SWAKOPMUND- The 38th plenary Assembly Session of the SADC Parliamentary Forum officially got underway here on Saturday with calls for Parliamentarians to draw lessons from the Millennium Development Goals (SDGs) so that they can effectively support the implantation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the world's new universal development framework.
The SADC PF organized a symposium to unpack the theme of the Plenary Assembly Session which is: 'From Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Towards a greater Parliamentary Role in the Development agenda.'
Mr Neil Boyer, Senior Advisor with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Namibia told delegates that the SADC Region and the African continent were "off track" with respect to the achievement of some of the eight MDGs.
"On the goal related to poverty, we are off track as a continent. We have not achieved the global goal of halving poverty," he said, adding that rising inequalities, unemployment and unplanned urbanization were perpetuating poverty.
On an encouraging note, Boyer said the continent was on track towards achieving universal primary education.
"We are also on track on gender equality and the empowerment of women. We find that the percentage of girls enrolled in higher education increased from 0.3 percent in 1990 to 0.92 percent in 2012."
Also heartening was the increase in female representation in decision making bodies such as the SADC Parliamentary Forum, with countries that include Namibia and South Africa doing well in that regard. Significant progress had been noted with respect to reducing and combating HIV and related diseases, particularly tuberculosis thanks to the rolling out of life saving HIV medication which has significantly prolonged the lives of people infected with HIV. The ripple effect was that lives of people affected by HIV who include caregivers and loved ones, had also improved.
"However we do have significant challenges on health MDGs. We know that we are off track on the reduction of child mortality although less than five mortality fell by 55 percent and infant mortality fell by 40 percent. We still have major challenges in child mortality which is linked to access to water, sanitation, nutrition and poverty," he said.
According to Boyer, another lingering challenge was related to maternal health, with major challenges associated with safe births, access to family planning and contraception in many countries. Additionally, the continent is still grappling with adolescent pregnancies.
"Our data suggests that we have 289 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births whereas the global average is 210 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births."
There had been sluggish progress on ensuring environmental sustainability although in some countries access to potable water had improved.
"We still have major challenges in ensuring adequate sanitation and in the global partnership for development. On the issue of external assistance, we find that very few countries have adhered to the global commitment of 0.7 percent of income for development purposes."
Boyer concluded that from a continental perspective, there had been notable progress on MDGs related to education, gender equality and combating HIV. Unfinished business was in poverty, infant and child mortality, maternal mortality, access to sanitation, conservation and increasing contribution to global merchandise exports.
"As we transition from MDGs to SDGs we are optimistic that that we will make substantive progress with your support as Parliamentarians responsible for oversight," he said.
Speaking on the same theme, Mr Nandi Mazeingo, the National Development Advisor with the National Planning Commission of Namibia, spoke about the link between MDGs and SDGs. He explained the SDGs, which are 17, had been formulated to deal with the unfinished business of MDGs.
He said the African continent had not been involved in the formulation of MDGs and so had failed to focus on African priorities. However, the continent had actively participated in the formulation of SDGs and had come up with an African Common Position. Namibia and South Africa represented the SADC Region in the discussions that culminated in the adoption of SDGs.
"Through the Agenda Africa 2063 we were able to reach consensus on global challenges, priorities and aspirations and to emphasize the principle that we adopted in Rio sustainable development in 2012. The next development agenda brings the three dimensions of sustainable development on board. There is consideration for the environment, economy and social issues," he said.
He explained that the SDGs strive to ensure that economic growth crates jobs given that under MDGs much of the economic growth was in capital intensive sectors in which more machines than people were used.
He said the new thinking was to look at sectors that are labor intensive such as the modernization of agriculture, natural resources management and the service sectors. Focus will also be put on research to drive people-centered development.
He stressed that the new agenda places people, prosperity, the planet, peace and partnership at the center of implementation. He then explained the focus of the new 17 SDGs.
On the role of Parliamentarians in the implementation of SDGs, Hon John Corrie, a member of the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA)'s Governing Council stressed the primacy of nationally owned and led planning process.
"If any development process is to be effective and sustainable, it has to be owned by national stakeholders," the former Parliamentarian said. He explained that under the SDGs, goals one to six were a continuation of the MDGs.
He suggested that countries integrate the SDGs into national and regional development plans as well as to collaborate to benefit from economies of scale. He cited the example of South Africa, Namibia and Botswana who are reportedly building big solar plants as individual countries. He called for collaboration among countries implementing similar programmes.
The SDGs outline the developmental framework for the next 15 years up to 2030. One of the things that came out of the review of the MDGs and their implementation was the lack of an institutionalized role for Parliamentarians.
Under the SDGs, there is recognition of the important role of National Parliaments in terms of their oversight function.
The Plenary Assembly Session will consider several issues including a motion for adoption of the Report of the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee of SADC PF is the Management Board of the Forum. It oversees the implementation of Plenary Assembly Resolutions and its own resolutions. It also deals with financial matters of the Forum. It will include the Treasurer's Report which touches also on the budget of the Forum for the next financial year.