Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-Fourth Report


COM(02) 82

Commission Communication: "Towards a global partnership for sustainable development".

Legal base:
Document originated:13 February 2002
Forwarded to the Council: 15 February 2002
Deposited in Parliament: 20 March 2002
Department:Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Basis of consideration: EM of 4 April 2002
Previous Committee Report: None; but see footnote below
To be discussed in Council: 21-22 June 2002
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Cleared


  13.1  Since the Rio Conference in 1992, a number of new initiatives have been taken to address specific elements of sustainable development, but, according to the Commission, overall progress has been slow, and a new initiative is needed to tackle the various challenges in a more comprehensive and effective way. It points out that the Community has already established an internal strategy[15], but that, in endorsing this, the Gothenburg European Council in June 2001 recognised the need to develop further an external dimension. That need is addressed in this Communication, which the Commission says also considers the Community's contribution to the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development later this year.

The current document

  13.2  In its introduction, the Commission points out that, although globalisation has led to economic growth and improved living standards, there have nevertheless been costs as well as benefits. The former include pressures on the environment through intensive energy use and the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, and the social costs arising from the disproportionate gains enjoyed by particular sectors of the population and regions. It also notes the particular difficulties faced in this respect by developing countries, and the part that can be played in addressing these through private investment, through initiatives by the industrialised countries in opening markets and fostering development co-operation, and through international bodies, such as the World Trade Organisation. It comments that, as the world's largest donor of development aid and biggest trading partner, the Community is well placed to assume a leading role.

  13.3  The rest of the Communication deals more specifically with the initiatives which might be taken under the following headings:

  • Harnessing globalisation: trade for sustainable development

    The Commission says that the objectives should be to ensure that globalisation contributes to sustainable development by integrating developing countries equitably into the world economy with measures for liberalising trade and investment, and by strengthening international financial and monetary arrangements in order to reduce global financial volatility. It suggests that this involves the Community participating constructively in World Trade Organisation negotiations to establish a fair system in accordance with the conclusions of the Doha ministerial conference; supporting developing countries' efforts to benefit from the international trading system; reinforcing the role of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences and strengthening the sustainability dimension of bilateral and regional agreements; implementing common approaches to the environment and export credits; and encouraging the commitment of European companies to corporate social responsibility.
  • Fighting poverty and promoting social development

    The Commission believes that the priority in this area should be to attain international development targets and the Millennium Development Goals[16] adopted by the UN General Assembly, thereby addressing poverty, disease, and gender and other inequalities which prevent the achievement of adequate and sustained standards of well-being. Priority actions include further focussing Community development policy on poverty reduction, particularly in the least developed countries (LDCs); ensuring that policies contribute to the eradication of hunger; improving access to adequate water and sanitation; raising the level of investment in health, and the extent of Community action on the prevention and treatment of communicable diseases; giving further emphasis to education and training; and promoting research on issues related to sustainable development.
  • Sustainable management of natural and environmental resources

    The Communication suggests that the priorities in this area are to ensure that current trends in the loss of environmental resources are effectively reversed at national and global levels by 2015, and to develop intermediate objectives in key sectors, such as water, land and soil, energy and biodiversity. It suggests that this should entail Community action to take the initiative at the World Summit on Sustainable Development with other governments and international organisations to promote sustainable water resource management; to adopt an initiative on co-operation in the field of energy and development so as to achieve improved efficiency and energy savings, clean technologies and the development of renewable resources; to promote the effective implementation of multilateral environmental agreements, including the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol; to develop a Community plan on land degradation and the enforcement of forest law; to encourage investment in affordable, sustainable and environmentally-friendly modes of transport; to develop a a strategy for distant-water fisheries contributing to sustainable fishing outside Community waters; to integrate disaster prevention into Community development and environment policies; and to extend the application of global monitoring to developing countries so as to improve data on natural resource monitoring.
  • Improving the coherence of Community policies

    The Commission sees the objective as ensuring that sustainable development objectives are progressively integrated into all Community policies, with impact assessments being carried out on all major policy proposals, and key policies, such as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) being adapted. It says that this will entail the strengthening of internal co-ordination within all Community institutions, and ensuring that sustainable development objectives are addressed under the mid-term review of the CAP and current review of the CFP.
  • Better governance at all levels

    The Communication identifies the need to ensure better governance at all levels, and in particular to strength the legitimacy, participatory basis, coherence and effectiveness of global economic, social and environmental governance. It suggests that this would entail increased support for institutional and public service reform in developing countries; strengthening measures against corruption; enhancing the global capacity to enforce international conventions on core labour standards; and ensuring that the outcome of the Johannesburg Conference includes concrete moves to promote the effective implementation of multilateral environmental agreements, the development of frameworks for regional co-operation, and a more active role for civil society, local authorities and private sectors.
  • Financing sustainable development

    The Communication indicates that the priorities should be to ensure adequate financing to attain international development targets, to reduce the debt burden of developing countries in a consistent and effective manner, and to stimulate a further increase in, and regional broadening of, foreign private investments in developing countries. It says that these issues are further addressed in detail in a separate Communication on the UN International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey[17].

The Government's view

  13.4  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 4 April 2002, the Parliamentary Under- Secretary of State (Commons) at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Elliot Morley) points out that, unless the Commission brings forward further legislative proposals, the Communication does not have any direct regulatory impact. However, he says that the Government strongly supports the development by the European Council of an external dimension to the Community's Sustainable Development Strategy so as to ensure that its policies contribute to sustainable development, not only within the Community, but globally. It therefore welcomes the Commission's commitment to bring together the benefits of globalisation and development aid to alleviate poverty, and considers that action is needed in parallel to reduce pressures on natural resources.

  13.5  The Minister also believes that the broad topics identified in this Communication provide a good basis for an external dimension, and he says that the UK particularly welcomes the key action points on poverty eradication, financing development, and the reform of the CAP and CFP. He adds that the Government would like the Community to develop headline commitments for Johannesburg, drawing on this Communication, and focussed on making globalisation sustainable, promoting the Millennium Development goals, making internal and external policies coherent, promoting good governance at all levels, and making progress towards UN targets for development aid.

  13.6  As regards timing, the Minister says that the Communication was debated by the Environment Council on 4 March, with conclusions being submitted to the Barcelona European Council on 15-16 March. At the Seville Summit on 21-22 June, the Community will determine an overall position for the Johannesburg meeting.


  13.7  As with the parallel Communication establishing an internal strategy, this document, though general in content, deals with an important subject, and, for that reason, we are drawing it to the attention of the House. However, as the Minister has pointed out, in itself it has no legal or procedural implications, and further proposals would be needed to give effect to any of the specific recommendations. We are therefore clearing it.

15   (22153) 6314/01; see HC 152-ii (2001-02), paragraph 18 (17 October 2001). Back

16   These include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combatting AIDS, malaria and other diseases, and ensuring environmental sustainability. Back

17   (23287) 6564/02. Back

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