‘The 2030 Agenda represents a paradigm shift in international cooperation’

8 December 2017 – Director General Dirk Aßmann explains how the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is generating momentum in international cooperation.

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The 2030 Agenda was adopted by the international community in September 2015 at a summit of the United Nations. At its core are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Dirk Aßmann is responsible for coordinating the Agenda’s mainstreaming in project activities of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

Mr Aßmann, the 2030 Agenda was adopted two years ago by all 193 member states of the United Nations. What makes it so special?

Global challenges, such as poverty, hunger and climate change can only be solved through collaborative effort. The 2030 Agenda provides an overarching framework that sets out the objectives and principles required to tackle these challenges. And not just in developing countries and emerging economies. The agenda is universal – industrialised countries must also make a contribution now. That is a major step.

What does the 2030 Agenda mean in terms of the activities of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH?

The 2030 Agenda is now the key orientation framework for global sustainable development. It turns the focus on sustainability, and links the three dimensions of sustainability – social, environmental and economic – on an equal footing. We see this as a major endorsement of the approaches we have been pursuing for years. We’re also very experienced in taking an interdisciplinary approach to projects that involve many different participants. Starting from this base, we’re now adapting our range of services to the new challenges. So we see ourselves as well equipped to help turn the vision of the 2030 Agenda into reality.

What challenges does the 2030 Agenda hold for GIZ?

GIZ is already working on all aspects of the 2030 Agenda. It’s important not to see each goal in isolation, however, but holistically – inequality and human rights violations can’t be eradicated without peace and good governance, for example. If the sustainable development goals are to be achieved, we need to ensure even greater cooperation across all policy areas. Nor can they be achieved without all participants working towards the solution and sharing the responsibility. This requires the involvement of stakeholders from the spheres of politics, business and society. Multi-stakeholder partnerships such as these are a challenge in themselves. All in all, this represents a paradigm shift, and for us it’s a source of fresh momentum to develop new concepts for tackling these complex issues.

You talk about a paradigm shift – what is this new paradigm exactly?

The principle of universality outlined above is a key element. Another is the fact that the agenda places a focus on particularly disadvantaged population groups. Often these are the people worst affected by global challenges such as poverty and hunger – we must leave no one behind.

And for all this we are publicly accountable – implementation of the 2030 Agenda must be subject to comprehensive monitoring and evaluation, at regional, national and global level. Together with shared responsibility and the integration of all three dimensions of sustainability, these are the five principles that guide our implementation.

Can you give us an example of a specific project?

In five Andean countries, for example, we have been involved in making the mining sector more sustainable – with cross-border activities and in all three dimensions of sustainability, the social, environmental and economic. Now, the 2030 Agenda gives us a reliable and helpful basis for transparently evaluating and demonstrating how each individual activity has contributed to a specific sustainability goal.

Dirk Aßmann is Director General of the Sectoral Department at GIZ.

Universality: for the first time the goals of the 2030 Agenda are universal, and apply to developing and emerging countries as well to industrialised countries. GIZ supports other countries in achieving their national targets.

Leaving no one behind: the focus is on particularly disadvantaged population groups, since these are often the hardest hit by global challenges.

Integrated approach: sustainability has a social, economic and environmental dimension. All three dimensions are treated on an equal footing and synergies created.

Shared responsibility: all relevant stakeholders – governments, civil society, businesses, academic institutions and UN organisations collectively take responsibility for implementing the 2030 Agenda.

5. Accountability: implementation of the agenda is monitored and evaluated at national, regional and global level. GIZ reports on its contribution to implementing the 2030 Agenda.