GIANT STEPS TO ACHIEVING A WORLD WITHOUT POVERTY: CIVIL SOCIETY CAN MAKE IT REALIZABLE.
By Samuel Zan Akologo – Executive Secretary of Caritas Ghana
Looking at the Context
I will like to begin this discourse from the precincts of Africa. In May 2013 the Africa Union celebrated its fiftieth birthday with a solemn declaration of deep reflection and far reaching dimension. The Declaration was adopted by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Africa Union on 26th May, 2013. It is not only a must-read piece of document by all Africans but must be held before all our respective national political leaders for accountability. I have however begun on this point of the Anniversary Declaration in order to link its import to the Africa Union Agenda 2063 which provides a centenary perspective of the AFRICA WE WANT!
Agenda 2063 is not necessarily the first attempt of African Leaders to draw up a long term development framework because one can easily call to mind the Lagos Plan of Action from 1980 – 2000. The importance of Agenda 2063 stems from the depth of reflections of the 50th Anniversary Declaration and its clear intention to influence the global development discourses of 2015. Hence the high level political decision of Heads of State and Government of the Africa Union (AU) in January, 2015 was very clear about this intention for Agenda 2063. Above all, Agenda 2063 is meant to be aligned and integrated into respective national development plans. There is therefore very little wonder why it was, as it were, a bargaining chip for the AU and its Member States at the intergovernmental negotiations of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FFD3) in Addis Ababa and the Post-2015 Development Agenda in New York. Both outcome documents of FFD3 (Addis Ababa Action Agenda – AAAA) and the Post-2015 Development Agenda (Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development) make explicit mention of Agenda 2063. Having participated in both internationally negotiated processes and outcomes, I have a sense of satisfaction that there was a clearly articulated Pan-African Agenda for purposes of international lobby and advocacy.
The single-mindedness of purpose of African Governments in these recent international policy arenas gave hope, inspiration and raised the expectation of its citizens. In a momentary digression, let me state my utter disappointment however that this has not been the case with the on-going European Union and Africa Union joint meeting on migration and human mobility in Valletta – Malta. As I write this piece, some selected Heads of State and Government are rushing off to Malta, on behalf of the Africa Union, as a motley group of individuals without a clear position and message on the subject matter of the meeting. It is my hope that the last and concluding giant step at the twenty-first Conference of Parties on Climate (COP 21) in Paris this December, 2015 will see Africa pushing their agenda from a common position.
The Immediate Opportunity and Challenge for Civil Society
From the foregoing, it is clear that the last giant step is underway with the final negotiations for an outcome document on climate that will deliver hope to safe our common planet as the basis for sustainable development. This presents civil society organizations with the immediate opportunity for action. Pope Francis, through his recent encyclical letter – Laudato Si, has provided a pathway for civil society actions towards COP 21 in Paris. Laudato Si has redirected the technical focus of the climate talks to real issues of sustainable development. Civil Society actors; especially Catholic lay organizations need to tutor themselves about the content, purpose and moral challenge provided by this great encyclical of Pope Francis. At the fringes of the United Nations General Assembly in New York this September, it was therefore a wonderful privilege and honour for me to moderate the high-level dialogue on climate change which was sponsored by the Holy See. The meeting was very timely coming a day after the adoption of the Post-2015 Development Agenda and clearly signalling the connectedness and sense of urgency of the climate negotiations as part of the global development agenda. As we look forward to this meeting in Paris, Catholic inspired organizations and other civil society need to act in concert and push for a binding agreement to be reached.
Other Prospects and Opportunities for Civil Society Engagements
The United Nations Special General Assembly on the Post-2015 Development Agenda adopted the final outcome document on 25th September without any diplomatic hassle and tussle; a rather unprecedented feat! This gave an overt sign of a world together right; at least on the issue of sustainable development. While the litmus test of this assertion remains with the December climate conference, we should not overlook the great opportunity presented by the Sustainable Development Goals of the Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Agreement. As we await 2016 for the SDGs to kick in, a proactive posture of preparation and commitment to engagement by civil society is critical to the realization of the SDGs. For this reason, I present the following as a menu of action forms that can be considered; taking into consideration the specificities of our respective contexts:
- Awareness creation of the SDGs; including informing ourselves about the 2030 Agenda, the 17 goals, 169 targets and the indicators yet to be finalized.
- Develop priorities from the seventeen goals for our own social intervention programmes. This is particularly relevant to civil society organizations and Faith-based organizations involved in service delivery programmes.
- Advocacy targeting national governments to replicate long-term development planning that integrates the SDGs. This is another way of developing national priorities on the seventeen goals
- Independent monitoring and reporting on implementation of the SDGs at relevant levels; especially at national and sub-national.
- Create national platforms for sharing knowledge, information and best practices in the implementation of the SDGs
- Advocate for the setting up of national review mechanisms on the implementation of the SDGs. These must be broadly representative of diverse stakeholders and interest groups.
- Social cohesion, good governance and anti-corruption measures are essential pre-conditions for the realization of the SDGs in Africa. Catholic development organizations like Caritas and MAREDES and other civil society organizations need to maintain a consistent voice on these issues.
- Develop strategic networking relations among broader civil society to broaden the advocacy platform and amplify civil society voices on the SDGs. Inter-faith platform engagement could leverage greater influence and even resource mobilization in this regard.
- New and creative resource mobilization techniques and forms have to be explored to support civil society work on the SDGs. This should not exclude scrupulous but cautious exploration of the corporate sector and philanthropy.
- Catholic development organizations like Caritas Africa can consider launching a campaign in an area that is very crucial for the realization of the SDGs in Africa. This idea includes also joining relevant regional or international campaigns already led by credible CSO. The campaign against Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) from Africa is an example of a credible and relevant campaign for the realization of the SDGs in Africa.
- Provide models to contextualize the SDGs in Africa Agenda 2063 for greater harmonization of purpose and equal ambition for change in the lives of people. We must be wary of an African agenda that is less ambitious, impervious to change and finds excuses for mediocrity.
The global giant steps towards a transformative development agenda have come a long way with the conclusion of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Much expectation still awaits the climate conference in December, 2015. There are isolated voices of pessimism on the SDGs as a one-size-fits-all approach and the non-commitments to previous climate talks. However, there is much hope to hold on to; especially with the moral compass provided by the Catholic Church in the leadership of Pope Francis on these global issues. The two giant steps have so far delivered ambitious agreements in Addis Ababa and New York. I am hopeful that the remaining last giant step in Paris will equally deliver an agreement. The challenge however will remain in implementation and Civil Society Organizations have to be there with much vigour and all the way till 2030.