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Addis. New York. Paris. Three summits that shaped development policy in 2015, all with the potential to transform the way we do, and finance, sustainable development, writes Linda McAvan MEP.

International agreements are now in place to help tackle poverty, inequality and climate change for the next 15 years. Now that the ink is dry, it is time for the hard work to begin. The EU is the world's largest donor and a trend-setter when it comes to sustainable development and climate legislation. It has a significant role to play. So what needs to happen next?

Implementing the SDGs

Turning words into actions must be the focus of 2016. As chair of the European Parliament development committee I see, and can contribute to, the important role the EU has to play in making the Sustainable Development Goals a reality. We need to eradicate poverty by 2030, without leaving anyone behind. I hope the EU shows strong leadership on this; DEVE will certainly play its part. In the European Parliament, each national government needs to plan its approach to achieving the goals.

In order for us to succeed, more people across Europe need to know about the goals - they need to be aware of the ambitious agenda we all want to achieve. Policymakers need to be regularly reminded of these goals; the world must not forget about our commitment to the poorest people.

Last year was the European Year for Development, a year dedicated to raising awareness of the achievements and successes of EU development cooperation. I was impressed to see more and more people engaging with our work on sustainable development. I found that people really care about justice, the fight against poverty and inequality, and climate change.

But now, the real test for the success of the European Year for Development will be how it contributes to achieving the new goals. We must now focus on building public support by effectively communicating about development, and on holding EU countries accountable. Otherwise we will not achieve these ambitious goals. All this cannot be done without civil society.

Role of civil society

Without civil society and NGOs, the European Year for Development wouldn't have happened. NGOs are working together to achieve change. We have to show leadership in the world, and that we can honour our commitment to reach the global goals.

Without civil society, people wouldn't know about development policy. We're counting on it for the future. We need civil society to put pressure on policymakers and governments to achieve the goals.

Clear policy

A new phase of shaping development policy should start now, at EU level - policy that delivers action and change on the ground.

The EU's policy should be about creating a better world for all our citizens. But we can't do this alone and we can't only focus on our part of the world. In an increasingly interdependent world we need to work together to achieve lasting development.

The future

The international development community needs to step up. Governments, civil society and policymakers all have their role to play. We must build on the partnerships forged in 2015. We must engage new stakeholders beyond the development community to bring about change.

Linda McAvan MEP is chair of the European Parliament development committee.

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals: The EU must continue to lead the way

Addis. New York. Paris. Three summits that shaped development policy in 2015, all with the potential to transform the way we do, and finance, sustainable development, writes Linda McAvan MEP....

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Unless urgent inter-party talks address democratic shortcomings in Maldives, and there are free and fair elections, the European Union will have to contemplate sanctions, a senior MEP has warned.

Richard Howitt MEP, Labour's European Parliament spokesperson on foreign affairs and vice-chair of the EP delegation to South Asia, held discussions in Malé with the legal team of the country's former President, Mohamed Nasheed, who has been convicted on terrorism charges but claims the conviction was politically motivated.

He also visited the prison cell at Maafushi Prison to inspect the conditions in which Mr Nasheed, who is currently in London for urgent medical treatment, has been held.

Mr Howitt was co-author of two European Parliament resolutions criticising democracy in Maldives last year, the second of which explicitly called for targeted sanctions. A current bill in the Maldives parliament would make it illegal for anyone to call for support for sanctions.

Richard Howitt MEP said:

"Our presence in Malé shows the deep and serious concern we have about the state of democracy in Maldives.

"Europe does not support any one party - our concern is for an apparent lack of independence of the judiciary and lack of respect for international legal standards not just in the case of President Nasheed, but in many cases in the Maldives.

"These form a pattern which suggests that this is a deliberate tool for the treatment of political dissent and opposition."

Mr Howitt also cited other cases including that of former vice-president Ahmed Adeeb, Colonel Mohamed Nazim, and Sheikh Imran Abdulla, and the lack of an apparent investigation into the continuing disappearance of the journalist, Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla.

He added:

"First, I hope there will be a return to inter-party talks, of genuine talks, on an agreed timetable. These can be with an international mediator if requested, and we know our friends and colleagues in the United Nations offer their good services, with European Union support.

"Such talks would agree steps which can work to restore the political space, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, which are today absent.

"Dialogue cannot take place whilst political leaders are in detention. All leaders should be free to engage, and the public must be kept informed. I have to say that, speaking today, it is difficult to foresee that there can be any chance that the 2018 elections will be rated as free and fair, unless things start to change and change now.

"Second, we spoke with your parliamentarians and urged them: rather than criminalising anyone who calls for sanctions against Maldives, to take actions which remove the need for sanctions to be considered. We do not want sanctions - they were not in the first parliament resolution last year, but they were in the second.

"This week we have undertaken a full assessment and we will go back to Brussels and continue to consider all options. We hope that a return to the path of democratic development takes place in the country, so this consideration is no longer needed."

Maldives must hold free and fair elections or face EU sanctions, warns senior Euro-MP

Unless urgent inter-party talks address democratic shortcomings in Maldives, and there are free and fair elections, the European Union will have to contemplate sanctions, a senior MEP has warned.

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As David Cameron jets round Europe to seal his EU reform deal, and with the various leave campaigns squabbling and in chaos, the big issues facing voters in the referendum mustn’t be lost, writes Glenis Willmott MEP.

The EU referendum is not about the future of the prime minister or the dramas of the Tory Party or which mad right-winger is running which leave campaign, but about working people – about workers’ jobs and workers’ rights. It will be about trade. About security, consumer rights, the environment, the future of our country and the futures of everyone in it.

Remaining in the European Union is vital for all these things. There are no circumstances under which we would be better off outside the EU, so we must not allow talk of this deal to eclipse the bigger picture.

That said, as Labour MEPs, we have worked hard to ensure that one of the biggest advantages we enjoy from being in the EU – workplace rights – were not up for discussion and have not been weakened as part of this deal. It is thanks to Labour, our trade union colleagues and our sister parties across Europe that David Cameron was not able to negotiate away our rights, and we must now ensure working people keep these rights by remaining in the EU.

These are major employment rights for working people in Britain, including a minimum four weeks’ paid holiday; a right to parental leave; extended maternity leave; the same protection for part-time workers as full-time workers, anti-discrimination laws, and protection for the workforce when companies change ownership.

Labour MEPs are working not just to protect but to extend these rights, for example to cover the abuse of zero-hour contracts. We will fight to stamp down on abuse of these contracts to exploit workers and avoid paying fair wages, and we want to tackle employers who exploit workers from other countries to undercut wages – this is the agenda we would be advancing if we were the ones negotiating reform.

And it is not just as workers but as consumers that British people are better off in the EU. Holidaymakers no longer face extortionate mobile phone bills when holidaying or working within the EU, and by June next year there will be no more huge bills; travellers whose flights are delayed or cancelled have rights to recompense; we receive equal consumer rights when shopping anywhere in Europe, with greater quality and safety of products.

Most obviously of all, being in the EU means we are free to travel throughout all 28 countries, free to work wherever we wish, free to trade with whom we want.

Looking at the bigger picture, when it comes to tackling the biggest crises we face, from climate change to terrorism to the refugee crisis, from regulating global banks and markets to tackling tax avoidance – issues that can only be tackled at international level through cooperation and joint action – we are self-evidently better off inside a multi-nation Union than going it alone, isolated and powerless.

We now have the details of the draft deal, and while Cameron dashes across Europe to secure it, we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that our EU membership is worth far more than whatever he secures.

The time is nearly here, and when that time comes, it’ll be time to end the uncertainty, to vote for the future, to vote to remain.

Glenis Willmott MEP is Labour's Leader in the European Parliament.

This blog originally appeared on LabourList.

Forget about Cameron - the big issues facing voters in the EU referendum mustn't be lost

As David Cameron jets round Europe to seal his EU reform deal, and with the various leave campaigns squabbling and in chaos, the big issues facing voters in the referendum...

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