On 11 and 12 December 2017, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana and co-chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Advocates, convened a roundtable in Accra, Ghana.
The theme of the roundtable was ‘Mobilizing support and accelerating implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa’.
SDG Advocates Alaa Murabit, Leymah Gbowee, and Professor Jeffrey Sachs appeared together in a panel discussion opened with a video message by the co-chair of the group, Her Excellency Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway.
During the panel discussion, the Advocates stressed the need for urgency, particularly in Africa. President Akufo-Addo stated that “we do not have the luxury of time when it comes to issues such as poverty, youth unemployment and climate change,” and noted that despite progress being made, increasingly urgent demands from citizens remain. In her opening message Prime Minister Solberg emphasised the need to begin taking action in terms of policymaking, planning, financing, and implementation.
The Advocates also highlighted the importance of action and empowerment at the local level, and the accelerating effect this can have. Leymah Gbowee said that to enable this, awareness is key, and that innovative approaches, such as engaging local artists, can be very successful. Ms. Gbowee also made the point that resources for SDG implementation need to find their way into the hands of local people, who know how to best deploy them.
Alaa Murabit stressed the importance of translating the SDGs so that they become real and tangible for actors on the ground. For example, the people delivering better health outcomes are not Presidents and Ministers, but rather doctors and nurses, and the Goals and their metrics therefore need to be accessible for them.
Professor Jeffrey Sachs discussed the need for Africa to take the lead in SDG implementation on the continent. He suggested establishing continent wide, Africa-led institutions and trust funds to invest in the critical areas of education, public health, and infrastructure, and stressed that partners from the global north will follow their initiative and mobilise resources. His points echoed President Akufo-Addo, who said that Africa “cannot grow out of poverty through charity,” and highlighted the fact that governance systems are key to eradicating poverty and creating prosperity.
The Advocates seized upon the need for greater inclusivity in the discussion of SDGs, and particularly upon the need to actively involve women and youth. Alaa Murabit noted that investment in women and girls pays large dividends, as they reinvest heavily in their communities, while President Akufo-Addo noted the need to harness the energy of young people. As Ms. Murabit stated, leaders should be engaging youth to “create an army of future leaders behind them.”
The President suggested that one way to ensure inclusivity is to make the SDGs a critical part of national and political dialogue. In this way, for example, political parties will have to run on SDG issues, and will be held accountable for leaving no one behind.
The Advocates agreed that to accelerate the Goals we must make it clear that the Goals are not simply a high-level political agenda, but about the way we live our lives. They are about values, such as education, healthcare, and equality, and a better future for all.