On Thursday, March 31, 2022, Her Majesty Queen Mathilde of Belgium, in her capacity as an Advocate of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, gave a speech during the Sustainable Value Chains: From Legislation to Action conference organized by The Shift, a Belgian platform for a sustainable economy and society in Brussels.
The purpose of yesterday’s conference was to show how companies, NGPs, and public institutions can complement each other to set up value chains that protect human rights and the environment and thus contribute to sustainable development.
Below is Her Majesty Queen Mathilde of Belgium’s speech:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
When the international community adopted Agenda 2030 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, in 2015, it gave itself a mission: to work together for a transition towards a more sustainable world. A transition that would benefit people and the planet. A transition that would put in motion the reduction of poverty and inequalities, and guarantee a life of dignity for all. A transition that would bring back balance in climate, in biodiversity, in water resources and oceans. And, in so doing, do no harm, protect the rights of every individual, leave no one behind and respect the planetary boundaries.
Understanding and keeping in mind the interconnectedness between all the SDGs is a precondition for fulfilling Agenda 2030. The SDGs provide a global and integrated vision to ensure that economic, social and environmental policies take into account the needs of all countries and all population groups, as well as the urgency of restoring the health of the planet. The SDGs are, therefore, a very useful and practical reference for policymaking and business-planning, as well as consumer practices. Since their adoption, a variety of stakeholders have worked diligently to produce practical instruments to assist decision-makers, at all levels, in this regard. Today’s event is a welcome contribution to this overall effort.
We are increasingly aware that the economic and commercial decisions and actions of one country or region can have consequences for populations or the environment on the other side of the earth. With this realization comes greater responsibility in making economic choices, adapting production and consumption patterns, and changing the behavior of companies and consumers. Indeed, the wide lens of the SDGs allows us to look beyond borders. They allow us to distinguish which actions may have a negative impact on the capacity of other – often poorer – countries to reach these objectives. Greenhouse gas emissions have dramatic consequences in terms of desertification and sea level rise worldwide. Commodity agriculture for exportation relies, in some cases, on dramatic deforestation. Affordable goods in developed countries may be the product of unsatisfactory work conditions, and even child or forced labor elsewhere. This spillover effect blurs the picture of our achievements as well as the evaluation of the real costs. We must ensure, too, that the way we implement the SDGs at a national or regional level helps other economies and communities to work towards these goals.
As you will discuss today, transparent and sustainable value chains have an important role to play in this respect. Of course, many international instruments, developed to guarantee the protection of human rights and the environment in the supply chain, predate the adoption of the SDGs. Nevertheless, they are based on the same principles and concerns, and they are now part of the general effort to push forward Agenda 2030, to which they are clearly related. They encompass, for instance, rolling back poverty, guaranteeing access to quality education, healthcare, decent employment, adequate housing, safe water and land, and promoting women’s empowerment. Moving from principle to practice to create and maintain sustainable value chains requires legal rules, transparency, responsibility, and due diligence. For smaller companies the task might sometimes look complex and arduous. Exchanging best practices and sharing experience, as you will today, is one way to help close the gap. Cooperation with local actors will be key. Hopefully, non-governmental organizations and consumers will continue to be demanding – but constructive – partners and sounding boards, in the common effort to establish value chains that contribute to the implementation of the SDGs.
I thank you.”
Photos courtesy of the Belgian Royal Court