human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

4 ideas to make something real out of the SDGs

The European Development Days (EDD) are unarguably one of the most important events on international aid globally. This year was the 10th edition of this event and it was dedicated to “turning Sustainable Development Goals into action”. Although one can easily criticize the format of the event, it is true that it still is a unique opportunity to network, debate and showcase good practices in different sectors and throughout all regions of the world.

I attended this edition from an observing – although committed – point of view, which is the best attitude to keep attention high and try to be the most receptive as possible.

I had the chance to be invited by our friends in CIDSE to participate in their brainstorming session about sharing alternatives for sustainable lifestyles under a universal perspective. It was really good to think about how local choices, either in municipalities or public school systems, might adopt small but meaningful solutions that show their will to build a better world in a very concrete manner. Despite the early morning hour, it was good to kick off the day in such a practical and effective way!

From there, I went to the opening session. Traditionally, this is a moment to listen and take inspiration from, rather than to find answers to critical and unsolved questions about inequalities and injustice. The EU High Representative, Federica Mogherini was the key-note speaker. She said that everything is about “connecting” and “circulate ideas in order to transform them into reality”.It is difficult not to agree with her when living in societies that are still full of poverty, hunger, increasing inequalities and social injustices.

Over the lunch break, I visited the exhibitions the Nile Project music and the Jumping Village. After that, I moved on to attend a roundtable about the possible “win-win” situation for migration and integration challenges. The room was more than full, it felt like a sign of the times to see so many people there. It really showcased Europeans’ huge interest in this topic. The panel was composed by dedicated Ministers in Denmark, Germany, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. They certainly did not speak with a unique and uniform voice. Instead they shared their different experiences, talked about their difficulties, their challenges, possible long lasting solutions and concerns. I found the discussion very frank, although way too short.

After some chats with participants, I left. On my way home, I could not stop thinking about personal outcomes after all the information I digested during those very few hours and about how to transform nice words on SDGs into real and effective change.

In the end, I came up with the following 4 points:

  1. Strong leadership is needed. For this reason it is great that EDDs have a “Young Leaders” programme. It would be good that young leaders coming from communities from all around the world would be listened to in an ‘operational’ way;
  2. Five DGs of the European Commission were present in high level panels at the EDD. This is a good result but still not enough, especially if one thinks about the comprehensiveness of Agenda 2030. Of course it is not needed to have all commissioners on the same stage – it would even look suspicious – but it is important that the Commission becomes even more inclusive in the future;
  3. The same goes for participants. The EDD are a vibrant occasion for sharing ideas and experiences. If it is true that universal sustainable development concerns us all, it is fundamental that new actors are involved in it;
  4. Innovation has to stay there, always. Innovative programs and social innovation are the only way to move forward towards a better future. Also, creativity is a strong expression for ownership.

I think that the European Development Days are a unique annual opportunity to keep track of all this. All the rest needs to be implemented during the remaining 363 days of the year.