Council supports sustainable development, but more needed to ensure EU R&I delivers benefits for citizens

Civil society has published a reaction to the Council of the European Union’s Partial General Approach on the Regulation for Horizon Europe, the next EU Research Framework Programme.

We are encouraged to note that the Council has improved the proposal in several key areas, including by linking the definition and indicators for societal impact and the Programme objectives to Agenda 2030 and the Paris Agreement, as well as linking missions and partnerships to societal needs. Also encouraging, recalling the Council Conclusions of Nov 2017, were improved commitments to engage citizens in strategic planning and missions, as well as support for the Commission’s open access plans.

At the same time, we note that gaps remain in terms of safeguarding societal impact, and the following areas could be strengthened: The definition of societal impact, by making clear that societal impact is embodied by the SDGs, such as healthy lives, climate action and sustainable food and farming; Dedicated funding for societal impact in Pillar 2 in the form of guaranteed funding lines for independent, participatory research projects whose objectives and priority setting focus solely on addressing societal challenges; and societal engagement commitments, where a clear roadmap on how Horizon Europe will address barriers to citizen and civil society organisations (CSO) engagement in agenda-setting is still lacking,

Jill McArdle, EU Advocacy Officer at Global Health Advocates, said:

“We are encouraged to see that the Council have reinforced commitments to prioritise sustainable development in Horizon Europe. However, we are still concerned that safeguards are not in place to ensure accountability and societal impact. The blurring of profit-oriented goals with societal impact goals risks limiting the already-scarce funding available for addressing societal challenges, endangers a needs-based R&I agenda, and further excludes citizens and civil society. If the EU is serious about delivering on international commitments like the SDGs and the Paris Agreement, we need concrete guarantees that sustainable development will not be subordinated to private interests in the programme.”