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Our response to EC communication “A Decent Life for All: From Vision to Collective Action”

6 June 2014
The European Commission has adopted a Communication to contribute to the EU position in international negotiations on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While welcoming this step and some crucial elements of the policy document, Plan International’s EU Office expresses concern over a number of issues. The document, which proposes priority areas and potential targets for the years following 2015, covers key issues but still fails to take a rights-based approach.

Commenting on the EC communication, Alexandra Makaroff, Head of Plan EU Office, said: “We acknowledge the positive intentions of the Commission with this document, built on previous EU positions and international discussions. And we welcome key principles reflected in the Communication that are crucial to achieving a comprehensive and global agenda. However, the Commission fails to understand key concepts, such as how to translate a human rights-based approach, or to offer up a vision for a truly transformative framework.”

Universal agenda

The Commission stresses the future agenda should be universal, built around goals and targets that are substantial for all countries. While this general commitment is welcomed, as it reflects that challenges to sustainable development, are of common and global concern, the Commission’s definition of universality remains slightly ambiguous. The Communication leaves unclear whether the EC supports all countries making change in their national contexts, on each and every goal area. Only by meeting this prerequisite would a truly universal framework be ensured, avoiding an opting-out or “a la carte” framework. The Commission is also less than innovative as to how to contextualise a universal framework in order to take into consideration countries’ very different starting points.

In addition, the Commission proposes very few concrete actions that high-income countries should take, in particular with regards to behavioural change. A transformative, universal agenda, which they claim to support, should surely take a good look at some of the key areas where we need to see change, such as in the economy or trade. The failure to acknowledge the direct impact of our behaviour on the ability of people from other countries to realise their rights is worrying, and goes against the purported desire to create greater policy coherence for (sustainable) development.

Human rights-based approach

The Communication underlines the framework should be rights-based. Plan believes a human rights approach is certainly crucial to achieving a post-2015 agenda that leaves no one behind. However, some proposals listed by the Commission are not only unambitious, but go against that notion as they aim to just “reduce” – rather than completely eliminate - the prevalence of global issues, such as severe poverty. Plan believes proposals of this kind are far from offering a genuinely transformative agenda.

Furthermore, the Commission sends the wrong signal by associating human rights with one particular priority area. Plan believes the overall goal of the post-2015 framework should be to further the realisation of people’s rights, and human rights’ principles should therefore underpin the whole framework.

Gender equality

Plan welcomes the Commission’s focus on the full enjoyment of rights by girls and women in all countries, as conditions for sustainable development. We also welcome the Commission’s commitment to the collection of gender-disaggregated data in order to contribute to gender-mainstreaming. However Plan emphasises that, to capture intersecting forms of discrimination, data needs to be disaggregated by age, geographic location and disability, among others.

While recognising the reference to women under ‘decent work’, the Commission should consider developing a specific focus on creating economic opportunities for women. In particular, girls’ and women’s role in unpaid care work, which contributes to the perpetuation of high poverty levels among females, should be addressed in any framework proposal.

Global Partnership

The Communication also stresses the EU's commitment to a strengthened global partnership. Certainly, the spirit underpinning the future framework has to be one of global partnership, so it addresses global and intractable challenges as effectively as possible. For this reason, Plan recommends that each and every goal, or priority area, must be looked at from the perspective of joint responsibility for change.

Editor's notes

For further information please contact:

Plan International EU Office
Alejandra Morales
+32 (0) 2 504 60 56