Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals prom­ise for Africa

MDGs come to an end in 2015 as the new goals come into ef­fect

Africa Renewal - - Front Page - By Tim Wall

The first draft of the world’s new de­vel­op­ment agenda – the Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals – takes into ac­count Africa’s in­ter­ests, but not in the same way as the ex­pir­ing Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goals ( MDGs) once did.

The Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDGs) are ex­pected to shape the global agenda on eco­nomic, so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal de­vel­op­ment for the next 15 years. They are to re­place the MDGs, which reach their dead­line in 2015. Based on com­par­i­son with a key African Union po­si­tion pa­per, Africa is get­ting what it asked for from the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly doc­u­ment that pro­poses the new set of global goals.

Africa’s ‘spe­cial needs’ were ad­dressed in the year 2000 Mil­len­nium Dec­la­ra­tion, from which the MDGs were drawn. Even though the eight MDGs do not men­tion Africa, their em­pha­sis on elim­i­nat­ing ex­treme poverty rates, re­duc­ing child mor­tal­ity, pro­mot­ing gen­der equal­ity, halt­ing the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other dis­eases, and pro­vid­ing univer­sal pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion by 2015 means that they tar­get the world’s poor­est – many of whom are in Africa.

In their cur­rent form, the SDGs are more fo­cused on build­ing pro­duc­tive ca­pac­ity and give more weight to eco­nomic and en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors, which are also key fea­tures of the ‘Common African Po­si­tion (CAP) on the post-2015 de­vel­op­ment agenda’. The CAP was the con­sen­sus of African lead­ers, civil so­ci­ety and the pri­vate sec­tor.

The con­gru­ence be­tween African rec­om­men­da­tions for the post-MDGs era and the frame­work ac­cepted by the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly as the ba­sis for 2015 ne­go­ti­a­tions on the fi­nal shape of the SDGs may be an in­di­ca­tion that the rest of the world, es­pe­cially other de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, shares the same con­cerns as Africa.

It may also mean in­flu­ence. With a pop­u­la­tion of more than a bil­lion and a new venue as a sought-after in­vest­ment des­ti­na­tion with eco­nomic growth rates ri­val­ing those of any other con­ti­nent, Africa may be mov­ing from a fa­mil­iar po­si­tion of re­ceiv­ing ad­vice to one of dis­pens­ing it.

Speak­ing in New York in Oc­to­ber, the head of the New Part­ner­ship for African De­vel­op­ment (NEPAD), Ibrahim Mayaki, checked off some of the fea­tures of the CAP that also ap­pear in the draft SDGs and on which Africa will need to rely: ca­pac­ity de­vel­op­ment en­hanced; gen­der is­sues tack­led, in­clud­ing em­pow­er­ing the small-scale farm­ers who are women to en­sure food se­cu­rity; jobs and a sense of so­cial own­er­ship found for youth; greater in­vest­ment in re­search and tech­nol­ogy.

“We should think about the pri­vate sec­tor, in­clud­ing small and medium-size firms, where in­no­va­tion is tak­ing place,” Dr. Mayaki said.

Africa’s common po­si­tion

In early 2014, around the time the CAP was drawn up, a work­ing group of the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly was start­ing on a draft to ful­fill ob­jec­tives set at the 2012 Rio+20 sum­mit on sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment.

The Rio text ad­vo­cated for a con­tin­u­a­tion of the MDGs, to sus­tain progress on liv­ing stan­dards and to catch up where achieve­ments had fallen short. But given the ‘sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment’ mantra of the goals and deep con­cern about eco-sys­tems and cli­mate change, it was cer­tain that en­vi­ron­ment would fig­ure more promi­nently in the SDGs. Con­cerns over cli­mate, drought and land use fea­ture promi­nently in Africa’s po­si­tion pa­per as well. What stands out in both the African po­si­tion and the Gen­eral Assem­bly work­ing group is the em­pha­sis on the econ­omy and em­pow­er­ment.

“The CAP pro­vides im­por­tant in­put for the next stage of the in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal process,” as the UN seeks to fi­nal­ize the SDGs by Septem­ber 2015, UN Un­der­Sec­re­tary- Gen­eral for Eco­nomic and So­cial Af­fairs Wu Hongbo said in an in­ter­view with Africa Re­newal.

Both the SDGs and MDGs place poverty erad­i­ca­tion at the top of the agenda. This was con­sid­ered by Africa and the de­vel­op­ing world in gen­eral to be a bedrock re­quire­ment, at least in part to en­sure that the strength­en­ing of en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sid­er­a­tions does not sig­nal a re­treat from poverty erad­i­ca­tion.

In fact, Mr. Wu says, the bal­anced SDG pack­age is ef­fec­tive in that it ad­dresses poverty in terms of vul­ner­a­bil­ity of the poor to en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion and through in­clu­sive­ness and so­cial jus­tice, as well as through eco­nomic ad­vance. “I would say the African coun­tries es­pe­cially will ben­e­fit,” he added.

Peace, se­cu­rity and gov­er­nance

Another fea­ture of the plan for the SDGs as dis­tinct from the MDGs is the group­ing of peace and se­cu­rity is­sues un­der the de­vel­op­ment banner. The rea­son­ing is that con­flict im­pacts whether coun­tries ad­vance in their de­vel­op­ment or not. For Africa, putting peace and se­cu­rity into the SDGs di­rects at­ten­tion to con­flict­pre­vent­ing fac­tors such as eq­uity, in­clu­sive­ness and rule of law.

Fi­nance mat­ters

As op­posed to the North-to-South di­rec­tion of the global part­ner­ship laid out in the MDGs, the SDGs will ap­ply equally to all coun­tries. One ques­tion is whether Africa, which has long been an area of con­cen­tra­tion for of­fi­cial de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance (ODA), will see less in­com­ing aid.

But Africa’s po­si­tion as priv­i­leged ben­e­fi­ciary of aid may al­ready be slip­ping. Ac­cord­ing to the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment (OECD), of­fi­cial bi­lat­eral aid to Africa fell by 10 % in real terms in 2012, and by about 5% in 2013, de­spite an in­crease in ODA to all de­vel­op­ing coun­tries for an all-time-high in the lat­ter year. In Africa, in­com­ing for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment now sur­passes ODA.

A sim­ple sub­sti­tu­tion of pri­vate re­sources for pub­lic funds may not be the best way to char­ac­ter­ize African op­tions. The Common African Po­si­tion takes into ac­count a blend of fi­nance sources. Th­ese in­clude im­prov­ing tra­di­tion­ally low do­mes­tic tax col­lec­tion rates, staunch­ing the flow of il­licit flight cap­i­tal and re­cov­er­ing stolen as­sets, tap­ping global fi­nan­cial mar­kets, step­ping up in­tra-African trade, South-South co­op­er­a­tion and pub­licpri­vate part­ner­ships.

As the de­bate over the post-2015 de­vel­op­ment agenda con­tin­ues, fur­ther prepara­tory work on im­ple­ment­ing the SDGs will be held in July 2015 in Ad­dis Ababa, Ethiopia, at the third in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence on fi­nanc­ing for de­vel­op­ment.

UNMIL/Christo­pher Her­wig

Young fe­male stu­dent in Mon­rovia, Liberia.



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