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International Issues

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" was formally adopted by Heads of State at a special UN summit 25-27 September. 

The journey started in June 2012, with the "Rio+20" Conference on Sustainable Development which agreed an outcome document entitled "The Future We Want". In summary this document:

  • recognized that the inclusive green economy is an important instrument towards achieving sustainable development;
  • made commitments for action in key policy areas. This includes food security, land, sustainable agriculture, water, sustainable energy, oceans and fisheries, and sustainable consumption and production;
  • decided to develop Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are to be universal goals, applicable to all countries, and to be developed alongside post-2015 development policy;
  • set up a process to arrive at a strategy to finance sustainable development;
  • reformed the International Institutional Framework (strengthening of UNEP and working towards the establishment of a High level Political Forum on sustainable development).

The Council responded to the outcome of Rio+20 through Council Conclusions in October 2012. 

During 2013-14, DEVCO and ENV participated in the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, which brought the follow-up to Rio+20 together with the follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals.  The Report of the co-chairs of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals was agreed by acclamation on 19 July 2014. It proposed 17 Goals and 169 targets that address and incorporate economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development and their interlinkages, in a balanced way.

The Commission was also closely involved in the work of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing. The Report of this committee was presented to the UN Secretary General on 8 August 2014.

The reports of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals and the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing formed the basis of the final Agenda package, through a series of intergovernmental negotiations from January to August 2015.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

This new Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity.  It seeks to address the urgent global challenges of poverty eradication, climate change, environmental degradation, conflict and instability, and to strengthen peace and freedom.  The Agenda is universal and applies to all, on the basis of a partnership between all countries, as well as with civil society and the private sector.

The Agenda itself consists of 4 sections: (i) A political Declaration (ii) a set of 17 sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets (based on the report of the OWG, with some small modifications) (iii) Means of Implementation (iv) a framework for follow up and review of the Agenda.

The Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa in July 2015 made a significant contribution to the Agenda by setting out Means of Implementation that covered much more than international development assistance, and thereby represents a step change in international approach to sustainable development and poverty eradication as a shared responsibility.  It covers developing an enabling and conducive policy environment and capacity to deliver; mobilisation and effective use of domestic and international public and private finance; stimulating trade and investments; and addressing the challenges and harnessing the positive effects of migration.

The EU has played an active role throughout the process and is committed to implementing the Agenda within the EU and in development cooperation with partner countries.  The Agenda reflects many of the EU's priorities for sustainable development, as set out in our recent Communications and Council Conclusions.  The EU is now preparing its response, setting out how we will implement the goals and targets with the full engagement of stakeholders, and how we will monitor and report our progress.

The Commission issued a first Communication “A decent life for all: ending poverty and giving the world a sustainable future” in February 2013. It was followed by Council Conclusions on “An overarching post-2015 framework” in June 2013. A second Communication “A decent life for all: from vision to collective action was issued in June 2014 and was followed by Council Conclusions on “A transformative post-2015 agenda” in December 2014. On 5 February 2015 the Commission issued its third Communication "A Global Partnership for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development after 2015" which puts forward ideas on the appropriate enabling policy environment; on financing – public and private, national and international; and on monitoring and accountability. This was followed by Council Conclusions on "a global partnership for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development after 2015" on 26 May 2015.

graphic of the SDGs