Brussels – These days are critical for the advancement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as the 2023 SDG Summit taking place in New York aims to mark the beginning of a new phase in accelerating the implementation of the SDGs with high-level political guidance.
In September 2015, world leaders, gathered at the United Nations to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which included 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), sought to address pressing global challenges by taking into account, on an equal footing, the economic, social and environmental dimensions. Now, half way to 2030, it is essential to take stock of the progress made, the challenges faced, and the path forward towards achieving these ambitious goals. The reality is that we are currently falling behind schedule, and it appears that even if we have all the required resources and technology, we are lacking the political determination to move forward at an adequate pace.
During the High-Level Political Forum in July in New York, it was mentioned that the UN special edition of the SDGs Progress Report made clear that only 12 percent of the Sustainable Development Goals are on track globally. Europe is in better shape than other continents as there has been progress in some of the SDGs. Nevertheless, not all of them are progressing and not as fast as they should. In addition to this, there are disparities among EU Member States and regions and we still have a long way to go as multiple and consecutive crisis such as the pandemic and the war in Ukraine are destabilising the world and our efforts.
The Road Ahead
The lack of explicit mention of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in President Ursula Von der Leyen‘s State of the Union speech on 13 September, shows that the SDGs are not the driving force of change of the EU policies. There is a certain “SDG washing”. Instead of considering them as an umbrella that defines our actions for systemic change, we just take fragmented decisions and state how it affects the implementation of specific goals.
The incoming EU Commission should take the political commitment to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals seriously. Achieving the 2030 Agenda requires structural changes, innovative solutions, and collaboration among governments, civil society, businesses, and international organisations. We need a long-term transformative plan that will go beyond 2030. The European Economic and Social Committee (Eesc) and other civil society organisations have been calling for an overarching strategy to implement the SDGs since the beginning. And this requires political courage and commitment not only to adequately channel the available financial and human resources but also to restructure the way the administration works and to break silos.
We are experiencing unprecedented floods, drought and wildfires. We are witnessing how social inequalities are rising and with them social unrest and disdain for our current politicians and policy-makers. We are seeing how the big economic players are improving their market position and how it’s getting harder and harder for the small ones to survive. The implementation of the SDGs is the only reliable solution for all. Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals demands collective action, innovative solutions, and a renewed dedication to building a better world for current and future generations. We can’t allow the uncertainty to govern our future.
Maria Nikolopoulou, is a member of the European Economic and Social Committee (Eesc) and a member of the Spanish Trade Union Confederation Comisiones Obreras