The EESC issues between 160 and 190 opinions and information reports a year.
It also organises several annual initiatives and events with a focus on civil society and citizens’ participation such as the Civil Society Prize, the Civil Society Days, the Your Europe, Your Say youth plenary and the ECI Day.
The EESC brings together representatives from all areas of organised civil society, who give their independent advice on EU policies and legislation. The EESC's326 Members are organised into three groups: Employers, Workers and Various Interests.
The EESC has six sections, specialising in concrete topics of relevance to the citizens of the European Union, ranging from social to economic affairs, energy, environment, external relations or the internal market.
"We believe that the SDGs, together with the Paris Agreement, will fundamentally change the global trade agenda. The need to implement these profound agreements must lie at the heart of all future EU trade negotiations", commented the rapporteur of the opinion, Jonathan Peel.
The EESC believes that there are a number of key policy areas where the EU must work to align upcoming trade agreements with the SDGs, especially when it comes to trade agreements with developing countries. The Committee urges the EU to promote the implementation of the SDGs in its bilateral relations as well.
"A stronger focus on the social and environmental dimensions of sustainability is needed in EU trade agreements in order to make sure that theycontribute to SDGs", said the co-rapporteur of the opinion, Christophe Quarez. The inclusion of Trade and Sustainable Development chapterswith civil society monitoring mechanisms in EU trade and economic partnership agreements is of paramount importance. These mechanisms have huge potential to promote EU values, including social and environmental standards, and they can also deliver tangible results.
The role of the private sector in achieving the SDGs is crucial: according to the estimates of the UN Committee for Trade and Development, an extra USD 2.5 trillion a year will be necessary to achieve the SDGs and at least a third of that is expected to come from the private sector. Many companies already have their own SDG strategies. Nevertheless, responsible business conduct should be a key principle for the private sector, thus encouraging companies to act in a socially responsible manner.
The Sustainable Development Goals are global in nature, universally applicable and interlinked – all countries must share responsibility in achieving them. The EESC's opinion points out, however, that they are not legally binding and there is no dispute mechanism. This is why the EU should use all its policies to achieve them, including trade and investment.
The 2030 UN Agenda, or the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, will be one of the top global priorities over the next 15 years, yet it received very little mention in the Commission Communication "Trade for all". Trade is specifically mentioned with regard to nine SDGs (but only once in the MDGs). UNCTAD estimate that, to meet the 17 goals and the 169 targets, at least an extra US$2.5 trillion a year will need to be found - effectively from the private sector. This opinion would seek to look into this further and aim to evaluate how much of that will need to come through trade and investment.
EESC opinion: The core role of trade and investment in meeting and implementing the sustainable development goals (own-initiative opinion)