Friday, August 2, 2013

The Post 2015 Development Agenda and the Global Sustainable Development Goals: Five must-haves for the Lake Victoria basin

By Kimbowa Richard, Regional Coordinator (LVEMPII CS Watch Project c/o UCSD)

What is the Post 2015 Development Agenda?

The Post-2015 Development Agenda refers to a process led by the United Nations (UN) that aims to help define the future global development framework that will succeed the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of eight global development targets which come to an end in 2015.

At the 2010 High Level Plenary Meeting of the UN General Assembly to review progress towards the MDGs, governments called for accelerating progress and for thinking on ways to advance the development agenda beyond 2015. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has since taken several initiatives. He has established a UN System Task Team, launched a High Level Panel of Eminent Persons as well as global consultations, and appointed a Special Advisor on Post-2015 Development Planning

Post-2015 National Consultations are ongoing

National and global thematic consultations on the post-2015 development agenda aimed at bringing together a broad range of stakeholders to review progress on the MDGs and to discuss options for a new framework have been initiated by the UN Development Group (UNDG). Consultations are taking place online and offline in more than 70 developing and developed countries (including the East African Countries), with national stakeholders exchanging information and providing their inputs for a shared global vision of “The Future We Want.”

At the global level, the UNDG initiated 11 multi-stakeholder thematic consultations on: hunger, nutrition and food security; energy; inequalities; governance; health; population dynamics; conflict, violence and disasters; education; environmental sustainability; and water, including on water resources management, wastewater management, and water quality.

Each thematic consultation is co-convened by two or more UN agencies with support from governments, working together with representatives from civil society, the private sector and academia. The consultations, which seek online contributions at The World We Want 2015 website, aim to explore the role each theme could play in a new framework, the various ways in which they can best be addressed, and the linkages among them. A high-level meeting is being held for each thematic area, to consider the results and recommendations of the consultations (ENB, 2013)

And the process for the Sustainable Development Goals?

At UN Summit on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) of June 2012, Governments agreed to launch a process that will set up an Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), composed of 30 government representatives from all regions, to develop a plan of stakeholder engagement within the process and build the framework (including specific goals, targets and indicators). The OWG is now officially up and running, in accordance with the UN draft decision after Rio + 20 Summit, whereby six out of the 30 seats are held by single countries: Benin, Congo, Ghana, Hungary, Kenya and Tanzania (ENB, 2013).

With the support of the UN Secretary-General, who will be backed by other UN entities and work in consultation with additional governments, the OWG is expected to submit a proposal for an SDG framework to the 68th General Assembly session in September 2013 (Outreach, 2012). It is expected that this SDGs proposal will led to a framework that will integrate the three dimensions of sustainable development. Just as with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), this process will aim to focus global and national efforts and resources on priority areas by measuring and tracking their progress.

But there is an emerging global call to have the SDGs and the Post 2015 Development agenda merged.

Starting point in the Lake Victoria basin in the Post 2015 / SDGs process

Lake Victoria basin is faced with challenges including land use and land degradation due to pressure induced by the fast growing population; water quality decline and pollution due to eutrophication arising from atmospheric deposition, nutrient runoff from agricultural areas; receding water levels of Lake Victoria; decline in fish catches due to excessive fishing effort and use of destructive fishing gears, destruction of fish breeding and nursery habitats, among others (EAC/ LVBC, 2009).

This has been further aggravated by the impact of climate change with no resilience in place for the majority (poor communities). The result of this is further environmental degradation, conflicts in use of natural resources, lack of access to clean and safe water for millions of people, poor sanitation and hygiene for many people, food insecurity, inequality, and lack of jobs and sources of income

Five issues from the Lake Victoria basin for the Post 2015 and SDGs processes

At the onset I would like to agree with current discussion that the definition of sustainable development (as per the 1987 report from the UN World Commission on Environ­ment and Development) be revisited to come to terms with the current global challenges emphasizing the need to ‘safeguard the Earth’s life-support system, on which the welfare of current and future generations depends’ (David Griggs, 2013)

In this respect, for the Lake Victoria basin, the post 2015 development and the SDGs process need to take note of the intricate relationship between ‘cross cutting’ development issues and environmental management in this region, while reflecting on safeguarding this transboundary resource, taking into account the welfare of current 35 million dependants and future generations. In light of this, I would to suggest five entry points as follows:

1. Address the glaring inequalities: In a world where the top 5% of the population is understood to have 37% of global income, while the bottom 5% has less than 0.2% – and the income of the top 1.75% of the world's population matches the entire income of the poorest 77%, more options and opportunities for the poor become an inevitable step to break this trend (Save the Children, 2013). In the Lake Victoria basin, there is increasing inequality among and within countries as well as between rural and urban populations (EAC/ LVBC, 2006) that translates into poor health, poor education, and standards of living. Targeted actions are therefore needed to address inequalities, so that more planning efforts and resources are directed towards restoring threatened and degraded environmental resources (fisheries, catchment forests, wetlands, climate, land and water) to provide immense benefits to millions of people in this region. For example a special focus on promoting small scale sustainable agriculture or fish farming by community groups will also pay off socio-economic dividends than a mega project that may not be felt.

2. Fulfill the promise on gender equality: Meeting the unmet ‘promises’ in relation to gender equality in East the Lake Victoria basin is a key starting point for the Post 2015 / SDGs process. Combating poverty and the increasing feminization of poverty must be rooted in respecting the human rights of women. The Post 2015 development / SDGs process should be rooted in existing international human rights instruments and the Universal Declaration for Human Rights (GCAP Feminine Task Force, 2013). The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and Millennium Development Goal 3) are some of what needs to be fully implemented. With regard to environmental sustainability, women who are the custodians of biodiversity, water resources and agriculture need targeted support to sustain these resources while providing for food security and welfare of current and future generations, while safeguarding the Earth’s life-support system. A situation where women continue to fetch firewood from long distances today, coupled with prolonged droughts due to climate change effects takes off more productive time from women.

3. Build communities’ resilience to climate change: The Post -2015 / SDGs agenda must emphasize the link between climate change and women living and staying in poverty. The impact of climate change has a devastating effect on women, their families and communities. Worsening natural disasters due to droughts, floods and other facet of climate change has deepened poverty for women and their ability to move out of poverty (GCAP Feminist Task Force, 2013). The Lake Victoria basin is vulnerable to undesirable effects of climate change because of the low adaptive capacities. Tackling the existing weak institutional capacities – local authorities, lack of skills on climate change adaptation and inadequate skills on disaster management, lack of equipment for disaster management, limited financial resources, poor planning, and diversification of local economies - beyond heavy dependency on exploitation of natural resources is key in the Post -2015 / SDGs agenda.

4. Stress and roll out the principles of participation and representation, transparency and accountability: Though these principles and values are already part of existing international and regional conventions, it is now urgent to have them ‘drive’ the post-2015 development agenda. For the Lake Victoria basin, there is need to have more coordination, avoid conflicting and overlapping provisions and uncoordinated enforcement roles at local, national and regional levels. This should emphasize community involvement and more deterrent penalties for all rather than being selective. For example, Beach Management Units have received increased recognition in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda as they seek to empower communities, in partnership with local governments to control fishers and thus ensure equitable sharing of the benefits from the declining Lake Victoria fisheries. However, they are handicapped due to limited sources of revenue, while their annual plans are not adopted by districts for translation into national plans (Dept. of Fisheries – Uganda, 2012). The current mismanagement of other natural resources due to corruption and outright neglect calls for a post-2015 agenda in the Lake Victoria basin that informs and engages citizens to influence decisions taken by their leaders. The establishment of an independent Ombudsman for Lake Victoria under the East African Community Secretariat is one practical step in this direction.

5. Mobilizing resources for sustainable development [sustainable consumption and production: sustainable energy options; clean and safe water supply, food security: MDG 8 concerning the strengthening of global partnership for development remains the weakest link in the implementation of the MDGs. For example flows of Official Development Assistance (ODA) remain underachieved, barring some exceptions and they are set to decline further in the coming years (Southern Voice, 2013) In addition, the development of an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading system remains stalled by the deadlock in the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Round negotiations and undermined by proliferation of regional trading arrangements. For the Lake Victoria basin to be able to address its sustainable development needs, accelerated and targeted benchmarks with regard to predictable, long term finances are needed in the post 2015 phase. This should be regularly reviewed with the objective of looking for alternatives in time to avoid failure to achieve set targets.

In conclusion for the post 2015 / SDGs process to leave a mark in the Lake Victoria basin, it should be transformative in that, it addresses the root causes of poverty and marginalization through: addressing inequalities, address climate change impacts on communities, scaling up citizen participation and being clear on the source of the required resources to achieve the planned targets.

Source: The East African SusWatchdog Newsletter, January - June 2013