These are Zimbabwe’s Sustainable Development Goals: Parliament’s Responsibility
BY Kanako Mabuchi | August 10, 2016
“Ordinary Zimbabweans must own the Sustainable Development Goals. They are our SDGs!”, the Speaker of the National Assembly closed with these inspiring words a half-day dialogue on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recently organized by the UN in Zimbabwe.
The Speaker feels that Zimbabwe’s Parliamentarians have a critical role to play in ensuring that no one is left behind in the country’s progress towards achieving the 2030 Agenda. Through the Zimbabwe UN Development Assistance Framework (ZUNDAF) 2016-2020, we at the UN in Zimbabwe are supporting the Parliamentarians to fulfil their roles and responsibilities as representatives of the People; as legislators; and, as overseers of the Government’s national and international commitments.
A total of 195 Parliamentarians participated in the dialogue which was organized, for a change, in a bit of a new way:
We moved away from “death by PowerPoint” methodology adopting a “talk show” format of pre-identified questions and answers.
We started with a one-minute global video on the SDGs, to ensure that the spirit of the unprecedented Agenda 2030 filled the room – ensuring also that all participants were familiar with the 17 SDGs.
The Government presented its SDG Position Paper which initially prioritizes 10 out of the 17 SDGs and firmly positions them within Zimbabwe’s national development plan.
Each head of agency represented their respective UN thematic result group under the UN strategic plan. This positioned the UN as a team rather than a collection of individual agencies.
However, but perhaps unsurprisingly, the real game-changing moment came during the open discussion.
The ball is in our court
During an extensive question-and-answer session between the Parliamentarians and the UN, a number of Parliamentarians started advocating for UN’s support for their respective constituencies. This sparked the Speaker of the National Assembly to intervene with an inspirational speech to shake up the Parliamentarians, reminding them of the responsibility of the Parliament to make the Government accountable to the People.
Taking everyone by surprise, he emphasised that it is the Parliament’s responsibility as legislators to vote on proposed laws using the barometer of whether they are transformative for the lives of Zimbabweans. It is their responsibility to approve and allocate resources in a manner conducive to achieve the SDGs and; it is their responsibility to translate the SDGs for social change.
When the Speaker of the National Assembly declared “The ball is in our court,” there was a renewed sense of urgency for action to take the SDGs back to their constituents where the ownership lies. The Parliamentarians decided to establish a parliamentary committee on the SDGs to take the global goals implementation forward, led by the Speaker of the National Assembly himself.
By the end of the half-day dialogue, Parliamentarians embraced that they are key to reaching the Zimbabweans who are hardest to reach, to be the voice of the voiceless. From our side at the UN, with SDGs as a common playing field, we are here to support the Government through our common strategic plan. Stay tuned for the continued volley!
The wisdom of crowds: Asking the citizens in Lao PDR
BY Zumrad Sagdullaeva, Jakob Schemel | February 22, 2016
Enough money, enough food, enough jobs, safety, and justice: The new global development agenda is about dignity respect for all the world’s people. What could be better, then, than making sure those people have a meaningful voice in planning their own future? In Lao PDR, we are actively and creatively engaging citizens in analysing their own issues and crafting their own solutions.
A common vision to achieve sustainable development results
2015 was a special year for Lao PDR: the country marked a number of anniversaries, the new 8th National Socio-Economic Development Plan 2016-2020 with its overall objective of graduation from Least Developed Country status, and the MDG-SDG transition.
The UN country team took advantage of the moment to reinvigorate advocacy for increased citizens’ engagement, particularly as we have embarked on the development of a new support strategy, a.k.a. Lao PDR – UN Partnership Framework (UNPF) 2017-2021.
This strategy will not only serve as a common basis and vision for sustainable UN agency interventions, but also demonstrate the importance and power of broad participation for sustainable development results.
Our recipe for a participatory UN strategy
We are supporting the engagement of citizen experts, including civil society (non-profit associations) and other partners, in our planning. We are doing this through a combination of crowdsourcing, consultations and micro-grants, blended with awareness raising and advocacy.
First, we are complementing the country analysis – an important basis for the UNPF development – with a “wisdom of crowds” approach, i.e. crowdsourcing through three mini-surveys based on the Futurescaper online platform.
The surveys explored alternative perceptions of Lao PDR’s current key development issues, their causes, effects and priorities for the future of the country to 2021.
The first survey, an in-depth exploration of existing development issues and their causes, clearly showed that governance is a top priority.
The majority of respondents identified governance and corruption as root causes of development challenges. They linked corruption to issues such as environmental sustainability; poverty and unemployment; human resources capacity; food and nutrition security and access and quality of education (see graph 1). Many of these factors have been cross-referenced in terms of causality; for example, reducing poverty and unemployment is strongly inter-linked with improving governance and vice versa.
Identifying the most vulnerable populations
What are other ways to get on board views beyond those of the “usual suspects” within UN and Government? To date, we have rarely cooperated with non-profit associations. So we decided to pursue this and engaged local non-profit associations via micro-grants.
The associations support research on five vulnerable groups: women and children in remote areas (including ethnic minorities); unskilled, unemployed youth (age 15-24); people with physical and mental disability, especially in remote areas; farmers without access to land; and urban poor and socially marginalized.
The studies help identify why these groups have been left behind, looking into immediate and root causes as well as manifestations of vulnerability to ensure better targeting of UN support in Lao PDR and find solutions for these vulnerable groups. Three of the studies are almost complete and the remaining two will be ready soon.
Consulting the civil society
The studies were complemented through dedicated civil society consultations, with 70 non-profit associations from all over the country, which in addition to the discussion of the UNPF also focused on the contribution of civil society to the 8th National Socio-Economic Development Plan 2016-2020.
Furthermore, the consultations helped to define clear steps towards enhancing the space for the civil society operation in the country and improve collaboration with UN. Consultations between Government, civil society and private sector on SDG localization t00k place at the end of 2015 and additional sensitization workshops are plannedfor 2016.
Engaging Lao youth
Lao youth make up 60 percent of the population. We attracted over 80 Lao youth who shared their vision of Lao PDR by 2030 via a mobile-phone photo competition ‘#Namkan2030’ and a related social media campaign.
As we continue working on some of the above-mentioned initiatives to promote participatory strategic planning, the success of 2015 is apparent. Engaging citizens is challenging but absolutely necessary. We have seen that it can be both enlightening and fun.