2015 is an important year for international development. This year, global leaders will hold two remarkable summits focusing on both people and the planet.
One UN summit to be held in New York in September will result in a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to replace the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which have guided progress on international development since 2000.
Another meeting, to be held in December in Paris, will set new climate action targets – a crucial step towards a safer and healthier planet. These decisions taken together should lay the foundation for addressing the world’s most pressing challenges over the coming years.
In the run-up to these summits, the European Union has declared 2015 the ‘European Year for Development’.
The EU remains the world’s biggest donor of official development assistance and plans to use this year to raise awareness across Europe about development issues and the positive impact of continued development funding. Around the continent, groups are mobilising to support the year.
A new global platform, called ‘Action 2015’, will connect those interested in development and is being launched today, on January 15th.
2015 presents an opportunity for Irish people of all generations to contribute their ideas and express their support for new policies that respect our commitment to sustainable international development. You can get involved by joining the conversation on social media using the hashtags #EYD2015 and #action2015, or developing your own local campaign.
Although the world is currently off track for ending poverty, tackling inequality and avoiding dangerous climate change, it doesn’t have to be this way. The tools, knowledge and resources needed to address pressing global challenges are available.
The impact of campaigning and the power of coordinated international efforts have already been demonstrated. Since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals fifteen years ago, significant progress has been made in areas such as increasing access to antiretroviral medications for treatment of HIV infection, increased enrolment in primary education and a reduction in child mortality rates.
In the aftermath of the financial crisis, young people in Ireland increasingly find they can relate to challenges faced by their counterparts in developing countries or the ‘Global South’, such as access to education, employment and emigration.
One group that has turned its attention to these issues is the ‘Challenging the Crisis’ project of IDEA (the Irish Development Education Association), which connects our group in Ireland with other young Europeans (aged 16-30) in order to debate and create the world we want to live in, at home and globally.
Eleanor McKenna, aged 25 from Drogheda, who has been involved in the initiative since its launch in early 2014, describes it as
“an opportunity to connect with people facing similar challenges to us in Ireland, and who share our passion for social change”.
There are over 80 young people active as ‘Young Global Advocates’ involved from Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Slovenia and Spain, the countries most affected by the current austerity agenda in Europe.
As part of the project, that core group of 80 plan to reach out to many more through their campaign for a social economy. This model goes beyond the profit-making model of business and focuses on how economic activity can contribute to social good and environmental sustainability, such as through social enterprise, cooperatives and credit unions.
Although the EU’s youth unemployment rate still hovered at around 22% in 2014, the Young Global Advocates are keen to focus on solidarity within Europe, and with other parts of the world, sending the message that international development still matters to us, even in times of economic difficulty.
In a globalised world, the interests of European and developing countries and their populations are increasingly linked.
Social enterprises exist within Europe and are also crucially important in many developing countries.
We hope to use 2015 and the upcoming discussions on agreeing a new framework to combat poverty, protect the environment, and promote sustainability worldwide, to highlight the importance of the social economy.
It can help provide employment, contribute to social cohesion and drive a model of sustainable development. In light of this important year and the EU’s continued role as the world’s biggest aid donor, young people in Ireland are becoming ever more involved in the debate around a new model of development for Ireland, Europe and the rest of the world.
This new movement of young people is part of a changing, post-recession climate in Ireland, in which new voices are being heard. Ahead of next year’s general election, this year is a chance for Irish people to inform decision-makers that international development matters to us.
Ireland is already internationally recognised for its efforts in this area and has been appointed, along with Kenya, to guide the members of the UN to an agreement on a new development framework by September.
Continued pressure will ensure that international development stays at the top of the political agenda.
One of the main aims of the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals is to expand the idea of global responsibility and urge both developed and developing countries to take action on world issues. The European Year of Development offers Irish people a similar chance to broaden the aims of our politics and make our voices heard, and Action 2015 provides a gateway for anyone who wants to get involved.
Find out more about the Challenging the Crisis project and follow us on Twitter @CtCrisis. Join in support of the year using #EYD2015.