31 March 2017

Civil society voicing importance of SDGs at European ‘anniversary’ Summit

The 25th March 2017 marked an important moment for Europe, with the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, signed by the six founding EU Member States, which paved the way for the European Union that we know today. EU heads of state or government met in Rome to celebrate, reflect, and ‘forge a new path for Europe’.

SDG Watch Europe, a civil society alliance to hold Europe to account for committing to the SDGs, organised a civil society delegation to the Summit. The BOCS Foundation, Hungarian member of EuroNGOs, took part of the delegation, as EuroNGOs is an active member of the alliance. The civil society mobilisation in Rome, including over 38 events, workshops and marches in 4 days, was a possibility for SDG Watch Europe’s members to rally, network with other civil society organisations involved in the discussion about the future of Europe and strengthen the visibility of the SDGs on the European level. The SDG Watch Europe delegation of 22 CSO representatives was organised by the European Environmental Bureau. The delegation represented a wide collection international organisations and networks, of different generations, sectors, including environment, development, health, gender and human rights, and from several European countries. The BOCS Foundation was one of the oldest, providing global education since 1975, and is a multisectoral organisation itself, working on development, SRHR, environment, peace, rights and gender.

 

The main conference Europe Ambition 2030 - Make Europe the world leader of sustainable development: a unique opportunity to build a stronger European Union took place on the 23rd of March in the Italian Parliament. Discussions focused on the role of European State and Non-State actors in building a European Union that can not only live up to the challenges of sustainable development, but become the world leader in implementing the 2030 Agenda against the risks of economic breakdown, global protectionism and social conflicts. An open joint letter was sent to the heads of state and government, explaining how the implementation of the SDGs provides a unique chance to transform European governance.

 

An internal meeting of the delegation then allowed for exchange between civil society on the SDGs, presentations on for example funding opportunities under the Development Education and Awareness Raising (DEAR) Project, and to discuss possible future cooperation. As the BOCS Foundation was very active during the decades under the Millennium Development Goals, the BOCS representative shared the experience with MDG 5b. At the first review of the progress of MDGs, in 2005, it was recognised that family planning is key to reach several goals. The UN General Assembly therefore accepted an additional target under MDG 5 in 2007: ’MDG5b Achieve, by 2015, universal access to reproductive health’. Multisectoral thinking helps to understand such cross-cutting issues and leverage points. EuroNGOs, while learning from other sectors, can help other members of SDG Watch Europe to learn more about sexual and reproductive health and rights. As a community, we should ensure SRHR issues are recognised in this multisectoral spaces, as equally linked to for example environmental targets under the SDGs. Several environmental think tanks such as the World Watch Institute and Earth Policy Institute have studies about environmental effectivity of investing in the Human Right of Family Planning (UN, 1968, Tehran). The environment benefits directly from implementing SRHR targets under the SDGs, as for example preventing unintended pregnancies can be more effective in preventing greenhouse gas emission than investing the same amount to wind or solar energy.

 

In a meeting targeting young people, students and civil society activists, the 5 scenarios proposed by the European Commission in its White Paper on the future of Europe were discussed, and what they imply for the rights of citizens. On the final day, the ’60 years from Rome – Europe calling roundtable took place with representatives of European Civil Society Organisations, academia, Members of the European Parliament and political representatives. The final big event was a civil society ’March for Europe’ through Rome under the motto “Europeans March! Unite for Europe!”. The liveliness of the streets of Rome gave hope that we can stand up against nationalism and populism, and that together, we can stand up to the European challenges.

 

* This is an article by Gyula Simonyi (president of BOCS Foundation, Hungarian member of EuroNGOs) who represented Hungary and EuroNGOs in the delegation of SDG Watch Europe in Rome events around the EU Summit on 25 March marking the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties. Thank you Gyula for representing EuroNGOs and our community at the Summit and for this report.