First Generation to Eradicate Poverty

Opinion piece by the Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate, and Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin and the Minister for Education, Gustav Fridolin in The Huffington Post, 9 June 2016.

The last decades hundreds of millions of people have left extreme poverty. Today more than 90 percent of all children are enrolled in school, even in developing countries. Thanks to digitalization we are more closely interconnected with each other than ever before. Knowledge and ideas flow throughout the world and transcend all previous boundaries.

At the same time, the world is younger than ever. Almost half of the world's population is younger than 25. Together, we now have a unique opportunity to continue creating a better, more sustainable future. And we have recently taken some important steps. Last year, 2015, the world came together to agree on three milestones: the climate agreement in Paris, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda for financing development and not least the UN Agenda 2030.

With the Agenda 2030, for the first time in history the world has one, integrated agenda for both development and environmental sustainability. We can't have one without the other. Poverty eradication without respect for the ecosystems and the planets limited resources is a dead end. This creates new visions, new possibilities — and challenges.

But we all know that plans and visions are not enough. The urgency of putting words into action is underlined when we consider the climate change, the refugee crisis, the growing number of conflicts and wars, the threat of global terrorism, fundamentalism and hate speech, or the fact that more than one billion people are still lacking electricity. It is obvious that the world so far has failed to deal with the greatest challenges of our time.

The world needs countries that are willing to lead the way toward the fulfillment of the Agenda 2030. We are proud to declare that Sweden is committed to be such a country. Four areas are especially important in fulfilling the agenda:

  • Including youth. This spring, Sweden launched the global campaign "#Firstgeneration." First Generation implies the generations and civil society actors who, thanks to digitalization, have access to networks and new knowledge and thus have a unique opportunity to use the 2030 Agenda and the global goals to build new solutions for a sustainable future — a future that can end poverty! Around the world we will organize activities and collaborations including everything from innovation competitions, university activities to social-media initiatives. A key target group is the teachers around the world. The crucial role of teachers in society, as well as their position as role models and sources of inspiration, gives them unique opportunities to pursue sustainability issues and influence our future.
  • Climate. Sweden is committed to become one of the first fossil-free welfare nations in the world. Sweden used to be a country very dependent on fossil fuels. Since the oil crises in the '70s, we have been working systematically to reduce energy consumption and to increase the share of renewables. During the same period our economy has developed very fast. We opt for sustainable-energy sources for the sake of the climate, but also because it is economically sound. We believe it is much smarter to be the first one to enter the new economy, rather than being the last one depending on old solutions. Sweden is also the largest per capita contributor to the Green Climate Fund.
  • Feminism. Sweden is the first country in the world to pursue a feminist foreign policy. Ensuring that women and girls can enjoy their fundamental human rights is both an obligation within the framework of our international commitments and a prerequisite for sustainable development. Investing in gender equality and promoting opportunities for non-traditional education and career choices for both boys and girls is of utmost importance. Investing in girls' education in particular is one of the most effective measures to promote gender equality and to contribute to economic and social development.
  • Coherence. Coherence is a fundamental part of the Agenda. Sweden has a long tradition of working with policy coherence for global sustainable development, through what we call Policy for Global Development. Every Ministry has to produce its own action plans on how to achieve greater policy coherence for development. The Government recently appointed a multi-stakeholder National Committee to promote the implementation of the 2030 Agenda throughout Swedish society. The responsibility includes conducting an assessment of the extent to which Sweden fulfills the goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda, submitting a proposal for an overarching action plan for Sweden's implementation and working to include all relevant actors. Civil society organizations, municipalities, academia, private sector and trade unions are essential in this endeavour, since we know that every part of the society needs to work together if we are to succeed.

We now have 15 years ahead of us to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of Agenda 2030. We are convinced that it is possible to achieve the goals and to create a better future for us all. But we need to get to work at once, and we need to do it together. We are convinced UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is right: We are the first generation that could end poverty and the last one to limit climate change. Let us jointly rise to that challenge.