Kagame: New global goals must be people-centred

The new global goals for development, officially known as Sustainable Development Goals, present a new opportunity to move away from the business-as-usual mode and to actively promote accountability to the people, President Paul Kagame has said.
President Kagame speaking to more than 800 students and faculty at the International Conference on Sustainable Development at Columbia University, New York, on Thursday. (Village Urugwiro)
President Kagame speaking to more than 800 students and faculty at the International Conference on Sustainable Development at Columbia University, New York, on Thursday. (Village Urugwiro)

The new global goals for development, officially known as Sustainable Development Goals, present a new opportunity to move away from the business-as-usual mode and to actively promote accountability to the people, President Paul Kagame has said.

Kagame was speaking on Thursday at the Columbia University World Leaders Forum in the United States ahead of the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

President Kagame, who has been co-chair of the MDGs Advocacy Group, said, for the new Global Goals to succeed, there was need to have “a more serious conversation about the forms of governance and democratic participation, required to get there”.

He called on world leaders and all stakeholders to “work to complement the new SDG framework, with a genuine effort, to objectively assess the degree of citizen buy-in and involvement, in decision-making and accountability

“The SDGs are the next chapter in global collaboration on development, and hopefully, a new opportunity to move away, from the business as usual mode,” Kagame said.

The SDGs offer hope, of making the importance, meaning, and most importantly, practice of good politics, more widely understood,” he told a session moderated by Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

It is up to us to make the most of this new opportunity, he added.

The new Global Goals, known by the acronym SDGs, were set to be launched at the ongoing sessions of United Nations General Assembly in New York yesterday.

They are due to come into force on January 1.

The new global development framework for the next 15 years is built around 17 goals and 169 targets with an anticipated 300 indicators covering a wide range of areas, from poverty eradication and ensuring quality healthcare to achieving gender equality and reducing climate change.

And, unlike the 2000-2015 MDGs that focused on ending extreme poverty and hunger, and significantly reducing maternal and child mortality rates in developing countries, the new Global Goals cover both developing and developed countries and are seen as more ambitious than their predecessor Goals.

But Kagame finds no problem with setting an ambitious global development agenda. “The goals are more ambitious, and some would even say less focused. That is to be expected, given the progress of MDGs, and also the reality that, the most stubborn forms of poverty, may be much harder to eradicate”.

What’s key, he said, is that “we have a new template, for cooperation and dialogue for the next generation”.

And, once the people are empowered enough to fully participate in their development programmes, there is a good chance of achieving the set goals.

“Development is what happens when citizens are convinced about the logic and pace of change,” Kagame said.

Indeed, as the world ushers in the new Global Goals, Kagame said, it was time to pause and ask, “what will improve and make development sustainable?”

This is a complex question, he acknowledged. “But let’s simplify the answer, by looking at development as a triangle”.

The first point, Kagame explained, are solutions – good ideas and policies. “The second point, is money; the financing to implement the programmes”.

And the third necessity which is often overlooked, he added, is the interaction between citizens and their leaders and partners. “That is good politics”.

“Sustainable development is not about what ‘we’, all of us here, do for them, but about the choices they make each day, over and over. We are working to provide the ways and the means to improve their lives, but it is also important to take the time to connect with these citizens, because in the end, they are the ones who implement these good ideas,” Kagame said.

He added: “We can start by recognising the many contributions and quantify that citizens themselves make. These amounts may look small compared to other sources of financing, but it’s a big deal”.

“Their contributions range from using their own money to buy necessary inputs, to time spent in community meetings, learning about new and better ways of doing things, to absorbing risks now in order to make gains in the future”.  

These are important measures of the commitment of citizens and communities, without which there would be little development, the President noted.

“Country systems must help people to understand their problems, and collaborate to find solutions, including serving as a conduit for development partnerships”.

Rwanda says it’s ready to adopt the new Global Goals under its national development blueprint, building on the achievements registered over the past years under the MDGs framework.

The country is one of the few that has made significant progress and fully achieved key MDGs including reducing maternal child mortality, improving maternal mortality, ensuring gender parity in education and combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases.

 

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