It is not easy, given today’s geopolitical context and the various international crises under way, to outline confident objectives for Italian foreign policy. Instability on multiple regional fronts, humanitarian crises such as Syria and the Ebola epidemic and the deepening difficulties associated with global development (climate change, increased inequality, vulnerability to economic crunch, etc.) are all symptoms that do not inspire optimism. Without diminishing the importance of national foreign policy objectives, 2015 could be remembered also, and above all, for the UN’s adoption of a new, and in some ways innovative and even revolutionary, Sustainable Development Agenda. Located within this framework is the long-awaited EXPO, a showcase for Italy and the city of Milan, certainly, but also an occasion on which to reflect on the future of the plant on which we live and on the major issues of food, water and world population growth. Awesome as these challenges may be, they also offer Italy an opportunity to play a front-line role in international organisation activities, in research, in food-industry and technological innovation and in the export of the Made in Italy brand.
A few months ago, the UN Secretary-General published a report entitled “The Road to Dignity by 2030”, which takes its cue from the efforts of the past 15 years to achieve the Millennium Goals, an agenda laid out in 2000 for tackling problems of under-development such as poverty and hunger. The adoption of the Millennium Goals is now considered at least a partial success, resulting in considerable improvement in living conditions in many of the world’s poorest countries and has confirmed, as Ban Ki-moon himself says, that the international community can be mobilised to respond to the planet-wide challenges facing us today.
More is needed, however. The current goal is to set out a “universal” human development agenda that will also have to be applied to developed nations such as ours. A highly qualifying aspect of the new code under discussion in the UN has to do with replacing economic growth as development’s sole variable, with the addition of two other components, society and the environment, that were hit hard by the Great Recession and in which the concept of sustainability is expressed. Another highly important and innovative element lies in the addition of a more specifically political pact based on the promotion of human rights and the construction of a fair and peaceful society that upholds the law and fights corruption. A fully up-to-date agenda, therefore, that also considers 1.8 billion youth between the ages of 10 and 24 who, according to the latest report on the status of the world’s population, include 600 million adolescents. Nearly one-third of today’s global population who will be able to transform the future if we manage to invest at both national and international levels in them, in this vital human capital. This is an agenda that, among other things, happily coincides with major international cooperation reforms approved by the Italian parliament in 2014, and which can use it to help identify new areas of activity.
Italy is ready to defend the new principles of development resulting to date from efforts to reduce the ambitions expressed in negotiations of those countries that want a free hand in government management. It will do so with those European partners that, thanks to our EU Presidency, were able to cultivate a convergent vision, adopting a common position on this matter during a recent General Affairs Council.
I believe it is important, while maintaining committed to our concrete and immediate foreign policy interests, to draw the general attention to these questions. They may seem distant, but they are not. Hinging on a more integrated, balanced and sustainable global development are many and diverse, yet intimately connected, aspects that regard us first hand. For example, political stability and security in certain regions, the quality of the air we breathe, the pressure of migration flows, the ability to export the goods we produce according to rules (such as working conditions) that are the same for everyone. The Milan Universal Exposition — to which the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has contributed a very rich agenda — will not restrict this fundamental debate to the experts, but open it up to Italian and international public opinion. Never before has it been so crucial to encourage the broad participation of the society in the drafting of rules capable of shaping a more sustainable and interlinked future planet.