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The European Commission has presented its first ever voluntary review of SDGs at the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

The European Commission has presented its first ever voluntary review on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

The Commission says that although it is halfway through the implementation of its 2030 Agenda, the record is clear that much has been achieved, but a lot to left to be done.

The SDG 14 “Life below water” presents moderate but clear progress in the EU:

  • Significant progress achieved under the common fisheries policy (CFP), but sustainability levels have yet to be reached for all fisheries.

  • Progress was made to establish Marine Protected Areas (MPA), but more work is needed, notably for strictly protected MPAs.

  • Because of pollution and acidification, marine ecosystems remain under stress: good environmental status by 2020 has not been reached under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).

Through its international partnerships and leadership, the EU is championing ocean protection on a global scale by

Speaking after last week’s event Virginius Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said:

“The EU is committed to achieving the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. It’s all interlinked. We need a healthy ocean for a healthy planet and healthy people.”

The review underlines the EU’s unequivocal commitment to the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It provides an overview of how EU internal and external actions are contributing to delivering on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) both within the EU and in partner countries around the world. It takes stock of the progress achieved, reflects on lessons learnt, and considers how to advance the 2030 Agenda further at EU level.

The European Commission is implementing the 2030 Agenda through a ‘whole-of-government’ approach, integrating the SDGs into all proposals, policies and strategies. Since 2020, the Commission’s annual work programmes have put the SDGs at the heart of EU policymaking. They are reflected in particular in flagship initiatives such as the European Green Deal and NextGenerationEU. These involve large amounts of funding, for example through the Recovery and Resilience Facility to support reforms and investments that concretely contribute to making progress on SDGs. The European Commission has also integrated the SDGs in the European Semester, the EU’s framework for economic and fiscal policy coordination.

The EU institutions, national, regional and local level governments, social partners and civil society all have an important role in delivering the SDGs.

Delivering on the SDGs in the European Union

According to most recent data from Eurostat, the EU has made progress on delivery across a majority of the SDGs, although this progress has not always been even. The EU has performed best on ensuring decent work and economic growth, reducing poverty and fostering peace, security, and inclusive societies and institutions.

On education and training (SDG 4), the EU has made significant progress in early childhood education, reducing the numbers of early school leavers, promoting apprenticeships schemes in vocational education and training (VET) and increasing tertiary educational attainment.

On decent work for all and economic growth (SDG 8), the EU economy saw strong and continuous growth between 2014 and 2019. Over 14.5 million jobs were created in this period. The positive trend faltered in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the EU economy, boosted by Europe’s recovery plan, bounced back strongly in 2021 and 2022. This was also seen in the labour market, with the EU’s employment rate reaching a record high of 74.6%.

To make decisive progress on climate action (SDG 13), the EU has recently agreed on a renewed regulatory and policy framework underpinning a higher climate ambition.

To tackle discrimination (SDG 10 and SDG 16), the Commission has adopted the EU anti-racism action plan, the EU Roma strategic framework for equality, inclusion and participation, the LGBTIQ equality strategy, the EU strategy on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life and the Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030.

To contribute to the peaceful and inclusive societies (SDG 16), the Commission has set out a new Security Union Strategy which seeks to tackle violence, abuse and trafficking, organised crime and terrorism.

However, external shocks have strained the post-pandemic recovery and progress on sustainable development in the EU and globally. Progress on delivering the SDGs slowed down from 2020 as a consequence of the multiple crises, sometimes leading to a reversal in progress. More progress is needed on many SDGs, in particular on those related to climate action and the protection and sustainable use of natural resources. Accelerating the implementation of the SDGs is more urgent than ever, with a particular focus on persons in vulnerable situations.

 

Supporting partners deliver SDGs around the world

Eradicating poverty, tackling discrimination and inequalities, and leaving no one behind are at the centre of the EU’s international partnerships. To that end, the EU’s external action is targeted in a way that contributes to the SDGs; the EU helps drive growth and sustainable development with its international partners, including through its trade and economic agreements. As the largest single multilateral donor of Official Development Assistance (ODA) in the world, the EU is channelling its financing to those most in need. In 2022, the EU and its Member States provided €92.8 billion in ODA according to the preliminary OECD figures. This accounts for 43% of all ODA provided. To tackle the global food crisis, exacerbated by Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the EU and Member States acting together as Team Europe have provided comprehensive response to global food insecurity by mobilising around €18 billion for 2021-2024, of which €7 billion in grants were disbursed in 2022, half of this for Africa and the Middle East, the most affected regions.

Through its international partnerships, the EU pursues progress towards the SDGs together with EU priorities, such as supporting the twin green and digital transitions. Since December 2021, the EU has been rolling out Global Gateway, its strategy for mobilising sustainable investments in infrastructure and enabling environment in partner countries. Global Gateway will directly contribute to progress on a range of interlinked SDGs, notably through investment in transport, energy and digitalisation infrastructure, as well as health and education. In a Team Europe approach, the EU and its Member States aim to mobilise up to €300 billion by 2027 in public and private investments to bridge the SDG financing gap.

At least 20% of the €79.5 billion budget under the Neighbourhood Development and International Cooperation Instrument — Global Europe will contribute until 2027 to human development and the principle of leaving no one behind, targeting people living in the poorest and most vulnerable situations and crisis contexts, notably on health (SDG 3), education (SDG 4), social protection (SDG 1) and gender equality (SDG 5). Education is essential for eradicating poverty and achieving the SDGs. The EU is paying special attention to improving access to quality education and skills training, including for girls, the poorest children and children with disabilities. The share of funding for education will increase from 7% to at least 10% of the EU’s international partnerships budget.

To underline the EU’s commitment to the SDGs, inclusive multilateralism and leaving no one behind, Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, made two new funding announcements at the High-level Political Forum today. The EU will contribute €30 million to the Digital transformation Window of the Joint SDG Fund for its implementation phase 2022-2025. In addition, the Commissioner announced funding of €5 million to the United Nations Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Multi-Partner Trust Fund.

 

Lessons learnt and looking ahead

Several valuable lessons learnt provide the basis for renewed actions to accelerate the SDGs implementation within the EU and in its international partnerships. Looking ahead:

  • the EU renews its commitment to ensure, in line with the revised Better Regulation framework, that its legislative proposals continue to deliver on the SDGs.
  • the EU will deploy additional efforts to improve the information on SDGs implementation across all relevant Union programmes.
  • the EU will keep on delivering concrete improvements to SDGs monitoring, notably by addressing external spillovers and better integrating SDGs in its main reports.
  • the EU will continue to actively integrate the SDGs in the implementation of Global Gateway flagships and sustainable infrastructure investments, while stepping up efforts to mobilise private sector mobilisation in support of the SDGs.
  • the EU will make greater effort to address inequalities across its external actions.
  • the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions will continue playing a key role as platforms to regularly exchange with stakeholders on SDGs implementation.

 

Background

Voluntary reviews on the implementation of the SDGs are the central accountability instrument agreed by all countries in the 2030 Agenda. They aim at facilitating the sharing of success-stories, best practises, and discussions on outstanding challenges, as well as lessons learnt – all with a view of accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

The voluntary reviews form the basis for the regular reviews by the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) under the auspices of United Nations Economic and Social Council. All the 27 EU Member States have submitted national voluntary reviews to the United Nations.

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