Sustainable Germany – a long way to go

The 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) comprises a number of goals which concern the internal situation in Germany. Among these are goals which derive from the human rights obligations, such as in the areas of education, health and social security. Examples include reducing the proportion of poor people in Germany by half and increasing the proportion of young people who complete secondary education.

Other goals address the external effects of German politics and economy. They demand domestic measures which also have immediate impacts for people in the countries of the South. These include goals for reducing resource use, for changing unsustainable consumption and production patterns, but also for the relationship to migrants and refugees.

Still other goals go to Germany’s international responsibility and solidarity. Besides the traditional development policy obligations the corresponding targets concern all areas of structural policies, particularly trade, investment and finance.

In September 2015, when the United Nations, personified by the heads of state and government of its Member States, solemnly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development under the heading Transforming our World during a special session of the General Assembly, there was much acclaim from the ranks of civil society. Hardly anybody would have thought that the decision by the Rio+20 Conference 2012 to start a negotiation process on sustainability goals would result in an ambitious list of objectives. There was ample opposition, but it did not prevail.

Experienced observers increasingly had a sense of “déjà vu”. Hadn’t we been here before? Back then, the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, the Agenda 21? An agenda for the 21st century for sustainable development was the size of a phone book, but not much of it was implemented. Or what about the Millennium Development Goals from 2000, less ambitious and yet only very incompletely implemented? It is understandable that the solemn adoption of the sustainability goals caused a lot less public enthusiasm or even euphoria than the Agenda 21 in Rio did. “Governments make lots of promises, but most of it is just a public relations move” – voices like this were frequently heard, if any notice at all was taken of the sustainability agenda.

However, sober political realism demands taking the governments at their word without illusions and using the 2030 Agenda as one more argument in the political debate in order to call for outstanding measures for more sustainability and to push them through politically even against opposition. Civil society is now doing this all over the world. We are, too.

Source: Germany National Report, Social Watch Report 2016.