The foundations were laid last September, when the 193 UN member states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in New York. The Agenda replaces the Millennium Development Goals but goes even further, setting out new goals that form a common approach for industrialised and developing countries to overcome poverty and promote a sustainable economy. During the three-year negotiating process, Switzerland was a driving force behind the new Agenda. So where does it go from here? What does the Agenda mean for Switzerland in terms of national and international policy? These were the questions that were addressed at the Annual Swiss Development Cooperation Conference.
Last year was marked by many crises, conflicts and challenges. In his opening address, the head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter, underscored Switzerland's desire to take an active role in shaping its environment by adopting a bridge-building style of foreign policy. He said that 'with perseverance and political will we can find joint solutions to common challenges'. He referred among other things to the successful UN conferences of the past year, which were important milestones in global development: the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on the implementation and financing of sustainable development, the 2030 Agenda at the UN's headquarters in New York, and then the Paris Agreement on climate change. 'And so we have been able to celebrate the United Nations' 70th birthday with important achievements which will shape world politics for the years and decades to come,' said Mr Burkhalter. “We have agreed on the 2030 Agenda – it is now time to start implementing it without delay.”
Mr Burkhalter explained that Switzerland will implement the 2030 Agenda at two levels: at the national level as part of the Sustainable Development Strategy 2016-2019, and at the international level based on the Federal Council Dispatch on International Cooperation 2017-2020, which will be debated in Parliament this year. 'In order to be able to deal effectively with global challenges such as poverty, climate change, violent extremism and health crises, we need a global response,' he said, adding: 'We are all in the same boat.'
He welcomed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who had been invited as guest speaker to the annual conference. Just before the conference, Mr Burkhalter and Mr Ban had met for talks. They had both just arrived from the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos. In his speech, Mr. Ban said that the 2030 Agenda required that no one be left behind – and to make the world’s poorest the top priority. He called on each and every government to show strong ownership by aligning policies, legislation and resources in support of the Sustainable Development Goals. ‘I pay tribute to Switzerland,’ he said, ‘for having already begun to implement the 2030 Agenda at both the national and international levels’.
The success of the 2030 Agenda will be measured by its implementation. 'It has started already – and that goes for Swiss Development Cooperation too.' This was the emphasis of SDC Director Manuel Sager's speech, in which he explained why he is optimistic about the implementation stage. His confidence is based on the universality of the Agenda, that brings together not only the countries of the South but also those of the North, East and West. An additional decisive factor is the integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development, namely social, economic and environmental. He went on to cite the participatory nature of the Agenda, which will give all people a say in global issues, and the fact that it will be subjected to regular review. 'By setting our sights on the long-term and overarching goals, joint solutions will be possible.' Switzerland's development cooperation is well placed and prepared to play its part, he said. Mr Sager also raised the issue of funding. The funding is available, but it needs to be increasingly directed towards sustainable development. At the same time, the illicit financial outflows from developing countries must be stopped.
The head of the Economic Cooperation and Development Division at SECO, Ambassador Raymund Furrer, also spoke about the financing of the 2030 Agenda in his closing speech, calling for more innovative and targeted approaches to the financing of development cooperation. In addition, the states, many of whom are better off now than they were 20 years ago, should better exploit their own financial capacities, make their administrative structures more competent and transparent, and show greater accountability towards their respective populations. And finally, the environment for the private sector must be improved so that it can create more and better jobs and take on more responsibility in the social and environmental domains. 'The 2030 Agenda cannot be fully realised with financial resources alone,' he said. Science, technology and innovation are also key for sustainable development to work. In addition, one essential condition is that we have a rule-based, open, non-discriminatory and fair multilateral trading system.
At the accompanying events of the annual conference, the approximately 2,300 participants were able to hear numerous positions on the 2030 Agenda. Talking about their experiences in the development of the new goals and their international significance were Thomas Gass (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs) and Ambassador Michael Gerber (Special Representative of the Federal Council for global sustainable development). In two panel discussions, specialists from the SDC, SECO partner organisations, aid organisations and the public sector discussed the practical aspects of sustainable management based on examples concerning water management (Switzerland, Chad) and cocoa production (Indonesia).
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