SDGs: The New Year resolution for Africa

While the year 2018 is still new and fresh, it is not a bad moment to reflect on our resolutions, big or small, and revise our potential and commitment towards achieving the same.

While the year 2018 is still new and fresh, it is not a bad moment to reflect on our resolutions, big or small, and revise our potential and commitment towards achieving the same.

This article looks into one of the biggest global resolution launched by UN in the name of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which came into force in January 2016, replacing Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Indeed SDGs which have been summarized into 17 goals and 168 targets have become a key focus across the globe and has given each nation a big plan – “to free the human race from the tyranny of poverty and want” and “ to heal and secure our planet by 2030”.

Looking at the objective of poverty reduction alone, everyone would be happy with a world where people were less poor and where every economic development had a strong link to human development.

However it is good to be aware that, on the other hand, lies significant difficulties and challenges in the implementation of the same, especially if it has to be equitably same across nations and communities with diverse contexts and backgrounds.

Take an example of a country of choice and think how truly possible it would be to halve or reduce poverty in all its dimensions within the given fifteen years?

Nonetheless, by focusing on environmental and human rights issues, the success of SDGs clearly lies in their underlying concept that people and the planet are intimately interconnected.

In this perspective, the 2030 agenda by the UN recognizes the importance of the synergy between sustainable development and other relevant ongoing processes in the economic, social and environmental fields, all of which will be required to work together in order move the world forward.

This synergy becomes even more evident when SDGs recommend multi-disciplinary focus cutting across sectors, encouraging the public sector to partner more with the private sector, in order to catalyze sustainable development.

The African continent has offered various success stories in SDGs implementation and several sustainable development projects in Africa are making global headlines. This paper also recently reported the 29th ordinary session of the Assembly of the African Union elected Rwanda to lead the Union in 2018.

Some of the exciting comments reacting to this read, “Rwanda made it and so Africa can make it” and “H.E Paul Kagame as new chair for AU 2018 with his wise experience and love for African people will tackle all the issues”.

Africa can indeed make it. In my opinion, the implementation of SDGs forms a bigger chunk of what needs to be done to get there. The following suggestions, which are more voluntary and country-led have been given on several occasions as key steps to get there despite the challenges;

Know where you stand… Where am I?

Before countries, sectors, regions, or cities decide on a course of action for SDGs, they will need to take a look at where they stand, where they are and preferably how they got there.

Taking an initial snapshot across various indicators can help uncover which goals are either unmonitored or lagging far behind.

Prioritizing these goals can make sure that the other SDGs, which are interdependent, can be pushed forward together.

Make a long-term plan… where do I want to be?

Having a vision, envisioning a desirable future and thinking over a 15-year horizon will help all stakeholders know what they can achieve and where they can contribute to the SDGs. Importantly, long-term planning also helps to overcome the fluctuations that come with changing politics and electoral cycles.

Set clear goals … How do I get there?

After envisioning a desirable future, visualize success and work backward from that future to plan how it could be achieved. Recruit partners at all levels; top and bottom, public and private, global and local, utilizing the comparative advantage of local governments.

Counties will need to embrace technology since access and exchange of data is getting easier with time, which improves efficiency. Governments will also have to source the funds to implement SDGs by either shifting or improving the efficiency of government resources, seeking synergies with private financing sources and other applicable means.

Track your progress… Am I getting there?

To succeed where the MDGs struggled, countries will need to compile and report high-quality and timely data monitoring the progress of SDGs. Robust indicators will help stakeholders develop strategies and determine where resources are most needed.

To ensure that progress is equitable, the data will need to be collected across personal characteristics (such as gender and age) and spatial dimensions (such as urban versus rural).

If we constantly remember that the greatest purpose of the SDGs is to provide a framework for all to shift toward a world where “no one will be left behind.” There is every reason to keep this focus undiluted and believe that SDGs are a promising New Year’s resolution be it at personal or national level.

The writer is a lecturer at the School of Architecture, University of Rwanda, an architect and urban designer with keen interest on the dialectical relations between Architecture and Society.

The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Times.