2030 Agenda: A Win for Women and Girls; Now Implementation Must Follow

Countdown 2015 Europe welcomes the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and calls upon European governments to take ambitious steps to reach the agreed goals and targets.

On 25 September, the world’s governments adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the result of a lengthy process of intergovernmental negotiations and consultations that lasted almost three years.

At the centre of the agenda are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a framework of 17 goals and 169 targets across social, economic and environmental areas of sustainable development, which governments committed to realise over the next 15 years. The SDGs are to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expire at the end of 2015.

Countdown 2015 Europe welcomes the adoption of the agenda, which includes ambitious commitments on gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights. If implemented, the agenda will bring transformative change around the world, including for women and girls, and save millions of lives.

The SDGs require all countries to take measures to end discrimination and eliminate violence against women and girls as well as harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation. The goals and targets also call for a significant reduction of maternal mortality and the fulfilment of reproductive rights as well as universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes.

Furthermore, the agenda emphasises gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as crucial to progress across all goals and targets and reaffirms governments’ commitments to the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and Beijing Platform for Action and their follow-up. It also refers to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights treaties as foundational documents of the agenda, which strengthens its people- and rights-centred focus.

Countdown 2015 Europe was intensively involved in the process leading to the adoption of the agenda from the outset, advocating for strong support from European governments on gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights, including family planning, in national and international fora as well as at European Union level. The consortium congratulates the progressive positions taken by many European countries throughout the negotiation process, which markedly contributed to the strong and inclusive outcomes of the agenda.

However, the agenda also has a number of weaknesses. It is disappointing that sexual rights are not explicitly recognised. Moreover, the agenda fails to define specific follow-up and review mechanisms, which would monitor implementation by governments, and references to civil society participation in implementation and review of progress are weak.

If the 2030 Agenda is to deliver for women and girls, it will have to become a reality on the ground. Governments will have to follow through on their commitments and take concrete and ambitious steps to implement the agenda, including through the development of robust and comprehensive national action plans as well as an adaptation of existing policies and funding and political priorities. For European governments in particular this will also require a stepping-up of funding and capacity support to countries in the Global South. Furthermore, strong accountability mechanisms at national, regional and global levels will need to be put in place to monitor progress towards the goals and targets.

Countdown 2015 Europe will continue to advocate towards European governments and the European Union institutions to ensure the vision of the 2030 Agenda translates into real change on the ground.