The global (and Catalan?) 2030 Agenda

Josep M. Vilalta, GUNi Executive Director

“Catalonia must be able to construct its own development model if it is to become a leader in the collective values established by the UN goals”

The global (and Catalan?) 2030 Agenda

New York, September 2015. At a historic Summit of the United Nations Organization, the member states passed the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The Agenda includes a set of seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), for universal application, which will be deployed over the next fifteen years. The most important goals are to put an end to world poverty in all its forms, reduce inequalities, combat climate change, promote inclusive, equitable and quality education for everyone, ensure a healthy life for all ages, promote sustainable production and consumption and ensure safe and sustainable energy. 

It is true that the SDG are in part the successors to the Millennium Development Goals which were in force during the period 2000-2015 and are at the same time proof that less progress has been made towards fairer, more equal and sustainable societies than had been hoped for. But it is equally true that the new global Agenda of the SDG has specific features. First, because the new goals call upon all countries of the world. It is not now just about aid from the countries of the north to developing countries, but about the awareness that the problems and realities of the world compromise us all, whatever the situation of each country and each community. Thus, we can assert that for the first time in the history of mankind we are collectively conscious of global challenges as a planet and as a species, and a fifteen-year plan has been agreed to build a fairer, more sustainable, more progressive world. In this regard, it is acknowledged that efforts to put an end to poverty must go hand in hand with strategies that promote economic growth and address certain social needs such as education, health, social protection or employment opportunities.

The SDG are not legally binding, but governments around the world are expected to adopt them in order to establish national agendas in line with the global Agenda, and therefore to establish goals, specific plans and mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating on a national/local scale which should be guided under criteria of consistency of policies. Is this agenda unattainable? Are these just nice words, far from realpolitik? Only time will tell. Without a doubt, the challenges posed are huge and the results, whatever they are, will be modest or partial. But it is equally true that for the first time in human history a global roadmap has been established that should guide the particular political work of each country and global projects as a planet. It is well known that both the UN and all its agencies are cumbersome bureaucratic monsters that are difficult to govern. But, for the first time, the Agenda involves a collective challenge on which basis governments, parliaments, businesses and institutions of all kinds, and the citizens, will have to deal with and respond to. 

The 2030 Agenda shows us how the modern world is more heterogeneous, more multi-polar,  more integrated (global public goods, concerted international action, global risks), more urban (more than half the world’s population now lives in cities and megacities), with an increasingly educated citizenship. And at the same time it shows how we are totally in the midst of a society in which information, knowledge and innovation are becoming key strategic vectors.

Some might claim that all we have said is a far cry from our most immediate reality, from the local affairs of Catalan politics. I do not believe that is so. Or, put another way, I am of the opinion that Catalonia should be able to build its own model of development, its own 2030 Agenda, if it wants to become a country of progress and a leading society for collective values as the UN goals establish. Not to do so would relegate us to a secondary position on the international scene that I rather hope we do not want. At the same time, our best cosmopolitan tradition of openness to the world now forces us, again, to connect our collective project to the project posed by the SDG. 

Hence I believe that within the Government but also Parliament and all of the country’s public and private institutions, we must articulate a Catalan 2030 Agenda which gives coherence to public policy as a whole. Setting goals for the government and the country with consensus, with permanent monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, where the different departments of the Catalan Government and the various public and private bodies assume tangible, concrete, measurable commitments. With very real and very necessary development projects for the country: the fight against unemployment and for a decent labour market, the struggle against poverty and exclusion, for progressively more sustainable economic development, for equitable, quality education for all, etc. And also with jointly responsible goals with the international community: promoting peace, justice, the fight against climate change, gender equality, human rights and the promotion of a sustainable economy. This bearing in mind that in such a scenario, universities and knowledge production and dissemination centres, also in Catalonia, can play an important role. We are not starting from scratch, since the Government and other institutions have implemented interesting, though often too isolated and secondary, initiatives and projects.

Pure fallacy? Well-intentioned but unenforceable wishful thinking? Time will tell. But the path is marked out and some of us are committed to starting out on it, even if progress is slow and the way full of obstacles. 


About the author

Since 2007 Josep M. Vilalta is Executive Secretary of the Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP), association formed by the universities of Barcelona (UB), Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), Pompeu Fabra (UPF), Girona (UdG), Lleida (UdL), Rovira i Virgili (URV) and Oberta de Catalunya (UOC).


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