BY THE ASSISTANT MINISTER OF LOCAL
GOVERNMENT HONOURABLE GLADYS K.T. KOKORWE
Geneva, 27 June 2000
It is five years since the United Nations World Summit on Social Development was held. The thrust of the summit was to cultivate international consensus for concerted efforts towards, among other things, effective eradication of poverty, creation of productive jobs and strengthened social integration. The hallmark of the summit was the adoption of a Declaration that contains ten critical commitments and a programme of action. The thrust of the Declaration and the Programme of Action is the attainment of sustainable development with people at its centre. This has indeed been the centrepiece of Botswana's development efforts since the inception of our first National Development Plan (1968 - 1973) to the current one (NDP 8; 1997 - 2002/3 ). The goal is to raise the.standard of living of the people of Botswana. All Government initiatives and programmes are, therefore, pursued in this spirit and as such guided by four national planning objectives, namely; sustained development, rapid economic growth, economic independence and social justice. Consistent with the outcome of the Copenhagen Summit, Botswana has developed a number of policies and programmes within the framework of NDP 8 that are set to advance the course of the Summit. These include the National Population Policy (1997), Women in Development Policy (1995), the Youth Policy (1996), the Industrial Development Policy (1997) and Vision 2016, to mention but a few.
Our ability to implement such policies geared towards improving human welfare could not yield results in the absence of a conducive economic, legal, social and political environment. In this regard, the Government of Botswana has spared no effort in cultivating and nurturing an environment that allows sustainable development to take root. Politically, the country is reputed to be one of the working democracies in Africa. This derives largely from its tradition vested in the kgotla system that allows people to express their views without hindrance while entrenching respect for one another. The constitution also provides for equality of all before the law regardless of status, colour, creed, religion or political orientation. In the last few years, it became apparent that women were inadvertently not taking up positions in the decision making cadre as their male counterparts, nor were they taking up opportunities in the development process of the country . The same observation was made during the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995). The Government of Botswana has since identified six out of the 12 critical areas of concern contained in the Beijing Platform of Action and developed a policy on Women in Development to address the issues. From this policy, a National Gender Programme, which is a long term vision for gender and development, was launched in 1998. It is intended to promote gender awareness in development planning, education and skills training , enhance women's health including reproductive health and rights, and advocate for the elimination of all negative economic and cultural practices and laws which promote inequalities among men and women.There has been marked progress in this area. For example, during the recent national elections held in October 1999, the proportion of women in Parliament rose from nine per cent in 1994 to 18 per cent, and from 6.6 per cent in 1994 to 45 per cent in 1999 in Cabinet. In the latter case, the 30 per cent target stipulated by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Declaration has been surpassed. At local Government level however, female representation still falls below the 30 per cent minimum recommended by the SADC Declaration on Gender and the Beijing Platform of Action.
The Copenhagen Summit identified the issue of poverty as one of the most critical concerns facing the world, and one that has to be tackled with vigour. We in Botswana had long accepted the challenge and adopted it as one of our broad policy goals. This was made even more necessary by the outcome of the 1985/86 Household Income and Expenditure Survey which showed that 59% of the population were living in poverty. The majority of them were in rural areas. Following concerted efforts by the government to reduce poverty, a study undertaken in 1993/94 recorded a reduction of 12% in poverty levels. The most immediate cause of poverty amongst our people is lack of income, which in turn is related to lack of wage employment and insufficient opportunities for self employment. Botswana is tackling this problem through various initiatives which fall under the broad areas of economic diversification, citizen economic empowerment, public sector reform and financial discipline. We are also channelling resources through various programmes such as the Old Age Pension, Destitute and Agricultural Assistance Schemes to disadvantaged groups and those prone to extreme poverty. We realise however, that there is a need to develop strategies for improved targeting of such programmes and also for promoting greater level of community involvement and participation in development activities.
Tackling unemployment is equally rated high in Botswana's current development plan. Whereas Botswana experienced rapid economic growth of about 10 per cent per annum in the last two decades that created many job opportunities, this has not kept pace with the growing number of job seekers. The most recent data, the 1998 Demographic Survey, estimated unemployment at 19.6 per cent of the labour force. This represents a decrease of 1.9 per cent from the 21.5 per cent estimated in 1996.These could be encouraging statistics, but a lot stilt remains to be done.
Government strategy is to bring down unemployment through diversified economic growth. To this end, Government is in the process of identifying industries and products that enjoy comparative advantage and attract foreign direct investment in line with the trend of globalization. We are also committed to the development of a healthy and skilled national human resource base that shall enable us to carry forward development in our country. Our domestic efforts should, however, necessarily be complemented by a supportive global environment that will enable us to better address the challenges of globalization.
In conclusion, Mr. President, Botswana is fully committed to the implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action. We have made some substantial progress in some areas and acknowledge that a lot still remains to be done in many other areas. We shall spare no effort in realising the good intentions of the Summit.
I thank you.