Friday 23 April 2021
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Reflection on the recently ended 71st session of the UN General Assembly

The seventy-first session of the United Nations General Assembly, which was held under the theme: “The Sustainable Development Goals: A universal push to transform our world” deliberated on matters also of relevance to Namibia. Some of the agenda items included sustained economic growth and sustainable development, eradication of poverty, maintenance of international peace and security, promotion of human rights, sport for development and peace, the role of the United Nations in promoting a new global human order, advancement of women and development of Africa. My reflection in this article is limited to one aspect only namely, implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As we might recall, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) came into force on 01 January 2016. They are comprehensive and ambitious. Member States of the United Nations are expected to implement the Agenda and achieve the set targets by 2030.
The question that Member States need to seriously interrogate relates to their readiness to achieve the set targets by 2030. What integrated implementation frameworks exist or should exist at country level to achieve the set targets and therefore, transform the world to be a better place for all? Further, what implementation lessons have Member States learned from past United Nations summits and forums that should inform effective implementation of the SDGs? It is important to recall that in education for example, UNESCO has convened the World Declaration on Education for All in Jomtien, Thailand in 1990 and the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal in 2000. The outcomes of both Jomtien and Dakar have affirmed the principle of a right-based approach to education as contained in amongst others, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Regarding funding of education, the World Education Forum in Dakar affirmed that: ’’No countries seriously committed to education for all will be thwarted in their achievement of this goal by a lack of resources.”
Despite the affirmation, the EFA Global Monitoring Report: Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and challenges reports that “while there has been some progress in universal access to education, there were still 121 million out-of-school children and adolescents of primary and lower secondary school age.”
The Report further notes that “donors have largely failed on their commitment to deliver aid more effectively, achieving just 1 of 13 aid effectiveness targets. Effective international coordination and distribution of aid to education have been almost entirely absent.” I am of the considered view that knowledge, skills and values are critical for functional knowledge-economies. Quality education is likely to contribute to the full development of the human person, instil a sense of human dignity and the desire to contribute to the common good in society. We can recall the 1995 World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen and the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000 on the social development front.Both the Copenhagen and Millennium Declarations have put people at the centre of development, hence one of the key outcomes of focusing on the eradication of extreme hunger and poverty in all its forms and everywhere.
Despite progress in ending poverty, as the case with universal access to education, the United Nations reports that 836 million people globally still live in extreme poverty. Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa are home to the overwhelming majority of people living in extreme poverty. What should Namibia do differently to achieve the SDGs targets by 2030 learning from past experiences that empirically show that previous global funding commitments were not met? Why should citizens of the world be optimistic this time around that the SDGs would transform our world? It is important to recognise, however, that the African Union, SADC and Namibia have already developmental visions and action plans in place. In my view, Namibia should firstly, develop a well-crafted integrated national development plan that takes priority global development goals into account.
I assume that this is what NDP5 would do. Secondly, as a country, it is critical that we pay attention to prioritisation and focus on high-impact sectors with the view to rapidly improve the social conditions of our people.
Thirdly, it might be useful to develop a specific, but comprehensive sustainable financing plan to accelerate implementation and achievement of set priority SDGs, Agenda 2063, NDP5 and Harambee Prosperity Plan targets. Fourthly, history has continuously taught Africa that socio-economic development, if it is to succeed, should be planned for and nationally driven.
Other governments and international organisations can support, but do not have obligations to develop our countries and people, hence the need for strong national partnerships based on a common shared vision. Fifthly, the National Planning Commission, as the custodian of national development and directorates responsible for policy analysis and planning in ministries should be staffed with few, but high-level professionals with the requisite qualifications, skills and experiences. The purpose is to enhance evidence-based policy making.
Effective coordination, monitoring and evaluation and abilities to make adjustments and corrective measures are critical in meeting the SDGs targets, Agenda 2060, NDP5 and Harambee Prosperity Plan targets. Finally, the national and global economic environments are not rosy. Namibia should therefore, be prudent, fight corruption and waste seriously and be forward looking in terms of planning, including financial planning.
Dr. Marius Kudumo is the Director of International Relations at the Namibia University of Science and Technology. He holds a Master of Policy Studies degrees specializing in International Relations from the Southern African Regional Institute for Policy Studies in Zimbabwe.

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