By Samuel Zan Akologo – Executive Secretary, Caritas Ghana
Following the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – Agenda 2030 in September, 2015, I reflected on the subject as ‘Giant Steps to Achieving A World Without Poverty; Civil Society can Make it Realizable’. This was followed in December, 2015 during the climax of the European Year of Development in Luxembourg, on ‘Responsibility to Act; Engaging in innovative partnerships to implement the SDG Framework’. These are available online for reference so that I can save space in not referring to the substance of these previous thoughts. My purpose is to contribute my little civic activism and knowledge on initiatives to enhance implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which succeeded the erstwhile Millennium Development Goals from 2016 to 2030. Caritas Ghana’s 2015 Development Partners’ Forum agreed an elaborate programme of action focusing on the SDGs which was titled Country Partnership Action Agenda (CPAA) which was shared with diverse and potential partners.
- General Background
Sub-Saharan Africa played a significant role in the development of the SDG agenda. The Africa Union Agenda 2063 preceded the post-2015 development agenda process with a clear intention to influence the SDGs with an Africa perspective. Besides, the High Level Panel on the post-2015 development agenda, which ran from 2012 to 2013, was co-chaired by Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia. The Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) at the UN on the SDGs which led to their adoption in September, 2015 were co-facilitated by Ambassador Macharia Kamau of Kenya. The Africa Union also had what was called the Common Africa Position (CAP) throughout the IGN. With the foregoing background, it seems safe to posit that the implementation of the SDGs must be an important priority for Sub-Saharan Africa.
However, a recent Regional Scorecard paper by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in April, 2016 on ‘The SDGs in Sub-Saharan Africa’ shows how Sub-Saharan Africa is likely to progress across the SDG agenda 2030, if current trends continue. It concludes that although we can expect gains for many of the goals and targets, low starting points and inequality both within and between countries will make Sub-Saharan Africa’s achievement of the global goals particularly difficult. We would need effective tracking of progress as the litmus test for these preliminary conclusions.
- The Context of Ghana and SDG Agenda
Admittedly, even though Ghana’s permanent seat at the UN was vacant during most part of the IGN process, the nation participated throughout the IGN on the SDGs in 2015. There is an active inter-ministerial Committee on the SDGs at the capital-level which has had interactions with some civil society organizations. The Committee has issued guidelines for the preparation of a Working Document for mainstreaming the SDGs. It sets out to develop a work plan with the aim of localizing the SDGs in every sector with particular focus on areas of priority. The second area is to prioritize the SDG targets across the span of fifteen years which will form part of the Forty-Year Development Plan for each sector in Ghana.
Recently the UN Secretary General appointed His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, President of Ghana, as a member of the High Level Committee to promote the implementation of the SDGs. Regrettably though, Ghana has not yet volunteered itself for the Voluntary National Review (VNR) during the 2016 High Level Political Forum in July. Ghana is expected to go to the polls in November, 2016 and issues of development around the SDG targets will be the main issues for contestation by all political power seekers.
Caritas Ghana remained actively engaged both locally and internationally on the SDG agenda since 2014 to date. A 2015 Country Forum of Caritas Ghana and its partners focused on the role of the Church in the post-2015 Development Agenda. Caritas Ghana’s Executive Secretary attended and spoke, on behalf of the global Caritas Confederation during the April IGN on means of implementation. Caritas Ghana remains active member of Caritas International’s Post- 2015 Working Group, Together 2030 International Civil Society Platform and the national civil society network on the SDGs.
- Caritas Ghana Intervention Proposal for 2016
Caritas Ghana is seeking to establish a systematic process and means to engage our national government and other major stakeholders to enhance the implementation of the SDGs in Ghana. The two main objectives are:
- To increase citizens’ awareness and participation in the implementation of the SDGs; and
- To contribute to achieving National level policy coherence and planning for the implementation of the SDGs.
The expected impact would be measured by:
- Increased citizens’ demand on government for implementation of the SDGs, especially around the 2016 General Elections
- The proposed 40-year National Development Plan would have key references to SDGs, targets and indicators.
- Increased multi-stakeholder engagement on the SDGs in Ghana
We propose three key interventions during the period from June to December, 2016 as our contribution to civic engagement:
- Prepare a national monitoring report on SDG Implementation status
Caritas Ghana will develop a detailed terms of reference for this assignment to be undertaken by a qualified research Consultant using participatory action-research approach/methodology. Draft report will be validated by the relevant state institutions responsible for the SDG implementation; especially the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) and the Inter-ministerial Committee on the SDGs.
- National Policy Engagement
The national monitoring report will be the main resource material for a national policy engagement which will involve diverse stakeholders from civil society, faith-based organizations, private sector and public institutions. This activity is scheduled for September, 2016.
- Participation in Regional and International policy dialogue on follow up and review.
Caritas Ghana intends to use the lessons learned from this initiative to feed into Regional and International advocacy efforts for the implementation of the SDGs. The expectation is to involve the secretariat of the Symposium for Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) in Accra to learn from the process and use its outcome for their advocacy at the AU level. The outcome of the initiative will also feed into Caritas Africa and Caritas International advocacy efforts by hopefully representing those institutions in any Regional and International policy dialogue meetings on the SDGs. High on our agenda is to participate in the July High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on the follow up and review session in New York in July 2016 and any other relevant international forum that is open to civil society participation and influence.
The UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/ 67/290 and the 2030 Agenda provide for regular reviews on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) commitments at the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The first High Level Political Forum for 2016 on follow up and review will convene in July under the theme ‘Ensuring that no-one is left behind’! Only six African countries, namely; Egypt, Madagascar, Morocco, Sierra Leone, Togo and Uganda have so far submitted themselves for the Voluntary National Review! We may want to ask why but let that question be relevant only for national advocacy engagement. As for the theme for 2016, I think it is apt and deserve support and pushing for its elaboration.
I would just conclude with my humble view that this theme should not be about statistical aggregation or a situation where this is interpreted as ‘leave no-one without a little’! Equity and subsidiarity principles must be the guide in the measure of achievement of this theme.