The context of the Friends of Europe meeting:

As the European Union rolls out its Global Gateway and related investment plans, it is important to consider how the EU’s target regions, recipients and partners perceive and engage with the strategy, as well as other global development and investment frameworks.

Between 2021 and 2027, the EU aims to mobilise up to €300bn of investment in digitalisation, climate and energy, transport, health, education and research,€150bn of which will be allocated in Africa alone.

In addition to low- and middle-income countries’ decades-long challenges in advocating for investment in infrastructure, many other obstacles exist. Planning infrastructure for a low-emission and resilient future requires a rethink at all levels of government to avoid exacerbating negative effects.

Successful investment and cooperation would not only lead to effectively addressing global challenges, such as climate change, but also to meaningful progress towards the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, in recent years, countries have increasingly questioned the excessive self-promotion of the EU as a role model of values.

With representatives and experts from Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and Asia, the roundtable heard opinions about what works and what does not within the EU Global Gateway strategy and the global development and investment framework.

The discussion developed from the following questions:

  • Does EU development policy focus on sustainable, inclusive economic growth that is oriented towards the realities of regions and individual countries?
  • Or does it focus on fulfilling well-intended, even if misguided, goals that benefit the EU’s image but fail to keep the interests of respective regions and countries in mind?

MedCities Secretary-General, Josep Canals, was invited to the session and he could explain the main, and complex, role of local authorities when talking about sustainable development agendas. As he said: “60% of #SDGs rely on the capacities of local authorities”.

“Without local authorities, we won’t succeed at all”

With this in mind, investment in common ground through the Global Gateway and the SDGs should include soft skills, such as education and culture, as well as hard infrastructure. This new narrative should particularly help women and young people flourish.

Speakers called for all regions and investors to be part of the new approach to sustainability. This means international banks, local mayors, EU institutions and regional NGOs.

“Without local authorities, we won’t succeed at all,” warned Josep Canals-Molina, Secretary-General of MedCities. “[We have to] put money on people to increase the capacity of local authorities. Many mayors are not paid. They don’t have enough human [or economic] resources to achieve their responsibilities.”

A business environment for business and the environment

An inclusive, cross-sectoral approach to investment and sustainable development means bridging gaps between the public and private sectors. Particularly from a shareholder perspective, the investment gap cannot be bridged by the public sector alone. The private sector often does not feel safe coming into the public sustainable development space simply because it does not understand the laws and rules of engagement.

Final recommendations from the event:

  • Consider using the UN SDGs as the starting point for the EU when negotiating partner agreements.
  • Take the September 2023 SDG Summit as an opportunity to recommit to the 2030 Agenda and announce new initiatives, including through advanced EU engagement.
  • Refocus the Global Gateway away from EU perceptions of what is good and onto shared priorities.
  • Use the Global Gateway to showcase a model of partnership between the EU and partner countries and regions that promotes soft skills, such as education, health and gender-equality.
  • Seek opportunities to demonstrate that EU infrastructure investments promote social, health and education needs.
  • Develop support and guidance for private sector engagement in sustainable investment, including through de-risking and guarantee mechanisms.
  • Help potential Global Gateway partners understand, identify and present eligible projects.
  • Recall the need to use international fora and meetings such as the annual UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to find common voices on investment and sustainable development.
  • Seek out projects that already exist on the ground, particularly between neighbouring countries, to make the most of limited budgets.
  • Orient partnership agreements towards the priorities, concerns and conditions of partner regions.
  • Use ‘social clauses’ as a key metric when commissioning large infrastructure projects. The EU in particular but also development banks should use these to ensure a community dividend in terms of housing, schooling and health.
  • Procurement approaches could be a game changer in terms of wider community and social benefits.

Do you want to be up to date with
MedCities projects?

Subscribe to the monthly newsletter to receive the latest news.