Key issues for the post-2015 EU Development Agenda

By Jean-Louis Ville

The 2015 Sustainable Development Goals: what next? A more ambitious, transformative and inclusive post-2015 Agenda will be set and a stronger commitment from the EU will contribute to a global partnership against poverty, explains Jean-Louis VILLE in the column below. Head of the ‘Governance, Democracy, Gender and Human Rights’ Unit in the European Commission DG for Development and International Cooperation, he is also alumnus of the College of Europe (Jean Monnet Promotion, 1980-1981), and will be training on ‘EU Development Policy’ during the Intensive Seminar on the EU in July 2015. Stay informed on EU affairs: discover our Training catalogue.

2015 has been declared as the ‘European Year for Development’ and, in fact, EU Development Policy has a lot of support across EU citizens, as recently demonstrated in a Euro barometer analysis.[1] This underlines the importance of setting a global agenda for the next decades. Be it poverty eradication or sustainable growth, each of us has a say and expectations. And none of this will happen without a minimum of respect for all Human Rights, or without progress in the way that societies are administered through democratic Governance and on the basis of the Rule of Law.

This represents, in my view, the most difficult challenge we face in delivering on the post-2015 Agenda.

Sustainable development and good governance go hand in hand: there cannot be one without the other. The Treaty on the European Union is built on the principles of democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights, which are placed at the centre of development and cooperation and should be promoted, respected and protected in all our actions, internally and externally.

Supporting good Governance is known to be a highly challenging, and political exercise. Nevertheless there is a broad consensus that it is a prerequisite to poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Without a government able to serve its citizens effectively and without citizens in a position to ask for better governance, poverty alleviation programmes are bound to fail. This is why support to human rights, democracy and other key elements of good governance, including gender equality, should remain at the very heart of our development efforts, in the perspective of the post-2015 framework.

The post-2015 framework is not completely defined and the outcome of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals is a very ambitious agenda that must be transformative to be effective in addressing today’s world challenges:

  • Eradicating poverty
  • Achieving sustainable development in all its three dimensions (social, economic and environmental) and
  • Ensuring the promotion and the protection of all human rights and fundamental values.

Implementing such a complex and far-reaching agenda represents a historically unique opportunity to redefine how the global community works together. From an EU perspective, a new global partnership for poverty eradication and sustainable development is required and all should contribute their fair share to it.

This new Global Partnership, required to successfully implement the post-2015 development agenda, should have good governance, the rule of law, support for democracy and gender equality at its core. It should use the rights-based approach encompassing all human rights as a methodology for effective implementation, while relying on effective and responsive institutions. Whether at national or international level, the Global Partnership should promote the coordination and implementation of policies that fully respect and promote human rights.

The Global Partnership will also need to set out clear measures for monitoring progress, ensuring transparency and holding all partners to account. Indeed, an effective post-2015 framework must be built on strong accountability, which itself calls for transparency, inclusivity and open participation.

Although good progress has been made and a solid basis laid out, a lot of work remains to be done during the final negotiations: The outcome of the Open Working Group is a set of 17 goals.[2] Obviously, Proposed Goal 16 on "promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels", is the most relevant to today's discussion. Equally “Governance” and the principles of accountability, participation, non-discrimination and transparency could be mainstreamed into the Post-2015 agenda across the goals.

In addition, on 4 December 2014, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released an advance version of his synthesis report on the post-2015 development agenda, titled ‘The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives and Protecting the Planet’ where justice is among the six key essential elements, along with dignity, people, prosperity, planet, and partnership.[3]

What should we conclude about this increasing focus and outspoken positioning of the EU on Governance issues?

All EU institutions - Council, European Parliament, Commission and the European External Action Service -, but also the EU Member States and Civil Society partners, are expecting the EU on the whole to be true and firm to the objectives and principles as stated in the Lisbon Treaty. We have to stick to our commitments. We are carefully monitored by all members of the international Community, our public opinions, our partners, be they States or non-governmental organisations, and expected to deliver on these objectives.

This was reflected again in the last Development Council Conclusions of December 2014; let me quote: "... the need to prominently address peaceful and inclusive societies, democratic governance and the rule of law. Promoting these issues successfully is a key part of making the post-2015 agenda transformative. Human rights and fundamental freedoms must be respected, protected and fulfilled, (...). We need to ensure that institutions, including security and justice institutions are legitimate, accountable and efficient and act in accordance with the rule of law”[4].

As a conclusion, the EU has already expressed a clear commitment to an ambitious, transformative and inclusive post-2015 agenda ahead of the final negotiations at the UN in view of preparing the conference on Financing For Development in July[5] and the UN summit on the post-2015 development agenda in September 2015. With its last Communication, the European Commission is further developing its position, namely on the various means of implementation (be it financial or non-financial), in a direction which is coherent with EU political and legal engagements in order to achieve a strong Post-2015 agenda on Governance, and to build a strong global partnership for the future.



[2] Open Working Group on SDGs; Beyond2015, 19 July 2014.

[4] Development Council Conclusions of 16 December 2014, par. 22

[5]  Communication of the Commission 'A global partnership for poverty eradication and sustainable development after 2015', 5 February 2015.