Eradicating poverty, combating inequalities and protecting human rights are among the key priorities that the European Union must defend in next year’s negotiations on the future sustainable development goals, the European Parliament confirmed in a resolution adopted this week during its plenary session in Strasbourg.
MEPs discussed and passed a report outlining EU priorities in the upcoming debates on the future global development framework set to replace Millennium Development Goals when they expire at the end of 2015.
"We cannot continue to do business-as-usual in the new framework,” Davor Ivo Stier, the Croatian center-right member of the European Parliament who penned the report, told Devex. “We need to address the real root causes of poverty instead of curing the symptoms.”
Although several milestones have been accomplished since the MDGs were adopted in 2000, he said, progress has been uneven and there’s definitely still much work ahead on fighting poverty and promoting sustainable, inclusive growth.
“The MDGs have done a lot, but progress has not been equally shared both within and between countries,” Stier explained. “There are resources for all people, but unfortunately, there is no justice for all."
MEPs agreed in Strasbourg that ending poverty and combating inequality should be the central tenets for the post-2015 global development agenda. Likewise, measures to mitigate climate change and reduce disaster risk must be mainstreamed into global development policy.
The European Parliament also wants the EU to push for a human rights-based approach, stressed the importance of equal access to health and education and defended a stand-alone goal on gender equality.
Although the text was adopted on Tuesday by a large majority of 541 votes to 96 with 29 abstentions, the battle was hard-fought. Within a relatively short time frame, Stier led the discussions on the report as rapporteur (chief negotiator) in the influential Development Committee with the other political parties.
“Every party had its red lines, but each of them had to give and take,” a source close to the negotiations told Devex. “In the end they reached a consensus decision, by focusing on the main issues and less on wordings and technicalities.”
Member states urged to stay united
The vote serves as an input to the EU debate on the post-2015 agenda, following a June report from the European Commission — the EU’s executive branch — which defined its position for the negotiations. Now it’s up to the 28 EU member states, united in the European Council, to take a common stance. Next year, global negotiations on the post-2015 sustainable development framework will get into high gear ahead of the final decision expected at come out of the U.N. General Assembly in New York next September.
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Stier hopes that EU member states keep in mind the latest resolution when their development ministers meet in Brussels in a few weeks to formulate their position.
"The most important message that comes from the Parliament regarding the post-2015 global development agenda is the call on the Council to focus on those issues that are most relevant for combating poverty, inequalities and advancing sustainable development,” he said. “It is crucial that member states agree on a unified, consistent and coherent EU position in December."
Following the debate on Monday, European Commissioner for Development Neven Mimica praised the MEP’s inputs as “an important contribution towards forging a strong EU position.”
“European development policy is a cornerstone in our relations with the outside world, and it works alongside a range of policies [such as] foreign policy, agriculture [and] environment,” he noted in a statement. “The high convergence of the positions of the EU and of the Open Working Group (the U.N. entity tasked with crafting the SDGs) is a manifestation of Europe’s influence.”
As we inch closer to the post-2015, it’s worth mentioning that while EU member states will be sitting at the negotiating table as individual UN member states, ultimately the Commission will defend the common EU position. According to our source, the Commission thus “has a formally informal role — but a huge one.”
Given the broad range of themes covered in the adopted texts, nongovernmental organizations found much to comment on the latest resolution.
Caritas is pleased to find that the motion recognizes the right to food as a basic right, and states the end of hunger by 2020 as an explicit goal, while DSW is encouraged by the strong support for access to sexual and reproductive health and rights and its call for a stand-alone goal on gender equality in the next global development framework.
“Girls and young women are disproportionately affected by gender discrimination, poverty, and diseases such as HIV and AIDS,” said Cecile Vernant, head of advocacy at DSW’s EU office. “They need to be at the centre of any debate on the future of development policy if it is to be successful.”
Other members of the aid community, however, continues to follow the debate on development fundamentals with caution like Tanya Cox from Plan International, who ahead of the vote mentioned a lack of focus on transformative means in the discussions.
“We’re not seeing any transformative solutions,” she said. “For example, there’s a great reliance on economic growth, but this clashes with the environmental agenda. There are still some inherent tensions here.”
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