What do the proposed Sustainable Development Goals really mean for the EU? That was the question posed by Tanya Cox, Acting Head of Plan International's EU Office, when she addressed the European Economic and Social Committee in her capacity as Co-Chair of the Beyond-2015 European Steering Group.
Speaking alongside Neven Mimica, the EU’s International Cooperation and Development Commissioner, Cox called for much greater clarity on three issues in particular: the global partnership, universality of the framework, and accountability mechanisms.
In a 10 minute address to the plenary, she called for the proposed global partnership to be “fully worked out” if we are to avoid repeating the failures of Millennium Development Goal 8. “It surely isn’t enough to throw a series of issues into the mixing bowl, and hope you end up with a perfect cake,” she said.
Cox commended the EU for its support for a universal framework, but questioned whether member states are truly committed to making the changes at home that this implies. “The EU hasn’t clearly translated the concept of universality into its own context – at least not so far. That could lead to some doubts as to whether EU member states are truly serious about it,” she warned.
“What we really need to think about is what constitutes progress for EU countries. Is it only growth measured by GDP? We don’t think so.”
On the contrary, she argued that “the speak coming out of parts of the EU system is far from consistent with the aims of a universal, sustainable development framework”, particularly the focus on economic growth. “The Juncker Commission is well known to be pushing jobs and growth, at all costs it would seem,” she said. “But continued growth forever and a day isn’t tenable. It puts such pressure on natural resources, and does such damage to the environment, that we could cause our own downfall.
On accountability, Cox called for robust accountability mechanisms, which include people’s participation, to be put in place at local and national, regional and global levels – something the EU has been “extremely supportive” of.
“Local and national levels are the most important. This is where accountability really needs to happen. It’s the place that ordinary people can feed back on progress they see as a result of the framework,” she said.