New York, July 19, 2023 – Today, a significant Sub-regional meeting on the implementation of Agenda 2030 in the Western Balkans took place on the sidelines of the United Nations High-level Political Forum (HLPF) 2023. Organized jointly by Bosnia and Herzegovina and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the meeting was titled “Accelerating Resilience and Growth.”
During the meeting, representatives from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia came together to present an overview of the progress made in implementing Agenda 2030 in their countries. They discussed the challenges faced and shared valuable good practices in pursuing sustainable development goals (SDGs). The sub-regional meeting on the Agenda 2030 implementation in the Western Balkans is an annual exchange on the state of play, challenges and good practices in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the WB countries.
The meeting was moderated by His Excellency dr Zlatko Lagumdžija, the Permanent Representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the United Nations. In his opening remarks, dr Lagumdžija highlighted the significance of regional cooperation and common goals in achieving the SDGs. He emphasized the importance of working together to overcome challenges and make tangible progress in sustainable development.
“dr Zlatko Lagumdžija Emphasizes Synergy between SDGs and EU in Targeted Areas for Western Balkans”
During the opening remark, dr Zlatko Lagumdžija, highlighted the essential need for synergy between two crucial platforms – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the European Union’s (EU) initiatives. He stressed the significance of establishing a “joint platform”, SDGs-EUs, which would serve as the driving force for overall reform agendas as well as several key integrative processes in the Western Balkans, particularly in the economic and health sectors, and green and digital transformation.
Dr Lagumdžija’s proposal aims to foster cooperation and integration among Western Balkan countries in their pursuit of sustainable growth and development. By aligning the SDGs and EU’s agendas in specific targeted areas, the region should promote regional collaboration and shared progress, unlock new opportunities and develop a Western Balkan economic community and Western Balkan health community, consequently incorporating both in applicable EU integration processes.
Another critical aspect that dr Lagumdžija addressed is the importance of consolidating the European Green Deal and Western Balkan green agenda under a unified framework. This approach ensures that the European Green Deal remains inclusive and responsive to the unique needs and priorities of the Western Balkans, preventing it from becoming only an EU Green Deal.
Moreover, dr. Lagumdžija emphasized the ongoing digital transformation within the EU and stressed the necessity of integrating the digital transformation efforts of the Western Balkans into this process. Such integration offers a potential remedy for the brain drain crisis, a pressing challenge faced by the region.
With digital transformation, the Western Balkans can offer young experts the opportunity to stay in their countries while providing their services to a global labor market. This convergence of digital strategies not only addresses brain drain concerns but also positions the region as an attractive hub for skilled talent and innovative initiatives.
Dr Lagumdžija’s comprehensive approach seeks to establish a collaborative and integrated framework for sustainable development and progress in the Western Balkans. By uniting the SDGs and EU’s priorities in targeted areas, the region can pave the way for transformative growth, fostering a dynamic and inclusive environment for its people and contributing to the broader European vision.
Ms. Ivana Živković, Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator, and Director of the Regional Bureau for Europe and CIS expressed her gratitude to Republic of Croatia for participating in the meeting as a member state of the European Union and appreciated their valuable experiences shared during the discussion. She stressed the importance of the SDG Summit and the need for increased engagement with international financial institutions. She also pointed out that while there have been some positive advancements, global data suggest that progress in several SDGs in the Western Balkans needs to be accelerated. UNDP is committed to assisting the region in exploring opportunities and achieving sustainable development.
Ambassador Mr. Milos Prica, co-chair of the SDG Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina commended the extraordinary efforts of the UNDP country team in Bosnia and Herzegovina and presented the work of the SDG Council of BiH. He highlighted the efforts made in supporting regional cooperation through regular meetings and workgroups throughout the year. However, he also raised concerns about the negative impacts of the war in Ukraine and the consequences of the pandemic. Brain drain emerged as a major issue in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which requires more focused attention at both the country and subregional levels. Additionally, Mr. Prica stressed the importance of upgrading data collection methods to support their work effectively.
Representatives from North Macedonia and Serbia also shared their perspectives during the meeting. They discussed challenges related to the rule of law, gender equality, and women’s empowerment in the region. The geopolitical impact of the war in Ukraine and external influences were also highlighted. Cooperation with UNDP was appreciated, and both countries expressed their commitment to finding solutions to challenges such as depopulation and funding sustainable development projects.
In his closing remarks, dr Lagumdžija expressed optimism about the potential for further expanding regional cooperation and collaboration in accelerating the SDGs in the Western Balkans. He emphasized the need for joint efforts and initiatives to achieve short-term wins along chosen areas like trade, health, green and digital transformation, in addition to long-term goals.
The meeting concluded with a shared commitment to driving sustainable development in the region and addressing challenges through collective action. Furthermore, the Western Balkans countries recognize the importance and the potential of implementation of Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as an opportunity to significantly improve social, environmental and economic aspects of life within the region. Sustainable development is in the core of the policies of the European Union and its member states. All Western Balkan countries aspire to become members of the European Union. The SDGs and Agenda 2030 should serve as a reform agenda platform for individual countries in the region and creating a synergy with the European Union integration process of the Western Balkans.