AFTER failing to attain some Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets, mainly due to lack of information dissemination to the grassroots, government and the United Nations (UN) have now recognised the role of Parliamentarians, as pivotal in attainment of the newly formulated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
BY VENERANDA LANGA
During a dialogue meeting of the United Nations SDG taskforce, MPs and the Office of the President and Cabinet in Harare last week on the transition to SDGs, what came out was that legislators are representatives of the people and have the ability to mobilise constituencies to capacitate them with the 17 SDG goals to be achieved, as well as how communities can also act to attain them by 2030.
Senate President Edna Madzongwe said a proactive response to the global shift from MDGs to SDGs was in tandem with Parliament’s institutional strategic plan of 2014 to 2018 to enhance equity and contributions from Parliament in the national development agenda.
Madzongwe said dialogue on SDGs was particularly important for Parliament because the world was being affected by hunger, poverty, climate change and increasingly diminishing resources, which meant that MPs should begin to develop strategies to create a better world with equitable resource distribution and equity.
“The focus on the 17 SDGs is on delivery of basic human rights, food and nutrition, improved health and education, clean water and sanitation, as well as affordable clean energy, and as representatives of the people MPs need to press for prompt and concerted action on SDGs from the Executive,” she said.
“It is important for motions being raised in Parliament to focus on solutions and what MPs can do individually and collectively to ensure the success of SDGs.”
Madzongwe said MPs could do this through cascading information to their constituents to ensure the national adoption of SDGs did not remain on paper, but was inculcated to communities down to ward level.
“MPs can lobby for laws and policies that streamline SDGs, as it will ensure that the current laws meet the needs of the present generation,” she said.
Madzongwe said MPs could promote attainment of SDGs through critically examining of Bills brought before Parliament to ensure they conformed to the SDG agenda, and reviewing of international treaties and conventions to assess their commitment to the global goals.
“Parliament possesses the muscle through the national budget to approve and monitor resource allocation in a manner that can promote attainment of SDGs,” she said.
UN country resident co-ordinator, Bishow Parajuli said Zimbabwe had made strides towards achieving MDGs despite having faced different challenges during the implementation period.
Some of the MDG successes listed by Parajuli included reduction of hunger by half, gender parity in education at primary and secondary schools, attaining the highest literacy rates in sub Saharan Africa and reduction of HIV and Aids prevalence, malaria and other diseases.
“We need to put the challenges faced in stating MDGs into opportunities, as we move into SDGs. Zimbabwe has taken a bold step by articulating its position on SDGs through a paper, the Zimbabwe United Nations Development Assistance Framework to achieve SDGs. MPs can play a special role in policy formulation and crafting of relevant laws to facilitate budget allocation to priority sectors in SDGs,” he said.
Parajuli said it was important for the country to align SDGs to the government blueprint, ZimAsset.
“Attracting capital through formulation of the right policies is also vital for foreign investment as well as Diaspora remittances, as well as to have the right infrastructure for water and social services, rule of law, upholding human rights and good governance,” he said.
Chief secretary to the President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda said MPs, the youth and government departments should publicise SDGs.
He said government will implement all SDGs with emphasis placed on 10 goals (2) to end hunger, (4) ensure equitable education, (5) achieve gender equality, (6) sustainable management of water and sanitation (7) ensure sustainable modern energy to all (8) promoting sustainable economic growth, (9) promote sustainable industrialisation (10) reduce inequalities among countries (13) combat climate change and its impacts and (17) strengthen and implement global partnerships for sustainable development.
Macro Economic Development ministry secretary, Desire Sibanda said the former MDGs failed because different sectors including Parliament and civic society were not aware of them.
“They viewed the document as imposed just like Esap. The African continent participated more on formulation of SDGs than MDGs, and when SDGs are being implemented they become an African and Zimbabwean document,” he said.
Sibanda said there was need for political will at the highest level in the implementation of SDGs, including commitment by MPs.
Sibanda cited the Nigerian situation, where their Public Accounts Committee pushed for government implementation of SDGs.
“There is need to strengthen ZimStat so that they can report national information on implementation of SDGs. We need to engage the international community to unlock capital because without foreign direct investment we are unable to implement SDGs,” he said.
“We should also look at issues of financing SDGs, which will require much more players than government alone in terms of domestic financing. We need to mobilise resources and curb illicit outflows, ensure we get value from the extractive industry and broaden the tax base, as well as Diaspora remittances that were close to $1 billion last year.”
UN economic advisor and chairperson of the UN SDG taskforce, Amarakoon Bandara said the role of MPs in promoting SDGs was to put the executive to task in terms of implementation.
“MPs are key actors in democracy and are representatives of various geographical areas, and have diverse political viewpoints that are needed in making SDGs successful. MPs need to give policy direction and define the fiscal budget to ensure it is in line with SDGs, they should play an oversight role on implementation to ensure there is people centred development, and ensure the policies are rational, coherent, consistent and predictable for not domestic and foreign investors,” he said.
Bandara said Zimbabwe had the power to attract $20 billion Diaspora remittances given the huge numbers of people outside the country.
Other areas where he encouraged MPs to be active on SDGs were adoption of legislation to promote sustainable development.
“MPs must continue to maintain dialogue with the people and get them involved using modern internet technology.
The Parliamentary Thematic Committee on SDGs must use other forums like the Pan African Parliament and Sadc Parliamentary Forum to track progress on SDGs,” Bandara said.
Zimbabwe and UN signed the 2016 to 2020 Zimbabwe United Nations Development Assistance Framework (Zundaf) as a strategic programme framework to support SDGs transformation and ZimAsset.
A budget of $1,64 billion was poured into Zundaf and its aim is to support six priority areas that are HIV/Aids (16%), gender equality (3%), public administration and governance (4%), poverty reduction and value addition (13%), and food and nutrition (18%).