The UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed has urged UN Resident Coordinators across Africa to turn a broad range of profound challenges into opportunities with their convening power to support countries for much-needed transformation to “rescue the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
On the margins of the eighth Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development held in Kigali, Rwanda met with the Resident Coordinators from all over the continent.
The annual meeting brought a critical touch-point opportunity to identify common priorities, challenges, and ways to overcome them towards the achievement of the SDGs in the Decade of Action and African Union’s Agenda 2063.
“Now, the central issue for us is how we will rescue the SDGs and how we are going to bring the UN system along with us. So your coordinating and convening roles will be leaned upon big-time,” said Ms. Mohammed.
Speaking to 29 Resident Coordinators at the Kigali Convention Center and others virtually, she tabled a wide spectrum of emerging issues facing Africa.
On the COVID-19 pandemic, she noted that Africa would be left behind on the recovery until everyone gets vaccines, stressing the lack of vaccine equity. She touched on widening gaps in digital connectivity, looming debt crisis, all too slow progress in gender equality, and Africa on the frontlines of the climate crisis.
Ms. Mohammed also raised concerns over political, economic, ethnic, and social tensions fueled by inequalities, adding human rights abuses, violence against women, armed conflicts, terrorism and other political instabilities.
Not fast enough
In addition, she underlined that the current pace of progress in Africa was not fast enough to achieve the SDGs by 2030, pointing out that the continent had regressed on SDG 13 on climate action and SDG 16 regarding peace, justice, and strong institutions.
However, the Deputy Secretary-General emphasized the importance of looking at each of these challenges as “huge opportunities.” “We do have the solutions. We do have the UN footprint. We do have the expertise. We have the leverage and convening power that together can pull us out of many of these situations,” she said.
The UN reforms have brought strategic planning tools that Resident Coordinators can tap into to capture the thinking of a country and translate it to programmes that bring together the collective contribution of a UN team to the realization of international and national development visions.
In particular, she told Resident Coordinators, as the senior-most representative of the Secretary-General in countries, to find entry points into making a case for more investments and targeting important areas of the economy in Africa that will have multiplier effects to deal with inequalities, gender, and rights of women, children and youth unemployment.
“We need to give some mega dividends for the investments that we are putting into this continent with our footprint and I think we can do that,” she said.
Exploring this year’s priorities, Ms. Mohammed called on them to continue making synergies a reality among the UN’s humanitarian, sustainable development and peacebuilding efforts, to save lives and livelihoods.
As the UN Country Teams in 19 African countries are formulating new UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks this year, Ms. Mohammed said another priority was to seize the opportunity to show the UN’s renewed ambition and relevance to help governments reignite the SDGs through the development of the Cooperation Frameworks.
Attending the gathering virtually, Robert Piper, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the UN Development Coordination Office (DCO), sounded the alarm over the severe impact of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine brought to the African continent. The sudden shock of the crisis is expected to bring turbulence to commodity prices, the banking system, debt crisis, fiscal space, and much more.
Yacoub El-Hillo, DCO Regional Director for Africa, said: “In the context of the UN reforms and UN system, if there is any group of actors that shoulder the leadership responsibility, it is this group. We have the contingent of Resident Coordinators.” Moderating the meeting, he encouraged all the Resident Coordinators to share lessons with others as a collective group, especially on the new-generation Cooperation Frameworks as 17 UN Country Teams in Africa already started implementing them in 2021.
Stephen Jackson, Resident Coordinator in Kenya, stressed that the Cooperation Framework must be built on a solid Common Country Analysis and a “leave no one behind” analysis to tackle inequalities. “We need to be looking in a granular way at where the inequality is impacting. It needs to be data-driven, and it needs to be real-time and updated all the time,” he said.
Speaking on the climate-action opportunities, Catherine Sozi, Resident Coordinator in Ethiopia, underscored the criticality of leveraging the nexus among humanitarian, sustainable development, and peace efforts by working with partners to support resilience-building even during the crisis. “Our aim is to ensure that the government’s large-scale reconstruction, rehabilitation and recovery plan for northern Ethiopia will incorporate principles of ‘build back better’ that leaves no one behind,” she said.
Asked about prevention measures faced with the cost of rising insecurity eclipsing the hard-won SDG gains, Anthony Ohemeng-Boamah, Resident Coordinator in Mauritania, said there was need to promote more peaceful and inclusive societies. “We have to work on the justice front, and we have to uphold accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels,” he said.
As the Resident Coordinator in Egypt, where COP 27 – the global climate change conference –is scheduled in November 2022, Elena Panova highlighted the unique opportunity of shifting from pledges to action to see how the pledges are being delivered on the ground and showcase climate solutions on the ground.
After listening to many other Resident Coordinators raise a wide range of priority issues to make a big SDG push, Ms. Mohammed told them that the Secretary-General’s report on “Our Common Agenda” would serve to “put the wind beneath the wings of the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2060” as a booster to accelerate their efforts, and harvest results on an annual basis.