Achim Steiner talked to EU civil society about Rio+20 follow-up actions, the sustainable development goals and the post-2015 development agenda
United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Achim Steiner spoke yesterday to the European Economic and Social Committee and other European civil society representatives on the subject of "Advancing Sustainable Development Post-Rio+20". Mr Steiner spoke of the need for a fully inclusive consultation process for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that must involve governments, civil society and the private sector. This struck a chord with the EESC, which has already started its Rio+20 follow-up work by setting up broad consultation forums with civil society and institutional stakeholders at EU level on the sustainable development goals and linking them with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Since the "Rio+20" UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro last year, UNEP has been strengthened and upgraded. A key component of this is the now universal State membership in its governance body, the new United Nations Environment Assembly. Mr Steiner highlighted the fact that universality will be important for generating successful SDGs and thus keeping humanity's footprint within planetary boundaries.
The EESC is actively contributing to the development of global SDGs by promoting civil society dialogue both within the EU and with our civil society partners outside the EU, as it did prior to the Rio+20 conference. Mr Steiner praised the EESC for its work in helping the EU institutions to keep looking out beyond their borders, pointing to the regular Brazil – EU Civil Society Round Tables as an example. In an upcoming opinion, the EESC will be arguing in favour of a single set of post-2015 development goals: evidence of its efforts to bring the players from the SDG and MDG processes together.
Mr Steiner encouraged the EESC to keep on pushing for the incorporation of the policy shifts that emerged from the Rio+20 agreement into the upcoming review of the "2020 Strategy on Smart and Sustainable and Inclusive Growth". His mention of UNEP's work on the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication was picked up by several other participants in the debate on ways to build SDGs into green economy policy design and implementation in the EU.
High level representatives of European trade unions, business and sustainable development councils took part in this debate, which was also attended by Kitty van der Heijden, Dutch Ambassador for Sustainable Development, who is a member of the sustainable development goals open working group.
The EESC will continue with the work it began ahead of the Rio+20 conference on enabling and promoting civil society dialogue on sustainability issues, involving European civil society organisations and networks and national economic and social councils and sustainable development councils in Europe and elsewhere in the world. Civil society must keep up the momentum and make the link between discussions in New York and real life.