The European Commission on Wednesday (27 February) called for merging the fight against poverty and environmental protection into a single framework for the future, casting itself as the “role model” for the rest of the world.


The Commission’s ‘Decent life for all’ communication outlines proposed negotiating positions on the successor to the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the eight targets agreed in 2000 with many likely to miss their 2015 target.

The communication hinges on rallying the 27 EU member states to support a post-2015 development plan that commits to helping finance poverty reduction through sustainable growth, despite deep economic and financial troubles at home.

EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, called for a “new vision” to replace the MDGs, which were the “major tool” to combat poverty but have fallen short of their targets in many areas.

“It is finally recognised today that eradicating extreme poverty across the globe in a single generation is within reach,” Piebalgs said in announcing the communication, or set of recommendations, with Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik. “It is not only a question of whether all the resources to achieve these goals are available, but rather whether we have the political will to do so and the right international framework to guide it.”

Piebalgs said the EU’s framework is aimed at improving living standards; promoting sustainable development and political empowerment; protecting natural resources; fostering peace and security; and ensuring global “equality, equity and justice.”

The 20-page document sets no specific goals like those set out in the eight MDGs, opening the door to criticism that it is setting no measurable goals for its ambitions.

‘Role model’

But Potočnik said the document for the first time integrates human and sustainable development “which will likely present a role model for our international partners.”

The MDGs expire in 2015 and a successor framework will be forged at the UN level in the months ahead.

The proposals come eight months and a week after European leaders presented bold plans for a ‘green growth’ agenda at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, but left without the firm commitments and compulsory targets they had hoped to achieve.

>> Read: Life after Rio: 'No excuse to do less'

The Commission’s ‘Decent life’ plan says that reducing poverty will not happen unless action is taken to address climate change and depletion of natural resources.

The MDGs have been hailed for encouraging donors and national governments to invest in childhood health, hygiene, education, nutrition, safe drinking water and other milestones.

With fewer than two years to go, many goals are not likely to be achieved. UN figures show that 1.4 billion people – 20% of today’s world population - live in extreme poverty. More than 2.6 billion people do not have access to latrines and some 1 billion lack safe drinking water. Chronic hunger affects more than 800 million people, many of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

Meanwhile, with European troops on the ground in Mali, the Commission notes that some 1.5 billion people live in conflict areas.

A single EU voice at the UN

The Commission document is not just aimed at global negotiators. Commission officials said it was intended to spur EU governments to stick together in international talks on the post-2015 agenda.

European development ministers earlier this month agreed that the EU would speak with one voice in future international negotiations on new targets for sustainable growth and eradicating extreme poverty.

Joe Costello, the Irish trade and development minister, said on 12 February that “ensuring a unified EU position to the negotiations to agree a new global development framework” was a priority of his country’s presidency of the EU Council.

“Our aim is to eliminate extreme poverty within one generation. We believe we now have a historic opportunity to achieve this goal,” Costello said at a meeting of development ministers in Dublin.