Sustainable Development Goals & the EU: uncovering the nexus between external and internal policies

Being one of the wealthiest regions in the world, the EU has a lot to give when it comes to the delivery of SDGs in the global context. However, as one of the world’s biggest consumers and trading blocs, it also has a lot to answer for. 

A multitude of EU internal policies can result in spillover impacts beyond our borders, with potential negative or positive impacts on third countries’ endeavors to achieve SDGs. These include a range of EU policies that govern the production and consumption of goods and services in the Union, but sometimes counterintuitively may not always be the most obvious candidates. There is, therefore, a need for a mechanism to better map the EU’s policy impact on global sustainable development.

 In the external context, the vehicles for SDG delivery outside the EU's borders, consist of policies for external action and trade. The former includes a range of different policy ‘regimes’ and instruments covering the EU’s foreign and security policy, EU and Member State policies for international and development cooperation. The latter is primarily built on an expanding framework of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) between the EU and third countries.

This paper makes a range of recommendations for EU policy action to improve its delivery of SDGs in the global context. These are identified with a view to: improve EU level monitoring for policy coherence and spillovers effects; improve the EU’s internal policy performance vis-à-vis external impacts; ensure that EU trade delivers for all dimensions of sustainability, with strong safeguards in place; and to boost EU development cooperation and related financing. These recommendations include:

  • identifying and adopting a set of EU level indicators for global spillover effects linked to SDG delivery;

  • systematically ‘SDG-proofing’ EU’s internal and external policies (e.g. trade); and

  • adopting reaching the 0.7% mark for ODA across EU a political priority accompanied by an improved monitoring framework to assess progress towards this target.