By Deirdre de Burca (IFP) & Leida Rijnhout (Friends of the Earth Europe), SDG Watch Europe Steering Group Members
In late 2016, the European Commission announced its intention to establish a Multi-Stakeholder Platform (MSP) on SDGs linked to the EU’s implementation of Agenda 2030. SDG Watch Europe made a comprehensive submission to the Commission on the potential role that such a platform could play. In 2017, the Commission published the terms of reference of the MSP – its vision was much less ambitious than that advocated by SDG Watch Europe. In simple terms, the MSP will include a Political Committee to provide broader strategic advice to the Commission and a Management Committee to play a more technical and operational role.
In mid-2017, the Commission advertised a selection process for members of the Political and Management Committees and those selected were notified late last year. SDG Watch Europe will have a representative on each the Political and Management Committees – Leida Rijnhout and Ingeborg Niestroy respectively. The Management Committee met for the first time in December 2017 and agreed to establish a range of sub-groups to work on different areas, including (i) on the Multi Financial Framework and (ii) on an EU Sustainability Award. Stakeholders have stated their intention to establish a range of other sub-groups to work on important issues linked to the EU’s Agenda 2030 implementation.
The first meeting of the MSP Political Committee took place on 10 January with approximately 30 official stakeholders and by a number of official observers, including SDG Watch Europe’s Deirdre de Burca as a substitute for Leida Rijnhout. Overall the meeting was quite disappointing. Very little of substance was discussed or agreed, robust debate was not encouraged, and the scope of the committee’s work is also not fully clear. The main “deliverable” of the committee promoted by the Commission is a Commission’s Reflection Paper called “Towards a sustainable Europe by 2030”. This paper will be authored by First Vice President Timmermans and Vice President Katainen. Stakeholders of the MSP will have an opportunity to make submissions to the reflection paper by means of a targeted consultation. It appears that this Reflection Paper will set out implementation options for the next Commission to consider in 2019. The current Commission appears very reluctant to take any decisions on the Agenda 2030 implementation as it may “tie the hands” of the next Commission! This means that t having adopted the SDGs in 2015, the Commission will start thinking about how to implement them around 2020. This is a real shame, especially in light of the most recent Council Conclusions on Agenda 2030, where member states called for a rapid implementation.
The next meeting of the MSP will be in October 2018, after the publication of the Reflection Paper. This is an example of how little mandate this high level political group really has. The group will hardly have any say or opportunity to provide collective guidance where the reflection process is concerned.
Our role as civil society is to apply pressure for political change when necessary. We are doing European citizens or humanity in general no favours if we do not insist that First VP Timmermans increases the ambitions of this group, to ensure its involvement in effective and consultative policy making. This is absolutely necessary to develop an EU-wide 2030 Agenda strategy and plan of implementation as soon as possible.