In July 2019 at the UN Headquarters, the meeting of the HLPF on sustainable development convened under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council to review the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), themed "Empowering People and Ensuring Inclusiveness and Equality".
The SDGs are an urgent call for action by all countries in a global partnership to recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand in hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality and spur economic growth- all the while tackling climate change and working to preserve oceans and forests.
As part of Agenda2030 commitments of Leaving No One Behind, Rwanda along with 50 other countries volunteered to present their Voluntary National Review (VNR) reports at the HLPF2019 as per focused SDGs.
Rwanda Women’s Network (RWN) coordinates the Rwanda Civil Society Organization (CSO) SDG5 Forum; a collective of 30 CSOs working on diverse human rights and development issues in Rwanda under the cross-cutting theme of gender and women’s empowerment.
The forum provides a platform for CSOs to enhance their engagement with government, various development partners and grassroots communities in order to successfully deliver on the ambitious targets of the SDGs and ensure that no one is left behind.
Under this forum, RWN partnered with Hivos: Women@Work Campaign in implementing the Women Leadership Project in the Horticulture sector in Rwanda. The Campaign aims to promote the advancement of women’s leadership and representation in decision-making processes in the horticulture sector by addressing both strategic and practical issues that hinder women’s progress, contributing to the global agenda on SDGs mainly SDG5 (Gender equality) and SDG8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth).
In respect to the recently concluded HLPF2019, in August 2019, RWN convened a debrief and going forward session with a panel of CSOs and government representatives that participated at the HLPF2019 with the purpose of allowing a learning opportunity for Rwanda CSO SDG5 Forum members and other stakeholders interested in the HLPF process to follow up on the recommendations to Rwanda’s VNR report, as well as hear recommendations on how Rwanda will take forward the ILO convention on Ending Violence and harassment at the workplace.
“Inclusivity is important to everyone who works, the convention sends a powerful message by making the invisible - visible”. Mr. Faustin Mwambari, acting Director-General, Labour and Employment at the Ministry of Public Service and Labour.
Richard Mushabe, National Planning and Research Division Manager at Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, shared on the Rwanda VNR report and further stressed the need to extract several recommendations and see how to work with different concerned institutions – “there is a need to make use of the existing SDGs taskforce on the overall implementation of SDGs in Rwanda. He said.
Eugene Rwibasira, Executive Secretary of Rwanda Development Organization (RDO) focused on SDG13 (Climate Change)– “We need to talk about agricultural development in terms of increased crop productivity…We need to promote the use of organic fertilization and adopt the fumigation zero plan, using inorganic pesticides.” he said.
Andrews Kananga, Director of Legal Aid Forum (LAF), weighed in on the SDG16 (Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions) in the context of justice. “SDGs major challenge lies in the lack of an indicator on how to measure access to justice. For us to achieve social justice there is a need to have clear measurements in terms of an indicator…we need to be active with global partnerships to achieve SDG16” he said.
Apollinaire Mupiganyi, Executive Director, Transparency International Rwanda (TIR) spoke on SDG16 with a focus on corruption, highlighting the importance of reflecting and coming up with a strategy to domesticate SDGs in the local context – looking beyond our institutions but reflecting citizen engagement. “We need to come up with a joint report to fit the CSOs priorities and state the progress on where the country is in fighting corruption.”
Eli Mugabowishema, Executive Director, Nsindangiza Organization focused on Leaving No One Behind objective with priority on the elderly addressing SDG3. “Rwanda is among the few countries that included elderly people in their VNR report at the HLPF, however, the challenge lies in the data collection. Today we have data on women, children and rural areas but not for elderly people - we need to do more with our policies to be more inclusive of all”.
Ms. Odette Ntambara, Communication & Advocacy Officer at RWN spoke on Decent Work & Economic Growth (SDG8) with a focus on gender concerns and women empowerment particularly to the responsibility CSOs and Government have in promoting the use of digital technologies in promoting the lives of the poor and those marginalized groups.
“It costs the poor to access services; It’s essential that we promote the responsible use of emerging digital technologies in elevating and addressing the needs of the poor by using technologies that improve everyone’s livelihood…SDG8 underpins all SDGs – we need to have a similar understanding of its implementation and it’s inter-linkage with other SDGs”.
Promoting employment and poverty reduction mechanisms through the creation of productive and remunerative jobs is key; therefore, pursuing inclusive strategies in informal work is paramount to ensure the majority of women have decent work.
As part of his closing remarks, Bosco Nyemazi, Executive Director, Rwanda Civil Society Platform (RCSP), believes that for CSOs to contribute effectively to the achievement of SDGs, collaboration is key to achieving success in the national and global commitments “that emanates from the political will to work together as civil society and private sector”.
Ms. Mary Balikungeri, RWN Founder & Director touched on gender gaps and human rights perspective in addressing SDGs, not just looking at the law – even when there is a legal system justice is not necessarily served.
Leaving No One Behind requires an understanding of the process, maximizing on education and involving the youth in the implementation of SDGs. “It’s our collective efforts that will bring us closer in the implementation of SDGs and holding government accountable to these commitments”.