France’s ‘Milestone Report” on the implementation of the environmental goals to be reviewed at the HLPF in 2018

Geneviève Defraigne Tardieu
ATD Fourth World

Three years after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by the international community, France has launched a strategy to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This should lead to a ‘Road Map’ that will be presented at the United Nations in September 2019.

On 26 April 2018 Brune Poirson, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Ecological and Solidarity Transition, and Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, convened for the first time the High-Level  Steering Committee for the implementation of the SDGs. The Steering Committee is a forum for debate and exchange to collectively build, with public and private actors, the roadmap on the implementation by France of the 17 SDGs. Ms. Laurence Monnoyer-Smith, General Commissioner and Interministerial Delegate for Sustainable Development is responsible for coordinating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

The Committee relied in particular on exchanges with civil society during the National Council for Development and International Solidarity (CNDSI). It has thus adopted the working mechanism for the preparation of France's roadmap, which will also give rise to public consultations before its publication in the fall of 2019. This roadmap will lay the foundations of the French strategy for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, with the aim of ensuring the coherence of policies for sustainable development and defining the priorities for action to achieve the objectives.

Thus, we can applaud the implementation of this inclusive body which corresponds to the spirit of the 2030 Agenda and the will to build new local and international partnerships. However, it is regrettable that this initiative is coming late. There is also a need to remain vigilant as to the ambition of this roadmap and the actual involvement of the concerned ministries.

Currently, a "Milestone Report" is being prepared on the six sustainable development goals that will be examined at the High Level Political Forum in July 2018. A consultation was held in March to gather the amendments proposed by civil society on these six goals, including SDG 6 on water and sanitation, SDG 7 on access to energy; SDG 11 on sustainable cities, SDG 12 on consumption and consumption, SDG 15 on terrestrial ecosystems and SDG 17 on means of implementation.

With respect to the Milestone Report, it should be noted that there is very little effort to synergize the six objectives, despite the fact that all of these so-called ‘environmental goals’ have a high impact on each other. For instance, we can regret that these objectives are not seen in the report as having an impact on SDG 1 on ending poverty. The objective of overcoming poverty in all its forms and worldwide is not a major focus, whereas it is transversal. For example, at the time of this writing, the milestone report concerning SDG 6 does not mention that access to water is an essential condition of reducing poverty, just as is SDG 7 and access to energy. Similarly, the fundamental recommendation to “leave no one behind” is not translated into practice in the implementation of the SDGs.

ATD Fourth World Movement submitted significant amendments to the draft Milestone Report, hoping to ensure that the enforcement of each SDG reaches the poorest, on the national territory as well as in the international development planned by France.

One of these concerns the implementation of SDG 11 on safe and sustainable cities, specifically with regard to employment. The project “Territories with no long-term unemployment” is exemplary as it considers access to work as a right, just as the right to education or social security is in France. It is therefore a project that nourishes the reflection on social contract in an innovative way.

The issue of unemployment is a major concern in France; it amounts to 8.9 percent of the active population on the whole territory. ATD Fourth World and many other partners have built a project with long-term unemployed in 10 experimental territories thanks to a law passed in February 2016. It is based on three fundamental observations: no one is unemployable if work and employment are adapted to everyone; work can be made available since many of society's needs are not met; and money is available because unemployment has a cost for the state. This project shows that it is possible to offer any unemployed person who wishes to participate an open-ended job corresponding to his/her identified skills, meeting the needs of the territory, without any additional cost for the community. Enterprises aiming at creating employment have been created for that purpose.

Already 450 persons have been hired in 2017. Currently, the State finances the project with the savings made on the expenses concerning long-term unemployment. At the end of the experiment, after evaluation by an independent scientific committee, a law could be promulgated at the national level to allow each territory to opt into this system.

The project is an example of the implementation of SDG 11, in order to achieve sustainable development in cities and territories which truly reaches the poorest people, and starts with those that are the furthest from access to rights.