Thursday, 27 June 2013

Sustainable development goals will replace MDGs: Role Africa must play

Posted  Thursday, June 27  2013 at  19:00

A short 13 years ago, the world settled on a set of goals that at first appeared to have no political support and no popular resonance.
They appealed only to United Nations funds and programmes and, even when they got international endorsement, were thought to address themselves only to poor developing countries.
But over time, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) took on a life of their own and a centrality to multilateral development action that was unprecedented.
They became the benchmark for measuring progress on Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) and for accounting for development actions and investment in developing countries.
What they lacked in initial acceptance and universality, they more than made up in relevance, applicability and utility.
The MDGs helped focus, direct and mobilise government and multilateral action in unprecedented ways.
More importantly, they had an impact, saving lives, improving health, promoting education and even reducing poverty.
Some say, probably partially correctly, that it was the commodity boom of the 2000s, together with the new-found ability of developing countries to mobilise domestic revenue, complemented by the infusion of billions of dollars from the surpluses of emerging economies, especially China, that truly made the difference.
Be that as it may, no one can dispute the fact that without the MDGs, the focus on health, basic education and poverty alleviation would not have been as determined, nor the development accountability framework brought to bear on governments and societies with the intensity with which the MDGs ensured it was.
Tens of millions of people were pulled out of ill-health, ignorance and poverty as a result of the MDGs.
Since 2000 when the MDGs came into their own, the world has learnt a few new lessons.
Among them is that irrespective of country, and no matter what stage of development, universal access to energy, health and education is central to broad development.
We have also learned that with universal access to health and education comes other benefits and drivers of progress such as reduced inequality and the opening up of transformative opportunities for all.
In the same period, the world has also come to realise that life on earth is a delicate, immutable balance.
It is a balance that requires that all of us, rich and poor, developing and developed, work together as one on a collective universal platform.
When it comes to climate and the air we breathe, water and the oceans we rely on, earth and the food we eat, our environment and our collective biodiversity, we either swim together or sink individually.
That is the lesson and the essence of sustainable development.
The intergovernmental group that commenced its work in March of this year at the United Nations and that has just completed its 4th session in New York, is the singular most important follow-up action that came out of the post-Rio+20 Conference.
The Open Working Group on SDGs, as it is called, is the first collective attempt by all nations of the world to realise the full potential of bringing together the historic challenge of poverty eradication and fuse it with the overbearing and equally urgent agenda on sustainability.
As co-chair of the working group, I have come to fully appreciate the following: That it is singularly imperative that African governments and civil society do not stand aside in this global, historic effort to design and adopt the SDGs.
Yes, the unfinished business of the MDGs must be completed in the next couple years; this is not negotiable. But after that, the world must and will commence on the SDGs.
The implications for our economies, societies and environment are immense. No country can stand aside and let other countries have the upper hand in determining the collective future global development agenda. Africa must play its part and be fully engaged.
The world needs a common, universal platform to help co-ordinate and hold accountable all nations of the world to attain poverty eradication and sustainable development.
The timeframe for achieving the goals has to be short –– one generation at most, or 25 years.
The counter-factual is simply untenable. What in the initial years would appear as intensification of social upheaval, violence and political instability accompanied by ever more disruptive, unpredictable and ruinous major climatic events, would quickly morph into a future we do not want, devoid of true universal peace and poverty-free sustainable development.
Mr Kamau is Kenya’s permanent representative to the United Nations.

No comments:

Post a Comment