Ladies and Gentlemen, let me start by reminding us, that the objective of the Global UN Agenda for Sustainable Development is a life in dignity for all. This vision is shared by Switzerland. The advancement of sustainable development is specifically mentioned in the Swiss Constitution, which is why the Agenda 2030 is dear to us.
Besides doing our own “homework” to achieve the SDGs, we also support other states, like Serbia, with the implementation of the SDGs. Switzerland has supported Serbia through its cooperation program in the order of more than 400 million Euro since 1991. Most of this funding directly or indirectly contributed to the achievement of the SDGs.
The SDGs are a global and somewhat abstract agenda. This is why they need to be broken down to a concrete level, put into a country-specific context and implemented based on local priorities. In our experience, this process is most successful when all concerned parties are consulted, and when the government acts jointly with the private sector, civil society, academia and development partners.
With our SDG specific project “SDGs for All” we are doing just that. We are furthering a society-wide dialogue on Serbia’s development priorities and giving an active voice to citizens – young and old, from business and academia, from urban and rural areas.
We believe that strong and capable institutions are crucial for sustainable development, therefore a significant part of our projects contribute to SDG 16 – on peace, justice and strong institutions. We support reforms that strengthen the role of local governments and support municipalities across Serbia to better do their job. We also work with the Parliament as a key pillar of democracy and in this respect I would like to point out that the President of the National Council of Switzerland, the larger chamber of our Parliament has just visited Serbia a couple of weeks ago. We also support Serbian civil society as an intermediary between the state and citizens and as an advocate for citizens’ rights. Moreover, all our projects strive to contribute to gender equality, in line with the SDG 5.
Through long-term support to the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit of the Government, Switzerland promotes social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity or economic status, therefore advancing SDG 1 - no poverty, SDG 10 - reduced inequalities and the principle Leave No One Behind.
Switzerland also contributes to the achievement of SDG 8 on decent work and economic growth. Our experience in dual education and skills development is effectively put into practice in southeast and south-west Serbia. We support innovative high-tech companies and stimulate exports, thus creating jobs and increasing revenues.
The protection of the environment has become a growing concern. With numerous projects supporting the introduction of renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable urban development, we aim to suppoprt the achievement of the SDGs in that respect.
Let me take this opportunity to mention that Switzerland will host the third UN World Data Forum in October 2021 in Bern. The purpose of this forum is to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda with disaggregated, high quality data as only a sound database is capable of measuring effectiveness of policies and their impact.
Finally, to address your question on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is certainly affecting currently all our lives – be that in Switzerland or here in Serbia. Its long term impact is still unforeseeable. Switzerland is however determined to remain a reliable partner to Serbia in the years to come and to support the country in overcoming the consequences of the pandemic.
Now, is Serbia on the right track to achieving the SDGs by 2030? The Serbian government has certainly taken a number of important steps, including the establishment of the inter-ministerial coordination mechanism back in 2015, the mapping of the strategic framework on the SDGs and the submission of its Voluntary National Report in 2019. However, considerable work still lies ahead.
Given that the SDGs cut across many different sectors, it would be - in our view -beneficial for the new Government to determine a body with a mandate for the horizontal and vertical coordination of the implementation of the Agenda 2030.
It is also noticeable that Serbia has not had an overarching national development strategy for several years. Such a strategy may be helpful in defining national priorities and it could certainly re-inforce Serbia’s ongoing reforms towards European integration.
In a nutshell, we would certainly welcome a policy formulation by the Serbian Government with an explicit development orientation and based on a broad consultation of public and civic stakeholders at the national and local level.
The implementation of the Agenda 2030 is of course not only a responsibility of the national government. A shared responsibility lies with the local governments. Therefore, Local Development Plans could be good instruments to work towards achieving the SDGs relevant for the respective communities.
In the end, Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s all about people. Serbia, as Switzerland, has committed itself to the universally recognized principle of Leave No One Behind. Switzerland stands ready to support Serbia in its efforts to reduce inequalities, eradicate poverty and improve social inclusion and solidarity. This seems to us even more important in light of the current Corona pandemic and it will have a lasting and positive impact on the economic and social development.