Eradicating poverty is both a moral duty and an economic obligation

EUROPEAN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT WEEK: More than words, the EU must take concrete actions to face up to today's global challenges, says Louis Michel.

By Louis Michel

30 May 2016

A number of key development and international cooperation meetings took place last year. The 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), which were recently launched in New York as a successor to the millennium development goals for the next 15 years, are expected to usher in 'truly universal sustainable development'. 

Our interdependence is palpable and visible more and more each day, whether it's through the refugee crisis, the fight against world hunger, terrorism, climate change, etc.

The European Commission has understood that it must adopt a global structural approach, with the utmost cohesion between internal and external policies. Each event and each action taken have an impact on the whole world. 


The EU must no longer limit its development policy ambitions and treat it separately from policy areas. Instead, it is now time for an integrated vision of internal and external policies in terms of human development, poverty reduction and sustainable development, within all areas of the SDGs, including the Europe2020 strategy. The aims of the SDGs are economic, social and environmental, all to benefit people.

'Transforming our world: the 2030 agenda for sustainable development' is, above all, about ensuring a better future for the world population, fighting inequalities, working together towards progress, full employment and shared economic growth. 

It's about working with businesses, and setting the world on a path to sustainable development for the fulfilment and wellbeing of everyone; it's about becoming aware of our shared responsibility.

The EU is determined to take part in this process. It must, and it can. The EU must be a fellowship - not a 'followship'. The EU is both a willing participant and a beacon of hope, choosing to update the European consensus on development - a pillar of development policy - so that it is in line with the realities and challenges that increasingly threaten global security. 

It's no longer just about eradicating poverty. It's about facing up to the economic, political, social and environmental challenges of our globalised world, in a sustainable manner. 

Beyond statements and speeches, it's about action. A first crucial step, a tangible act of good faith, would be for governments to finally meet their commitments, by devoting 0.7 per cent of their GDP to development assistance. This was a promise made in 2005 at the G8 summit in Gleneagles.

Eradicating poverty is both a moral duty and an economic obligation. We are painfully reminded of this every day.

We need justice, good governance, rule of law and gender equality. We need democratic societies, inclusive parliamentary debates and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. We need circular economies, new technologies that benefit all. 

We need innovation, research, generic medicine to improve and preserve everyone's health. Together we must share, understand, initiate and build a society that is more just and more supportive. Our main challenge is to unite humanity. In other words, to be able to build in solidarity and in peace.

The EU had a leading role in 2015, and must retain its political leadership by effectively the SDGs' global approach, in full respect of policy coherence for development.

We must be ambitious and responsible for the future of humanity. In the words of Nelson Mandela, "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."


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