Italy and the G7 summit: is the 2030 agenda already losing momentum?

It is now almost 2 years since all countries approved the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda. This approval marked an important milestone in the world’s history. It was the first time that all leading nations acknowledged the impact of human activity on climate change, and the urgent need to adopt new ways of transforming our societies, promoting human rights and dignity of people, change our ways of producing and consuming, our ways of promoting economic development and care for the environment.

On 26 May, the 7 largest economies in the world (G7) gathered at the 43rd G7 summit, held in Taormina, Italy. “Building the Foundations of Renewed Trust” was the leading theme of the summit. It alluded to the deepening mistrust that is appearing between the elected leaderships and their constituencies. However, the slogan was certainly also a hint to the leaders themselves, considering the tensions that emerged within the group during the negotiations. Diplomats had prepared draft political declarations in advance for the leaders to agree on during the summit. Among them, there were those covering such important questions as climate, food security, human mobility and migration, economic empowerment of women, terrorism, security, taxation, trade and private sector’s role in development, all issues at the heart of the 2030 Agenda. Unfortunately, the differences among the leaders were too wide to bridge. The weak final communiqué was a clear sign that there was very little space for solidarity and generosity during the discussions, and that the summit was led by national political priorities instead.

The final communiqué was not only weak, but it was also completely unsatisfactory in terms of addressing the concerns of the poorest and most vulnerable people. This was very clear in the approach given to the final position on human mobility and migration. The document, while affirming to some extent the need for shared responsibilities and acknowledging the importance of human rights in managing the issue, still puts national interests and security reasons as the real baseline for deciding the fate of the over 65 million refugees and the many more vulnerable migrants. This was in total opposition to the civil society’s asks for putting people’s needs and concerns in the centre of policies; for not including migration management as a prerequisite to receiving development aid; for acknowledging that migration and human mobility are not one country’s concern but a shared responsibility; for establishing safe and legal channels for migration that cannot be substituted with militarised borders and fences; and, last but not least, for respecting the right to unconditioned humanitarian assistance for and protection of migrants and refugees.

The way the 2030 Agenda was (mis)treated in the final communiqué of the G7 summit was a worrying sign. The wording made it appear as something solely related to the social development of the least developed countries, and as a tool to fight hunger and malnutrition. But the 2030 Agenda and the whole framework of the SDGs is so much broader and comprehensive than that. The 2030 Agenda is firmly rooted in a human rights perspective and a holistic approach to economy, society and environment. Any attempt to segment the sustainable development agenda, under the pretext that it is “too complex” to be embraced as a whole, would neutralise its universal ambition and condemn it to fail.

Situation in Italy

It is in this context that Italy will present its national initiative on the sustainable development strategy in July. The Italian sustainable development strategy (by 5 July still at the level of "draft") is the outcome of a process led by the Italian Environment Ministry, where a majority of environment-related organisations have been involved, but where other important voices of the Italian civil society and institutions have not participated. The documents issued so far show a relatively low attention to the implication of national policies on a wider scenario, and highlight a (rather outdated) vision of ‘internal’ vs. ‘external’ agenda.

As a contribution to the national debate, particularly within the Christian community, Caritas Italy has recently issued the paper “Un mondo in bilico” (“World on the brink”), a tool to make Caritas’ grassroots movement in Italy, and the wider public opinion, aware that the world is increasingly being driven by trends of anger and exclusion that are framing international policies and decision making processes.

The 2030 Agenda is a powerful starting point that needs to be fully implemented – and states even need to go beyond that. In this regard, Pope Francis’ Encyclical letter Laudato si’ and his Apostolic Exhortation Evangeli Gaudium are very important tools that guide us into concretising the concepts of “dignity of the human person” and of “integral human development” from a much wider perspective, something that is often forgotten when considering global and national policy frameworks.

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