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    EEB Pushes Back Against Quality of SDG Integration

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    Stockholm (NordSIP) – Despite its efforts to integrate the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), doubts remain as to the actual capacity of the EU to fulfil this goal, according to the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), a network of 180 European environmental NGOs.

    The EEB argues that “participatory and transformative change is still out of reach”, an opinion supported by the results of the first European Voluntary Review of the SDGs. Beyond the progress on the SDG-integration front, the consultation itself comes under fire as the EEB notes that only the European Economic and Social Committee tried, but did not succeed, to lead a stakeholder consultation.

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    Old Concerns

    These concerns are not new. At the end of January 2023, the 2022 edition of the Europe Sustainable Development Report by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) already highlighted challenges. “Even countries topping the SDSN’s SDG Index for Europe – Finland, Sweden, and Denmark – face significant challenges in achieving several SDGs, with progress stalling on many of the social and health indicators, including poverty, life expectancy, and unemployment,” the report warns.

    Further warnings followed during the February plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR). “We are just seven years away from 2030 and the deadline for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. They remain our framework to build a stronger and fairer Europe for all, even when faced with many different crises. Cities and regions are committed to building a socio-economic recovery that puts people, climate and social justice together. ​Going from strategy to delivery is vital. Cities and Regions are key to making the SDGs a reality,” the President of the European Committee of the Regions, Vasco Alves Cordeiro (PT/PES) said on that occasion. “We urgently need to redouble our efforts on sustainable development and the 2030 Agenda. As Members of the European Committee of Regions, you have an essential role in bringing the SDGs down to earth and making them real and concrete in people’s lives,” Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the UN Sustainable Development Group told the CoR. “Policies and initiatives that have been tried and tested by cities and regions can catalyze change that will save and improve lives and livelihoods around the world,” Mohammed added.

    EEBs’ Criticism

    The EEB argues that the review “merely assesses what the EU has done so far and promotes its flagship policies, lacks any real vision for structural changes and is not linked to any EU-level action plan to address gaps and challenges on SDG implementation,” before adding that “the EU did not succeed in properly consulting citizens, nor did it reach out to NGOs beyond European networks.”

    “The EU VR process should be an honest and forward-looking stock-taking exercise, as well as a steppingstone to an overarching strategy on the SDGs, complete with a fully financed action plan. As of now, it is not clear how Europe intends to make structural changes in areas where the data shows regression, and particularly where we see negative external impacts of Europe’s policies on the rest of the world,” comments Jeffrey Moxom, SDG Watch Europe Coordinator, EEB.

    “There is a clear need to shift from a tick box exercise to the creation of real opportunities for citizens’ and civil society participation to engage the whole of society for sustainable development and for the SDGs,” says Manuela Gervasi, Senior Policy Officer for Public Participation and Sustainable Development, EEB and SDG Watch Europe Steering Group Member.

    Time Doesn’t Stop

    Ahead of the High-Level Political Forum in July in New York and the SDG Summit taking place in September, the EEB highlighted the importance of keeping to the original SDG timeline.

    “With only seven years left to achieve the SDGs, the role of the incoming European Commission in 2024 will be instrumental to ensure the EU’s delivery of the 2030 Agenda. The EU VR provides a first step, but what we need is an overarching European Strategy on Sustainable Development that guides all policies and measures with clear timelines and targets around all SDGs. Such a strategy also needs to ensure the meaningful participation of civil society participation and citizens,” states Patrizia Heidegger, Director for EU Governance, Sustainability and Global Policies, EEB. “In 2024, we need a European Pact for Our Common Future, a European Green Deal 2 if you want, but one addressing the full spectrum of sustainable development as the main instrument to achieve our objectives for 2030,” Heidegger concluded.

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