Civil society should be fully involved and engaged in setting up an EU sustainable development strategy and must be empowered to play an active role in the monitoring and implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda at all policy levels. These were the main recommendations of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) to the annual UN High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on sustainable development held in New York on 16-18 July 2018, with the participation of EESC members Peter Schmidt, Brenda King and Lutz Ribbe.
"The EU should use the 2030 Agenda to build a new vision for its future, for a more sustainable and socially inclusive Europe that benefits all citizens and leaves no one behind," said Peter Schmidt, chair of the EESC’s Sustainable Development Observatory and head of the EESC delegation to the HLPF. "We need to create prosperity and social coherence domestically, while pursuing the transition of the EU economy towards low-carbon, nature-friendly and circular production and consumption patterns to ensure sustainable well-being for all," he continued.
The EESC took part in the UN High-Level Political Forum as the body representing organised civil society in the European Union, and teamed up this year with several Member States to co-host side events for knowledge exchange on important policy aspects.
The 2018 Forum focused on Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies. The Committee has been actively promoting an ambitious agenda for sustainable development, contributing to more effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), involving its strong civil society organisation networks and acting as a platform for dialogue.
The EU has a central role to play in integrating the 2030 Agenda into European policies, publicising it, and monitoring its implementation. To this end, the EESC stresses the need for a thorough review of EU action and, in particular:
- an overarching EU sustainable development strategy
The EESC believes that a comprehensive plan with forward-looking measures to mainstream the SDGs across all EU policies and programmes is essential. No such plan has been presented since the adoption of the UN 2030 Agenda.
- a cross-cutting policy approach
In order to harmonise and make EU policies consistent with the SDGs, a more integrated and coherent approach across policy areas is needed. This will help achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda.
- a greater role for civil society organisations
A participatory approach is fundamental. Efficient governance mechanisms have to be put in place at local, regional and national levels, building on the principles of transparency and accountability. Trade unions, businesses, NGOs and other civil society players must be empowered to take an active role at all policy levels, from local and national to European and international levels.