The EU has released its vision for a transformative post-2015 agenda, which will form the basis of the EU’s negotiating position over the coming months. The Council Conclusions (see here), adopted in December, are a significant reference point and serve to demonstrate which issues the EU finds particularly important.
Of particular interest to Plan International are the EU’s approach to the question of the universality of the framework, to gender equality and human rights more broadly, to governance and accountability and the place of young people in future accountability mechanisms.
A universal framework based on human rights
First and foremost, the Council gives the clearest indication yet that the EU accepts the universality of the future framework, with all goals and targets applying to every country. Stating that the universality of the framework is “fundamental” and that whole agenda should be owned by all countries, the Council nonetheless recognizes that it must take into account levels of development, national contexts and capacities and respect national policies and priorities.
Acceptance of the framework’s universality is not only welcome, it is essential. The inter-related nature of our global challenges means that all countries need to work together in a joined up manner to address them. It is also extremely unlikely that any country can claim to have nothing to do in any given area of the framework, be that poverty reduction, gender equality, the environment or sustainable consumption and production. Business as usual is therefore simply not an option, and the EU must also make significant changes to the way it operates.
We appreciate the fact that the Council acknowledges the need for the new agenda to be based on human rights, and combat discrimination, including gender equality and gender-based violence. A people-centred approach, which tackles the structural causes of poverty rather than merely addressing its symptoms, is critical if the framework is to be genuinely transformative. It is a little less clear, however, whether the EU has truly understood and attempted to address the structural drivers of poverty, inequality and human rights violations
Gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment
We will not make progress on ending poverty without tackling the root causes of gender inequality and protecting, promoting and fulfilling the rights of all girls and women.
It is therefore welcome that the Council makes explicit reference to these issues, including girls’ and women’s empowerment and ending discrimination and violence against women and girls in all its forms, in the post-2015 agenda.
It is critical that girls’ lived realities, including the multiple, cross-cutting barriers that they face, some of which are unique to and depend on their age group, are addressed throughout the post-2015 process. In that way, girls will be able to reach their full potential, and to realise their rights.
Participation and accountability
The Council also makes strong statements on the importance of all people’s meaningful and effective participation in decisions which affect their lives, and calls for the framework to significantly increase people’s ability to hold governments and other actors accountable for progress. More importantly still, the EU recognises the need for civil and political rights to be respected for good governance, people’s participation and accountability to become a reality.
Children and young people have an important role to play in accountability, and the EU should push to ensure accessible, inclusive and participatory modalities are defined to permit their engagement at all levels.
While the Council calls for the monitoring of the post-2015 agenda to be anchored in the notion of multilayered accountability at national, regional and global levels, it has omitted the most important layer: local level accountability. It is at this level that ordinary people can genuinely participate in the review and monitoring of the framework.
Economic opportunities and decent work for all
We welcome the recognition of the need for all people to have basic economic opportunities available to them. A profound economic transformation can go a long way to reducing poverty everywhere, to improving people’s well-being to and promoting sustainable development. It can improve livelihoods by harnessing innovation, technology, and the potential of the private sector. More diversified economies, with equal opportunities for all, can drive social inclusion, especially for young people, and foster respect for the environment.
However, there is little in the Conclusions to indicate what the EU’s position is on tackling youth unemployment and empowering young people to make a successful transition into decent work of their choosing. With over a billion youth entering the labour market over the next decade, creating decent work must be a central element of the future framework.
What’s next in the negotiations?
Although these Council Conclusions do not take us much further than the previous ones or than the second EC Communication on post-2015 (A Decent Life for All: From vision to collective action, June 2013), they are indicative of the EU’s position for the upcoming negotiations and of what it finds important.
Now the EU must elaborate a strong Communication on the Means of Implementation to accompany the post-2015 framework and clear, progressive Council Conclusions subsequently.