Ana Teresa Santos

No time to waste: A coherent European approach to SDG Target 4.7 

Almost 6 years have passed since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In 2015, under the Action 2015 global coalition, thousands of organisations around the world mobilised millions of people to pressure political leaders to commit to a bold, comprehensive and ambitious agenda that tackled poverty, inequality, climate change and that made sure no one was left behind. On the eve of the formal adoption of the agenda, millions of people in hundreds of cities around the world “lighted the way” for a better future. The feeling at that time was of hope and excitement.  Agenda 2030 was a gigantic step forward when compared with the Millennium Declaration, and there was a common recognition that there was no time to waste.As Ban Ki-Moon had written earlier that year “With the right investments and policies, we can be the first generation that ends poverty and the last that avoids the worst effects of climate change.

However six years on, we continue to struggle with heat waves and fires in North America, severe floods in central Europe and Asia and drought in Africa. We are facing a pandemic that exposed the fragility of the global health system and we are witnessing the rise of populism, extremism and hate-speech. These are challenging times that require more than ever bold, fast and immediate action in order to avoid the point of no return and ensure a sustainable and fair future for the next generations to come. It’s time to truly make Agenda 2030 and priority and make the necessary transformation to achieve the world we want. 

The European Union (EU) plays a leading role in the implementation of Agenda 2030, having the ability to showcase to the world that transformation is possible. The strong commitment of the EU to the Agenda’s implementation was reinforced in the European Council Conclusions of June 2017 “A sustainable European future: The EU response to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” and later in the “European Green Deal” which is recognised by the European Commission (EC) as being an integral part of the EU’s strategy to implement the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. 

But as SDG Target 4.7 is internationally recognised as an “enabler for all 17 SDGs” and “the foundation for the required transformation”, is the EU doing enough to make this Target a reality? 

During the research for the publication “A Coherent European Approach to Target 4.7” we have identified over fifteen EU-led processes, initiatives and funding lines connected to the contents of SDG Target 4.7 and transformative education, which showcases the relevance of these contents to the EU. However, it is important to note that only one of them specifically mentions SDG Target 4.7, while in all others the language used tends to focus only on the green/climate dimension of Education for Sustainable Development. 

This absence of an overarching approach that encompasses all “educations for” mentioned in SDG Target 4.7 (education for sustainable development, human rights education, gender equality, peace and non-violence education, global citizenship education and appreciation of cultural diversity), prevents the EU from effectively contributing to this Target. It is a missed opportunity to showcase the European Union as a role model and leader in this Target that is essential to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. It is therefore urgent to have a coherent approach to SDG Target 4.7 at a European level, if we want SDGs to become a reality. 

In the publication we propose three possible pathways that could be followed at a policy level to achieve this coherent approach:  Work towards a Council Recommendation; Work towards a Communication from the Commission or Build a Civil Society initiated “shadow” strategy to influence the EU, all of which would benefit from the work of broad coalition of stakeholders that would have the power to influence and hold the EU accountable to the recommendations included in the strategic documents. But this summertime, there are also simple actions that we can do, even as individuals:  

  • Until 24th September, any EU citizen can participate in the public consultation to give input and ideas for a proposal for a Council Recommendation on education for environmental sustainability. Let’s use this opportunity to ask for it to be more aligned with the Sustainable Development Goal 4, especially SDG Target 4.7 and for it to explicitly recognise the interlinkages and complementarity between education for sustainable development (ESD) and other types of transformative education, such as Global citizenship Education (GCED).  
  • Participate in the Conference on the Future of Europe. Go to the digital platform, choose the related topics (for example:  Education, culture, youth and sport) and let the Conference know that it’s urgent to have a coherent approach to SDG Target 4.7.  

The time to act is now! It’s in our hand to make a coherent European approach to SDG Target 4.7 a reality.  


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About the Author

Ana Teresa Santos

Ana Teresa Santos has worked in the civil society sector for over ten years. For the last seven years, she has worked as project manager of Global Citizenship/Development Education projects and has been an active member of several national and European working groups in this area.