and can contribute to, the important role the EU has to play in making the Sustainable Development Goals a reality. We need to eradicate poverty by 2030, without leaving anyone behind. I hope the EU shows strong leadership on this; DEVE will certainly play its part. In the European Parliament, each national government needs to plan its approach to achieving the goals.

In order for us to succeed, more people across Europe need to know about the goals – they need to be aware of the ambitious agenda we all want to achieve. Policymakers need to be regularly reminded of these goals; the world must not forget about our commitment to the poorest people.

Last year was the European Year for Development, a year dedicated to raising awareness of the achievements and successes of EU development cooperation. I was impressed to see more and more people engaging with our work on sustainable development. I found that people really care about justice, the fight against poverty and inequality, and climate change.

But now, the real test for the success of the European Year for Development will be how it contributes to achieving the new goals. We must now focus on building public support by effectively communicating about development, and on holding EU countries accountable. Otherwise we will not achieve these ambitious goals. All this cannot be done without civil society.

Role of civil society

Without civil society and NGOs, the European Year for Development wouldn’t have happened. NGOs are working together to achieve change. We have to show leadership in the world, and that we can honour our commitment to reach the global goals.

Without civil society, people wouldn’t know about development policy. We’re counting on it for the future. We need civil society to put pressure on policymakers and governments to achieve the goals.

Clear policy

A new phase of shaping development policy should start now, at EU level – policy that delivers action and change on the ground.

The EU’s policy should be about creating a better world for all our citizens. But we can’t do this alone and we can’t only focus on our part of the world. In an increasingly interdependent world we need to work together to achieve lasting development.

The future

The international development community needs to step up. Governments, civil society and policymakers all have their role to play. We must build on the partnerships forged in 2015. We must engage new stakeholders beyond the development community to bring about change.

Linda McAvan MEP is chair of the European Parliament development committee.