In an interview with The Patriot, Kiki Gbeho shares some personal insights into her work as Resident Coordinator, how the UN system contributes to Namibia’s development, how the UN is supporting Namibia in implementing the SDGs, and the UN’s future role in Namibia.
In an interview with The Patriot– days before the end of her tenure as UN Resident Coordinator in Namibia says, “ I remain confident about the possibility of Namibia’s development trajectory. With a tremendous amount of hard work, Namibia could win the War on Poverty.”
You’ve been the UN Resident Coordinator since 2015 in Namibia. Looking back at the two and a half years, how do you evaluate your work in Namibia?
During my time in Namibia, the UN worked in very close partnership with the Government of the Republic of Namibia. This meant a more visible and accessible UN, refocused to strengthen its engagement, in support of Namibia’s development priorities.
During the last few years the UN has, for example, supported the Government: to localize and popularize the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals; to establish a Development Partners Forum to strengthen coordination in support of the NDP5 implementation; and with the development and implementation of various National Policy Frameworks, including the Blue Print on Poverty Eradication and the Fifth National Development Plan (NDP5).
The UN has: contributed to the national response to the Hepatitis E outbreak; helped to mobilize USD 37 million for HIV and TB response, USD 2.3 million for malaria elimination in Namibia and USD 10 million for the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem program; supported the First Lady of the Republic of Namibia (FLON)’s ‘Be Free’ movement to ensure an AIDS Free generation in Namibia; helped the roll out the Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) curriculum and teaching guidelines in schools—reaching 680 teachers who further reached over 36,000 learners; supported the roll out of E-birth registration; supported the scale up of the ‘Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV’ Programme, in all regions, reaching over 95% of health facilities; supported the roll out of the Conservation Agriculture Programme by training 48 Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) staff and 2,500 farmers on conservation and good agricultural practices in five Regions; supported the implementation and management of the national school feeding programme, reaching over 330,000 students in 1400 schools across the 14 regions; supported the Directorate of Disaster Risk Management (DDRM) to develop regional disaster preparedness, response and contingency plans and hold a simulation exercise.
My role has been to lead the UN in supporting the Government to deliver on its development agenda. I believe we cemented our status as the ‘Partner of Choice’ here in Namibia.
What did your work as the UN RC entail here in Namibia?
As the Resident Coordinator, I was the designated representative of the UN Secretary General and leader of United Nations Country Team of Agencies. My work was about coordination, planning, engagement, advocacy and problem-solving to ensure the UN worked as ‘One’ in support of Namibia. Together with my colleagues, I therefore worked closely with the Government, private sector, academia, civil society, young people, bilateral and multilateral partners towards achieving Namibia’s development goals.
How does the UN system contribute to Namibia’s development?
Currently, the UN works in four broad areas: education and skills, health, poverty reduction and institutional environment. Through a framework signed with Government, the UNPAF, we are focused on developing capacities of national institutions, fostering multi-disciplinary approaches to development, strengthening knowledge generation and management, as well as providing technical expertise, policy analysis and advisory support.
We are about to launch the second partnership framework, UNPAF 2019-2023. This time around our framework is fully aligned to national and international development agendas, including NDP5, the Blue Print on Poverty Eradication and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We have worked hard to ensure that even UN Agencies, who are not based in Namibia, but are supporting programmes and projects, can be found in the framework and are fully aligned to Namibia’s agenda.
How is the UN supporting Namibia in implementing the SDGs?
The SDGs are about people, the planet and prosperity, which is in line with Namibia’s development agenda. The UN has played an instrumental role in ‘getting the word out’ about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Namibia.
Currently, the UN is supporting Government in producing a baseline SDG report and in undertaking a Voluntary National Review Report on the SDGs. Both reports will help guide appropriate policies, structures and processes to achieve the SDGs.
What is the UN’s future role in Namibia?
The UN has been present in Namibia since before Independence, with the United Nations Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG), of which I was a part.
Since then, the UN has worked closely with the Government to address inequalities in the country. I never tire of saying that Namibia has good stories to tell – one of the best stories is that Namibia has seen one of the fastest reductions in poverty on the continent.
With the recent classification of Namibia as an Upper Middle-Income Country, the UN’s engagement with Namibia has shifted from one based on development assistance to one of development partnership.
What this basically means is that in addition to some programming, we have shifted to provide technical expertise and to building Government capacity to deliver services, rather than taking the lead on implementing programmes. We are proud to be the ‘partner of choice’ for the Government.
We have changed strategy over the years and will continue to adapt to the development needs of Namibia.
During your time here, you delved a lot into human dignity issues around sanitation, housing and access to healthcare and education. You also were involved in projects that addressed climate change. Why were these a priority to you?
My professional background has led me to appreciate the importance of basic services – water, food, healthcare – and also to appreciate that the lack of development and climate change can easily lead communities to spiral into conflict. For this reason, focusing on these areas comes easily to me. The SDGs provide us with a clear objective; they focus us on ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity for all. This means ensuring that all people have access to basic human rights, which include access to sanitation, quality healthcare and education.
These are outlined in the SDGs, specifically SDGs 1 ‘No Poverty, 3 ‘Good Health and Well-Being’, 4 ‘Quality Education’ and 6 ‘Clean Water and Sanitation’. Issues such as addressing climate change, promoting job creation and growing the economy sustainably are also key and are addressed through SDGs 8 ‘Decent Work and Economic Growth’ and 13 ‘Climate Action’.
Your journey with UN will not end with Namibia; you’ll certainly continue working with the UN and to advance issues pertinent to UN affairs, won’t you?
Yes, I will! I have been appointed as the Deputy Joint Special Representative for the African Union – United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). I am honoured and I am humbled by this appointment.
This mission aims to protect civilians, provide security for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, monitor the implementation of agreements, assist an inclusive political process, contribute to the promotion of Human Rights and the rule of law, and monitor and report on the situation along the borders with Chad and the Central African Republic.
Considering Namibia’s current status, what’s your sense of confidence in the future of this country?
I am a ‘glass half full’ type of person. I remain confident about the possibility of Namibia’s development trajectory. With a tremendous amount of hard work, Namibia could win the War on Poverty. Namibia has and continues to showcase best practice on the African continent e.g. when it comes to poverty reduction, good governance, expenditure on social services. And Namibia doesn’t shy away from talking about its challenges such as inequality, unemployment, gender-based violence (GBV), etc. We must build on Namibia’s good foundation and address these challenges if ‘no one is to feel left out’.
We have just come out of a planning process where we discussed with Government and their partners how the UN could contribute towards addressing Namibia’s challenges. The outcome is a second generation partnership framework, UNPAF 2.0, which we will soon launch.
We debated how best the UN could contribute towards addressing what we are calling ‘the last mile challenge’. How do we reach the 18% of the population still classified as poor? How do we reach the women and men who are ‘furthest behind’? This task is perhaps more difficult than achieving the initial phase of development after Independence.
Regarding the future, and in the context of many challenges, what would you tell Namibians themselves?
As the UN we believe winning the War on Poverty will not be easy but it can be won. If the specific girls and boys, women and men who make up the 18% of people classified as poor are to be found and empowered, analysis and implemented programming that is surgical in its precision will be required. Winning this war will require a tremendous amount of hard work by everyone, and Harambee will have to be a verb and not a noun. I am so very grateful for the opportunity I was given to serve the Land of the Brave and the incredible support I was given by her people. I thank and truly wish Namibia well!