Curtain draws on 38th SADC PF Plenary

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Swakopmund

The 38th Plenary Assembly Session of the SADC Parliamentary Forum (SADCPF) ended yesterday with calls for
parliamentarians to draw lessons from the Millennium Development Goals (SDGs) so that they can effectively
support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the world’s new universal development framework. During the plenary assembly, the SADC PF organised a symposium to unpack the theme of the Plenary
Assembly Session, which was ‘From Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the Sustainable Development
Goals (SDGs): Towards a greater Parliamentary Role in the Development Agenda.’

Neil Boyer, senior advisor with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Namibia and one of the experts that made presentations at the start of the plenary session, told delegates the SADC region and the African continent were “off track” with regard to the achievement of some of the eight MDGs. “On the goal related to poverty,
we are off track as a continent. We have not achieved the global goal of halving poverty,” he said, adding
that rising inequality, unemployment and unplanned urbanisation are perpetuating poverty. On an encouraging note, Boyer said the continent was on track to achieving universal primary education.

“We are also on track on gender equality and the empowerment of women. We find that the percentage of girls enrolled in higher education increased from 0.3 percent in 1990 to 0.92 percent in 2012,” stated Boyer.
Also heartening was the increase in female representation in decisionmaking bodies, such as the SADC Parliamentary Forum, with countries such as Namibia and South Africa doing well in that regard.
Significant progress had been noted with respect to reducing and combating HIV and related diseases, particularly tuberculosis, thanks to the rollout of life-saving HIV medication, which has significantly prolonged the lives of people infected with HIV. The ripple effect was that lives of people affected by HIV, who include caregivers and loved ones, had also improved.

“However we do have significant challenges on health MDGs. We know that we are off track on the reduction
of child mortality, although in less than five countries mortality fell by 55 percent and infant mortality by 40 percent. We still have major challenges in child mortality, linked to access to water, sanitation, nutrition and poverty,” he said. According to Boyer another lingering challenge is related to maternal health, with major challenges
associated with safe births, access to family planning and contraception in many countries.

Additionally, the continent is still grappling with adolescent pregnancies. “Our data suggests that we have 289 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births whereas the global average is 210 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births,”
Boyer said there has been sluggish progress on ensuring environmental sustainability, although in some countries
access to potable water had improved. “We still have major challenges in ensuring adequate sanitation and
in the global partnership for development. On the issue of external assistance, we find that very few countries have
adhered to the global commitment of 0.7 percent of income for development purposes,” stated the senior UNDP advisor. He said from a continental perspective, there had been notable progress on MDGs related to education, gender equality and combating HIV.

Unfinished business includes poverty, infant and child mortality, maternal mortality, access to sanitation,  conservation and increasing contribution to global merchandise exports. “As we transition from MDGs to SDGs we are optimistic that that we will make substantive progress with your support as parliamentarians responsible
for oversight,” he said. Speaking on the same theme, Nandi Mazeingo, the national development advisor at the National Planning Commission (NPC) spoke about the link between MDGs and SDGs. He explained that the SDGs,
which are 17, had been formulated to deal with the unfinished business of MDGs.

He said the African continent had not been involved in the formulation of the MDGs, which had failed to focus on African priorities. However, the continent had actively participated in the formulation of SDGs and had come up with an African Common Position. Namibia and South Africa represented the SADC region in the discussions that culminated in the adoption of SDGs. “Through Agenda Africa 2063 we were able to reach consensus on global challenges, priorities and aspirations and to emphasise the principle of sustainable development that we adopted in Rio in 2012. The next development agenda brings the three dimensions of sustainable development on board. There is consideration for the environment, economy and social issues,” he said.

He noted that the SDGs strive to ensure economic growth creates jobs, given that under MDGs much of the economic growth was in capital- intensive sectors in which more machines than people were used. He said the new focus was on sectors that are labour intensive, such as the modernisation of agriculture, natural resources management and the service sectors. Emphasis would also be placed on research to drive people-centred development. He stressed that the new agenda places people, prosperity, the planet, peace and partnership at the centre of implementation, before explaining the focus of the new 17 SDGs. On the role of parliamentarians
in the implementation of SDGs, John Corrie, a member of the Association of European Parliamentarians
with Africa (AWEPA)’s Governing Council stressed the primacy of a nationally owned and led planning process.

“If any development process is to be effective and sustainable, it has to be owned by national stakeholders,”
the former parliamentarian said. He explained under the SDGs, goals one to six were a continuation of the
MDGs. He suggests countries integrate the SDGs into national and regional development plans, as well as collaborate to benefit from economies of scale. He cited the example of South Africa, Namibia and Botswana,
who are reportedly building big solar plants as individual countries and called for collaboration among countries implementing similar programmes. The SDGs outline the developmental framework for the next 15 years up to 2030. One of the things that came out of the review of the MDGs and their implementation was the lack of an institutionalised role for parliamentarians. Under the SDGs, there is recognition of the important role of national parliaments in terms of their oversight function.

The plenary session considered several issues and adopted several motions, including the Report of the executive committee. The executive committee of SADC PF is the management board of the forum. It oversees the implementation of plenary assembly resolutions and its own resolutions. It also deals with financial matters of the forum and includes the treasurer’s report, which touches on the budget of the forum for the next financial year.
The plenary also took note of progress made in developing a SADC Model Law on Eradicating Child Marriage and Protecting those Already in Marriage. A draft of this law will now be presented to legal experts, including judges, for
further input before it is presented to the next plenary for adoption.

In light of the energy crisis affecting parts of the SADC region, the plenary adopted a motion calling on SADC member states to invest in alternative sources of energy. The SADC Protocol on Energy adopted in 1996 provides a framework for cooperation on energy policy among SADC member states to ensure the security, reliability, and
sustainability of the energy supply. However, the plenary noted that the domestication of the protocol and
the implementation of its provisions remain a challenge in most countries, due to inadequate investment in the energy sector.

The plenary urged SADC member states to invest in alternative sources of energy, including hydropower,
bio-fuels, wind, petroleum, natural gas and solar energy. The National Assembly of Namibia and the SADC PF co-hosted the plenary, which drew participation from 12 national parliaments of SADC. The parliaments of Tanzania
and Seychelles were not represented, due to recent and upcoming elections.

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