Europe leads sustainable development agenda

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Sustainability should be integrated as a leitmotif and goal of every policy formulated and implemented.

In the aftermath of World War II, international powers formed the League of Nations that became the United Nations, controlled by the Security Council of the big post-war five that would lead to a cumbersome and irrevocably politicised institution. This was the price and process of economic cooperation and international diplomacy that helped rebuild Europe, and that would ultimately spawn the ethos of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that changed millions of lives for the better.

Europe emerged as the global leader of the eight MDGs that aspired to eradicate extreme poverty, provide primary education, empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and create global partnerships. Europe is the largest donor to advancing these noble goals and therefore can proudly claim to have helped achieve the following results:

  • Extreme poverty was halved five years ahead of the 2015 MDG deadline
  • 90% of children in developing regions are enrolled in primary school, and school enrolment disparities between boys and girls have narrowed
  • the global number of people without access to drinking water has been halved
  • malaria deaths and HIV infection rates are down, with anti-retroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS much more widely available

These are sobering indicators that international development aid can bring such positive results. But foreign aid is a double-edged sword, for overall it may improve health but it often carries political implications and breeds competition and complacency. This is particularly true in neighboring southern and eastern Mediterranean regions adjacent to Europe where all kinds of humanitarian crises are the new norm, where funding crisis prevention and conflict management is now a perpetual process rather than a means to more sustainable solutions.


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Writer: Stuart Reigeluth is the founder of Revolve Media and vice-president of Revolve Water.

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