Published On: Tue, Mar 29th, 2016

How will Africa engage on implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

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By Stephen Chacha

The year 2015 was a watershed year in global development as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) endorsed in 2000 with 8 goals, 21 targets, and 60 indicators came to an end, and United Nations Member States reached historic agreements to set global agendas to guide development priorities for a generation, and committed to eradicating poverty, fighting inequalities, building peaceful, inclusive, and resilient societies, and securing the future of the planet and the well being of future generations. These include:
• Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Sustainable Development Goals;
• The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction;
• The Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development; and
• The Paris Agreement on Climate Change
These landmark events are ushering in new global agendas and defining their means of implementation.
As much as these agreements are global, their implementation is local and their impact is going to be realized and felt locally first before being registered as global impact. Member States were expected to hit the ground running by commencing the implementation of the bold commitments from January 2016, and prepare for the first review by July 2016 during the 2016 High Level Political Forum (HLPF) session with the theme “ensuring that no one is left behind”.
National ownership of transition to these global agreements, inclusiveness, effective and efficient implementation and follow up and review mechanisms are crucial.
While experience from the Millennium Development Goals implementation indicates that the goals were integrated in national development plans in a number of developing countries, we should also not forget that it took up to five years for this to be realized and for the MDGs implementation to commence in most African countries as a result of alignment of MDGs with national development plans, and the delays in provision of technical assistance, and the necessary means of implementation by development partners. Overall, the region crossed the 2015 mark with five goals off-track, and with countries like Central African Republic not registering achievement on any of the Millennium Development Goals. The region also registered huge variations in progress across all countries in the region.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development tries to mitigate this through bottom-up and inclusive approaches, and by strengthening the means of implementation and revitalizing the global partnership for sustainable development.
African Heads of States and Governments alike other Heads of States and Governments from around the world pronounced their support and commitment towards the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development during the UN summit for the adoption of the Post 2015 Development Agenda.
Together with the 17 Goals, and 169 targets under Sustainable Development Goals that African countries are expected to commence implementation this January, the same countries are also expected to contribute towards the realization of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 (through its 10 years implementation plan), regional economic communities strategies (e.g. East Africa Community vision 2050), and the respective national development plans. Implementation and monitoring and evaluation of these multiple layers of strategies with different timelines have proved to be challenging and burdening to most African countries.
The threat of “cherry-picking” of the goals is gradually turning into a reality in most African countries. As a result of lack of adequate technical and financial capabilities, and in efforts to align the Sustainable Development Goals with the existing priorities on national development plans, most countries have chose to prioritize some of the Sustainable Development Goals over the others. In most cases this prioritization goes with the assumption that by focusing and directing resources towards the prioritized goals they would automatically contribute towards the realization of the un-prioritized goals.
On top of these all are weak or lack of supportive institutional and policy frameworks to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals in most African countries. Coordination of the three pillars of sustainable development has not been easy in most countries in Africa. According to a study conducted by United Nations Economic Commission for Africa on National Strategies for Sustainable Development, it revealed that African countries took different approaches in developing and implementing National Strategies for Sustainable Development (as recommended in the outcome of the 1992 Rio Conference). While some countries directed efforts in improving or restructuring their decision making processes to achieve a full integration of social, economic and environmental pillars, and to include a broad range of stakeholders participation, others took a conservative and complimentary approach, whereby a separate strategy document that embodied the broad strategic framework was prepared, then other strategies and planning instruments were updated to incorporate the sustainability principles espoused in the framework strategy. As a result of this, 23 years after the 1992 Rio conference still the three pillars of sustainable development are not integrated in most African countries. Even though efforts are underway in most countries to ensure timely and effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it still reminds us of the importance of political will and commitment towards implementation and realization of the SDGs.

Africa and the Sustainable Development Goals
During the 21st Ordinary Session of the African Union Heads of States and Government in May 2013, the African Union adopted its 50 years strategy (Agenda 2063), and also in the same session established a High Level Committee (HLC) on the post 2015 Development Agenda comprised of ten (10) African Heads of State and Government under the leadership of H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia. These all happened as the process to formulate the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was still in its infant stages.
The High Level Committee was tasked with crystalizing and synthesizing a bold Africa Common Position and building regional and intercontinental alliances around the Post 2015 Development Agenda. This gave Africa an upper hand, and through the Common African Position on Post 2015 Development Agenda (which included African proposals on the Goals, Targets, and Indicators), Africa negotiated with one strong voice and managed to influence the outcome of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals by almost 70%. This committee has been retained by the African Union until today.
The 25th Ordinary Session of the African Union Heads of States and Governments in July 2016 adopted the 10 years implementation plan for Agenda 2063. This plan is now used to align and guide the implementation of Agenda 2063 at national level.
Para 42 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development reaffirms the importance of supporting African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the programme of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), all of which are integral to the new global development agenda. This affirmation is bit assuring as it indicates that while Agenda 2063 articulates Africa’s specific aspirations (African cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics; the African Renaissance) and responds to continent’s specific development challenges (strong focus on the security agenda, including the common defense, foreign and security policy for the continent), its implementation is aligned with the global spirit and principles as laid out in Agenda 2030.
The parallel assessment of the two agendas by UNDP Regional Service Centre for Africa (RSCA) confirms that the two agendas broadly converge on social development (people), inclusive economic development (prosperity), on peaceful and inclusive societies and responsive institutions (peace), and on a number of environmental sustainability issues (planet). But also there are clear divergences especially on SDGs that are not, or are marginally covered by Agenda 2063, such as inequalities within and between countries, sustainable consumption and production, and the sustainable management of terrestrial ecosystems, forests, desertification, land degradation, and biodiversity. This calls for a balance during domestication in order to maintain the equilibrium of the three pillars of sustainable development as laid out in the SDGs, and while at the same time upholding the vision and ambitions of Agenda 2063.
NEPAD is positioning itself to become the regional platform for implementation (through the various NEPAD instruments) and follow up and review (through NEPAD’s Africa Peer Review Mechanism) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs in Africa. CAADP is used as a pilot by aligning the implementation of the Malabo Declaration on accelerated agriculture growth and transformation of 2014 with the Sustainable Development Goals. A regional NEPAD CAADP CSOs workshop to facilitate this alignment was organized jointly by NEPAD Agency and the Africa CSOs Working Group in Accra, Ghana in December 2015, out of which a roadmap was developed and agreed.
African National Statistical Offices in collaboration with the African Union Commission, African Development Bank, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, and non-state actors are working together to develop indicators that are relevant to Africa and African countries, contribute to the global indicators process, and shape the data revolution in Africa.
The Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development was organized for the first time in 2015 as part of the 9th session of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Committee on Sustainable Development in preparation for High Level Political Forum (HLPF) 2015. It was jointly organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the African Union Commission (AUC), and the African Development Bank (AfDB), in collaboration with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It brought together government ministries and agencies, major groups, and other stakeholders, and deliberated on and provided Africa’s collective input to HLPF 2015. So far this is the only established, and inclusive regional forum for sustainable development matters inline with SDGs and Agenda 2030.
The African Union Commission declared 2016 as the African Year of Human Rights with specific focus on women rights at the just concluded 26th African Union Summit. The summit also involved an update on Agenda 2063 for Ministers of Foreign Affairs, and a side event on harnessing the demographic dividend in Africa towards the realization of SDGs and Agenda 2063, organized jointly by the African Union Commission and the Pan African Youth Union. On the margins of the summit the Africa Peer Review Forum of Heads of State and Government was held. Speaking at the forum H.E Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya, and the current chairperson of APRM called for the strengthening of APRM’s linkage with regional economic blocs and NEPAD programmes. He emphasized that the APRM would become more relevant when linked to the implementation of frameworks such as the AU’s Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Agenda 2030.
Africa is well represented in the Sustainable Development Goals Advocacy Group which was recently announced the UN Secretary General and launched on 21st January 2016 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. H.E Mr. John Dramani Mahama, President of Ghana Co-Chairs the group, and three other prominent African figures (Mrs. Graca Machel, Ms. Alaa Murabit, and Ms. Leymah Gbowee) are part of the Advocacy Group. It is expected that their role as advocates of SDGs will have significant impact on the domestication, implementation, and follow-up and review of the agenda in the region.
Four African countries (South Africa, Tanzania, Liberia and Tunisia) are members of the High Level Group led by Sweden to ensure that the 17 global goals and the 2030 agenda are implemented at all levels of society.
Financing and other means of implementation for the successful implementation and realization of the SDGs is yet another stumbling block that the continent is facing. At the 25th AU summit, African member states committed through the AU declaration on self-reliance to fund its operations 100% from members’ contributions. However, it is very clear that it is going to take sometime for the AUC to realize this. As of now the commission relies on external donors for 70% of its budget, and only 30% is obtained through members’ contributions. The situation also applies to key regional frameworks such APRM, which has also been experiencing dwindling of funds. Effective implementation of AU’s decisions is also questioned as AU critics claim that only 10% of AU decisions are fully implemented. To a large extent this means that it is individual country efforts that are going to differentiate one country from another on domestication, implementation, realization and follow-up and review of the SDGs. This also justifies the need for strong partnerships at national, regional and global level involving member states, regional economic communities, UN system (UNDP’s SDG Fund), private sector, philanthropists, civil society, and other stakeholders. Focus should also be directed towards blended finance with particular focus on domestic resource mobilization. Innovative-initiatives such as Tax Inspectorate Without Border (TIWB) that is currently implemented in Kenya, Ghana, and Senegal seek to deepen domestic resource mobilization efforts.

National processes on Implementation of Sustainable Development Goals in Africa
African countries have approached the domestication and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals differently and are in different stages of domestication and implementation.
South Africa has a track record in implementing sustainable development. The country started with a National Framework on Sustainable Development (NFSD) in 2008, and then moved to National Strategy for Sustainable Development and Action Plan 1 (NSSD 1) between 2011 and 2014, and now implementing the second national Strategy for Sustainable Development.
In efforts to support country-level implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, UN-DESA’s Division for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) offer direct capacity building assistance to 9 pilot countries including 3 countries from Africa (Ethiopia, Togo, and Uganda).
UNDP through its pilot for mainstreaming of the 2030 Agenda is implementing pilots in eight (8) African countries (Somalia, Morocco, Algeria, DRC, Uganda, Rwanda, Botswana, and Cabo Verde), through mainstreaming, acceleration, and policy support (MAPS) approach.
In Uganda SDGs consultations coincided and was aligned with the consultations on the country’s vision 2040. As a result, 76% of SDGs’ targets are mainstreamed in the National Development Plan (NDPII). Also more than 80% of the targets have been mainstreamed in UNDAF (2016-2020).
In Botswana SDGs have been embedded in national planning frameworks, vision 2036 and the National Development Plan (NDP11). SDGs mainstreaming in Botswana has gone down to the level of districts across 16 districts under the dual leadership of the ministries of finance and development planning, and local government and rural development.
On 26th January 2016, Liberia launched a National Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. The national agenda sets stage for the domestication and implementation of Agenda 2030 in Liberia for the next 15 years. It brings together all actors including the three branches of the government, the private sector, the media, civil society organizations, development partners, religious and traditional leaders, youth and women organizations, workers unions, and the disabled. The national agenda 2030 was launched by H.E. Ellen Sirleaf, President of Liberia, and was done in collaboration with the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), and the UN country team in Liberia.
Similar processes to align Sustainable Development Goals with national development plans are underway in Tanzania, Kenya, Cameroon and a number of other African countries.
One key lesson from the implementation of the MDGs in Africa was the exclusion of the local government authorities in the implementation of the MDGs. Deliberate efforts are taken by African countries to ensure that local government authorities play an important role in the implementation of the SDGs and move the SDGs closer to the people.
The role of parliaments in providing oversight on the implementation of SDGs at national level is being prioritized by a number of African countries. This involves establishment of Sustainable Development oversight committees and/or embedding sustainable development in existing parliament oversight committees.
The challenge of institutional frameworks for sustainable development at national level is still pertinent in many African countries. Lack of Sustainable Development Commissions and National Sustainable Development Strategies has led to Sustainable Development matters to continue to be housed under one ministry and therefore making integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development challenging.
Supportive institutional frameworks, policy framework, partnerships and multi-stakeholders participation are the corner stone for the successful and effective implementation of these global agreements, and the realization of the transformations sought.
As of January 2016, 17 countries have already volunteered for review during this year’s High Level Political Forum (HLPF) session in July 2016, and out of them four (4) countries are from Africa (Madagascar, Morocco, Sierra Leone, and Uganda). This is a testimony of individual countries’ commitment and efforts to implement and realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

African CSOs and the implementation of SDGs

The breadth and size of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development presents a number of opportunities for civil society organizations and other non-state actors around the world and in particular in Africa.
From the experience of implementing the 8 Millennium Development Goals, with 21 targets and 60 indicators, it is very clear to most African countries that they need support from Civil Society Organizations and other non-state actors in their respective countries in order to effectively implement and realize the 17 goals and 169 targets under the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Goal 17 “Strengthening the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development” recognizes multi-stakeholder partnerships as important vehicles for mobilizing and sharing knowledge, expertise, technologies, and financial resources to support the achievement of sustainable development goals in all countries, particularly developing countries.
Multi-stakeholder partnerships are expected to play an increasingly important role in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This includes the reviews on the implementation of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is encouraged by the HLPF to include CSOs and other non-state actors.

African CSOs have a role to play to ensure that they are active members of the multi-stakeholder partnerships and provide meaningful and invaluable inputs towards the implementation and the realization of the SDGs. CSOs also have a role to play in ensuring that the knowledge and expertise possessed by multi-stakeholder partnerships are shared as widely as possible in order for it to reach beyond immediate constituencies and communities and to have an impact on a global scale.

National CSOs-Government engagement mechanisms have proved to be successful in a number of African countries (Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Liberia and Cameroon) to facilitate CSOs engagement with their respective national governments. One thing that almost all government representatives throughout the region have been complaining about is presence of unorganized and uncoordinated CSOs at national level and regional level in Africa. National CSOs-Government engagement mechanisms are considered to be the solution for harmonizing and coordinating national CSOs views and positions for sharing with the government and provision of platforms for engagement with their governments. Strong national CSOs platforms are crucial for healthy partnerships with the governments, and effective CSOs contribution

At regional level, Africa CSOs Working Group has stepped in to fill in the vacuum from the lack of regional CSOs platform to harmonize and amplify African CSOs voices in national, regional and global platforms on sustainable development issues. Africa CSOs working group seeks to contribute in defining the African narrative from CSOs point of view; claim the African CSOs space and represent African CSOs and their constituencies at national, regional and global platforms; and facilitate sharing of knowledge, innovations, best practices, and experiences in relation to domestication, implementation and follow-up and review of African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Initiatives led by the Africa CSOs Working Group includes the mapping of national development plans, regional economic communities plans, Agenda 2063 and 2030 in order to come up with a model for effective implementation and follow-up and reviews of these development frameworks in Africa, and institutionalization of African CSOs and other stakeholders in regional structures through the African Union Commission (AUC), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and the African Development Bank (AfDB).
Africa CSOs Working Group membership is open to all African CSOs. I encourage all African CSOs working on SDGs implementation to join the working group by contacting the group’s coordinator Masiiwa Rusare,

At global level, Together 2030 is an initiative that brings together partners around national implementation and tracking progress of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It aims to generate knowledge and project voices from different civil society and stakeholders around the world on the challenges and opportunities for the Agenda 2030, bringing these into the discussions on the way to formulate and implement roadmaps at national level and holding governments to account at all levels.
With a strong focus on national implementation, knowledge and experience sharing, and global representation in its core group (including 2 organizations from Africa) makes Together 2030 an ideal global initiative for CSOs and other stakeholders from around the world. Together 2030 membership is open to all. I encourage African CSOs to join the campaign and its working groups by visiting the initiative’s website or by contacting the secretariat through

Given space on the table is one thing, and knowing what to do with the space is another thing. Before engaging with the governments on domestication, implementation and follow-up and review it is crucial for African CSOs and other non-stakeholders to assess their areas of strength and capitalize on them in order to demonstrate their value addition and for it to clearly be seen and appreciated by their respective governments. The fact that most African governments consider CSOs to be more useful and effective in mobilization and in raising awareness, it provides an excellent entry point for partnerships with governments.
Moreover, both Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030 call for innovation in solutions for both implementation and follow-up and review of Agenda 2063 and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Therefore, solutions that focus on data capturing and processing, and capitalizing on areas of convergence between Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030 and recommendations on how best to integrate the areas of divergence in order to maintain the equilibrium and balance of the three pillars of sustainability as laid out in 2030 Agenda, while at the same time upholding the vision and aspirations of Agenda 2063 are bound to gain more traction with African governments.

Stephen Chacha – is an independent development consultant, founder of Africa Philanthropic Foundation (member of Together 2030), a secretariat member of the Africa CSOs Working Group, and a Regional Focal Point for UNEP’s 10 Years Framework Programme on Sustainable Consumption and Production.
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