By Masha Smirnova, Policy Coordinator for Social & Economic Policy and the Sustainable Development Goals
The high-level Multi-Stakeholder Platform on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a new forum bringing together NGOs – including EPHA -, trade unions, representatives of regional and local government and the corporate sector, set up to support and advise the European Commission on the implementation of the SDGs in the European Union, met for the first time this month.
As deliberations about the future of Europe have extended from the White Paper to five dedicated reflections on the Economic and Monetary Union, globalisation, finance, defence, Europe’s social dimension, until now a prominent sixth space has been left blank. This space will be dedicated to a reflection paper, ‘Towards a sustainable Europe by 2030’ to be published in the second half of 2018.
Ideally, the Sixth Scenario would be a copy-paste of the one presented by over 250 NGOs in autumn 2017, which is a vision for a Sustainable Europe for its Citizens.
One of the key differences with the Commission’s previous reflection is that this work will be based on the results of a wide collaborative effort, including inputs by all Commission Services to assess where Europe stands using a ‘Distance to the SDGs’ methodology; an updated stocktake of the EU’s achievement; and a dedicated contribution by the EC’s SDG Platform towards future political priorities that should take full account of the 17 SDGs, and the Paris Climate Change Agreement. During the meeting, First Vice-President Frans Timmermans emphasised the importance and collective power of this very diverse group to advise the Commission on the implementation of Agenda2030 at European level. Several members of the Platform, mainly from organised civil society, stressed the importance of a meaningful implementation of the SDGs, considering that the framework is already in its third year and needs a more ambitious action plan.
Enshrined in the EU Treaties, the protection and improvement of health and wellbeing is also central to the synergistic interactions of the SDGs. Future EU policies and pathways to implement the SDGs need to ensure a high level of human health and environment protection, while maximising synergies and minimising trade-offs. Policy coherence in both the domestic and external EU context is therefore likely to be one of the most challenging sticking points to achieving the SDGs and the Commission has tasked the members of the Platform to come forward with proposals for their effective implementation. EPHA will organise a dedicated working group in early February to collect inputs and members contributions to feed into this high-level process, which will be shared with the Secretariat-General of the Commission.