Caritas Ghana, the Non-Governmental Organisation wing of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, on November 14, 2016 outdoored an Assessment Report of Ghana’s readiness to implement the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The 52-page Report dubbed: Bringing the Sustainable Development Goals to Life in Ghana, assesses Government’s commitment and efforts towards successful implementation of the SDGs by highlighting national level structures and initiatives that were useful for sustaining national momentum.
The Report further assesses the level of consultation and involvement of relevant stakeholders like civil society and the Corporate Sector; and identifying the opportunities and gaps in Ghana’s efforts towards effective implementation.
The joy of the Catholic Church in this feat is that the Report will contribute towards increasing public awareness about the SDGs and promote civic engagement for their implementation in Ghana. There is no doubt that the citizens’ awareness about the SDGs is essential for their participation and for expressing a view on the implantation Status.
At the Sustainable Development Goals Summit on September 25, 2015, UN Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030.
The SDGs, otherwise known as the Global Goals , build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight anti-poverty targets that the world was committed to achieving by 2015.
The SDGs is an attempt to finish the unfinished agenda of the MDGs which were not fully met. The SGDs are also aimed at setting higher goals to eradicate, rather than reduce poverty, and having higher aspirations in terms of meeting obligations for future generations.
The MDGs, adopted in 2000, aimed at an array of issues that included slashing poverty, hunger, disease, gender inequality, and access to water and sanitation. Enormous progress has been made on the MDGs, showing the value of a unifying agenda underpinned by goals and targets. Despite this success, the indignity of poverty has not been ended for all.
The new Global Goals, and the broader sustainability agenda, go much further than the MDGs by addressing the root causes of poverty and the universal need for development that works for all people.
UNDP Administrator, Helen Clark noted: “This agreement marks an important milestone in putting our world on an inclusive and sustainable course. If we all work together, we have a chance of meeting citizens’ aspirations for peace, prosperity, and wellbeing, and to preserve our planet.”
Voices around the world are demanding leadership on poverty, inequality and climate change. To turn these demands into actions, world leaders gathered in September 2015 to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development .
Paul Ladd, Director of the UNDP Team on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, spoke about 2015, a year in which countries were to shape a new development agenda and reach a global agreement on climate change.
The 2030 Agenda comprises 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), or Global Goals , which will guide policy and funding for the next 15 years, beginning with a historic pledge to end poverty.
The concept of the SDGs was born at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, in 2012. The objective was to produce a set of universally applicable goals that balances the three dimensions of sustainable development: environmental, social, and economic.
The Global Goals replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) , which in September 2000 rallied the world around a common 15-year agenda to tackle the indignity of poverty.
The MDGs established measurable, universally-agreed objectives for eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, preventing deadly but treatable disease, and expanding educational opportunities to all children, among other development imperatives.
At its Millennium Development Goals Summit held in September 2010, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) considered it necessary to begin to think of a new global development framework to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which expired in 2015.
Since then, a series of processes have been launched aimed at creating a new global development framework. The two most important processes were those led by the Open Working Group (OWG) on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and those led by the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Financing for Sustainable Development (ICEFSD).
While the OWG’s focus was to propose a set of development goals for consideration by the UNGA, the ICEFSD was required to propose a set of approaches to raise the needed financial resources for implementation of the MDGs’ successor-the SDGs.
The OWG released a set of 17 goals and 169 targets in July 2014. In September 2014, the UNGA accepted to integrate the SDGs as proposed by the OWG into the post-2015 development Agenda. These goals were finalized and adopted by the UNGA in September 2015.
Ghana and SDGs
As a member of the OWG and having participated in two UN-led national level consultations, Ghana has played a significant role in defining the post-2015 Global Development Agenda. In Ghana, prior to the agreement, statements have been made by senior government officials on Ghana’s positions and/or priorities in relation to the SDGs.
Ms. Christine Asare, SDGs Focal Person in Ghana and member of the National Technical Steering Committee said in assessing the SDGs, there was the need to look at and make sure that all the three pillars that ensure sustainability were at the same level.
She advised that Ghana focuses on the socio-cultural, economic and natural resource issues as well as the Institutional issues, and that, the Environmental Protection Agency had been working with the National Development Planning Commission over the years to streamline these issues.
Speaking on the SDGs and the Post 2015 development agenda processes in Ghana, she stated that, Ghana had conducted broad consultations in three tracks: one focusing on the SDGs themselves, another on how to finance the SDGs and the other to come up with indicators for monitoring the implementation.
It must be emphasised that at the outset, however, that there is currently no official declaration or articulation by the Ghanaian government of what the country’s priorities really are as far as the SDGs are concerned. Nevertheless, to the extent, that the positions or priorities in this write-up are based on official statements by Government officials and/or representatives at the UN, they can be reasonably deemed to effectively reflect Ghana’s positions or priorities on the SDGs.
The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) started in January 2016. For us in Africa, the new development imperative was signaled earlier by AFRICA AGENDA 2063 which establishes the Africa Development Goals (ADGs).
In Ghana, the discourse began on the Long-Term National Development Plan (40 YEARS) to climax the centenary celebration of independence in 2057! Though high ambitions, they can surely be attainable with commitment, zeal and honesty of Ghanaians.
Post-2015 Development Agenda Process in Ghana
The post-2015 development process in Ghana consists of two sets of consultations: two UN-initiated consultations, three Government-initiated consultations and civilized society-led consultations.
As one of the first 50 countries selected by the UN for national consultations on the post-2015 development agenda, two round of national consultations were organised in Ghana. Led by the UN Country team in partnership with the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), the first round of consultations were launched in November 2012 at Tamale.
Due to the general character of the SDGs and the vast number of development issues they cover, there is a crucial need for countries to prioritise which areas are important in the national context.
Mr. Samuel Zan Akologo, Executive Secretary of Caritas Ghana (the Department of Human Development) of the National Catholic Secretariat in Accra speaking at the United Nations Post-2015 Stakeholder Steering Committee meeting in New York, on behalf of Caritas Internationlis, commended the co-chairs of the post 2015 Development Agenda for facilitating a broadly and open process negotiations of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Session dilated on the inter-governmental negotiations (IGN), which is the next phase of monthly political dialogue meetings on the Sustainable Development Goals by Government Representatives ahead of the UN General Assembly held in September 2015. He lauded the leadership of the Secretary General on his Synthesis Report on the post-2015 Development Agenda.
These initiatives, he said, had created enthusiasm for Developing Countries and Civil Society to continue to engage with the process, noting in particular the Common African Position that has built consensus and provided a framework for engagement by Governments in Africa.
The participation of people living in poverty should continue to be the lynchpin in the implementation, monitoring and accountability of this ambitious sustainable development agenda, he added. Mr. Akologo said linkages need to be drawn between proposed goals and existing processes at national, regional and global levels, including predictable financing mechanisms to deliver our shared ambition.
A delegation from the African Union (AU), who visited Ghana in late 2015 applauded the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) for its inclusive approach to preparing a long-term national development for Ghana. The delegation is in the country to discuss strategies for domesticating the first 10 years of the AU’s 50-year transformation agenda, known as Agenda 2063, into Ghana’s long-term national development plan.
Priorities: Employment and Youth Development
The issue of employment in Ghana remains a critical development issue. Unemployment in Ghana especially among the educated youth appears to have deepened despite consistent growth in the Ghanaian economy. For example, although Ghana has experienced an average economic growth of about 5% in the last twenty years, unemployment continued to soar within the same period.
According to the Media Foundation for West Africa, a non-Governmental organisation, Ghana’s representatives in the SDGs negotiations at the UN identify a number of factors that may be responsible for this challenge. According to the statement made by the Ghana at the fourth Session of the OWG, youth development is one issue that countries cannot afford to do away with. In the specific Ghanaian context, a number of critical interventions were highlighted
With the job unfinished for millions of people—we need to go the last mile on ending hunger, achieving full gender equality, improving health services and getting every child into school. Now we must shift the world onto a sustainable path. The Global Goals aim to do just that, with 2030 as the target date. Ghana needs to be in a good position (Human Resource Capacity, Policy, and Infrastructure) to aid the implementation and achievement these Goals.
In Ghana today, unemployment constitutes perhaps the biggest social issue confronting our country, a situation which has been worsened by the turning out of many unskilled graduates from our Schools.
The secondary and tertiary education has not been able to turn out the relevant middle level skilled human resources needed for the industrialization of the country even as large numbers of people, including school drop-outs, continue to throng our cities for non-existing jobs, ending up as head porters or “Kayaye” and “shoe-shine boys and girls”.
This army of unemployed youth often engages in undesirable immoral behaviours like prostitution and armed robbery. To stem this tide of affairs, we recommend that the State turn some of the community secondary schools currently under construction into Community Vocational and Technical schools and continue to equip and resource the existing Vocational and Technical Institutes in the country. Parents Guardians should also encourage their wards to enroll in these schools.
While the idea of Technical Universities is good, care must be taken not to rush the proposal through without doing the necessary due diligence to ensure that the aim of the exercise will be achieved.
Perhaps, the proposed Long-Term Development plan is a great opportunity to get this policy and programme articulation right. The Laity who are policy makers on education delivery are called upon to work with their co-workers to make Christ’s love felt here.
The hunger/poverty cycle is a difficult one to break, but that is necessary if we want to live in a world where everyone has the ability to fulfill their potential. Did you know there are over 870 million people who are hungry in the world at this exact moment?
The kind of hunger that stops a body being able to work the hours that it needs to, that stops a brain being able to concentrate in class, that stops a person living in poverty being able to lift themselves out of it. This goal will not only make sure everyone has enough food, but that we can make sure it is nutritious and sustainable to grow.
Poverty is a direct consequence of unemployment. Every Ghanaian must be alarmed at the abject poverty that stares at us everywhere in the cities, towns and villages. We regret to say that various poverty-reduction interventions such as the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP), Youth Enterprise Support (YES) and the like, though commendable, have not yielded the desired results.
It is the strong conviction that policies and strategies aimed at reducing poverty must be pragmatic, realistic and home-grown. Over-reliance on donor-driven or directed programmes must be cut to the barest minimum. The resolve of the global community to bring extreme poverty to an end must challenge Ghana to work hard to achieve the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at an earlier timeline before 2030.
Education is repeatedly highlighted by senior government officials on various platforms related to the post-2015 development agenda and was furthermore identified as a core priority issue in the UN report of the national consultations on SDGs. While Ghana has made substantial improvements in its educational sector particularly in the area of access to basic education, serious challenges remain at the tertiary level that require urgent action.
There is an unchanging position that it is the inalienable right of parents and guardians to choose schools for their wards. The Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC) has over the years reaffirmed their conviction that it is not the right of a computer, programmed by a prone-to-corruption human being, to choose schools for our students. This is why the Bishops continue to appeal to Government to abolish the Computerised School Selection and Placement System (CSSPS) and replace it with a more workable and transparent version.
Unit Schools have been pivotal in quality education delivery in Ghana. However, successive policies in educational reforms in recent times have systematically sidelined the Educational Units making them ineffective. Because of this, the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference and other Religious Bodies have for many years engaged the State to come out with clear policies with regard to the Partnership Agreement which has always existed between the Religious Bodies and the State in Education delivery.
The Catholic Bishops and the Christian Council made call on Government to be transparent in the on-going policy considerations on education reforms. The also urged that action be expedited on the formalization of the Partnership Agreement on Education, submitted by the Religious and other Bodies whose Schools are in the public system. “We call on the Laity to see the benefits of the Unit Schools and to commit themselves to their effective management as the contribution of Religious Bodies towards quality education delivery in Ghana,” the two Bodies added in a joint Statement last year.
Urbanization remains a growing challenge in developing nations around the world. In Ghana, the challenge appears to be reaching alarming proportions resulting in the near exponential growth in slum areas particularly Accra.
In her address at the national dialogue held on SDGs in April 2015, Ghana’s former Minister for Fisheries, Ms. Shirley Ayittey, expressed the view that urbanization is a key challenge that must receive priority attention in both the SDGs and in Ghana’s development framework.
She argued that not only does urbanization exert extreme pressures on the State to provide and improve the quality of social amenities in cities; but that meeting that challenge itself means that invariably very little of available national resources are committed to developmental needs in rural areas, a situation that propels the phenomenon of rural-urban migration in Ghana. In this sense, addressing the challenges associated with the growth in urban populations must be seen as a necessary aspect of promoting equitable development in the country.
In their Communique issued on November 13, 2015, members of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference stated that “The increasing urbanization of Ghana has brought in its wake the problem of “streetism”. In effect, children who should be in the classrooms are found loitering and/or hawking on the streets of our towns and cities. According to the Ghanaian Bishops with increased urbanisation, the practice of prostitution is on the ascendancy while the HIV/AIDS pandemic is still rampant in some parts of the country, particularly, in cities. There are cases of armed robbery attacks in our cities. Even though statistics show that such cases have gone down, we think that there is still more room for improvement in this area.
The problems relating to urbanisation also include the fact that urban poverty has increased over the last few years compared with rural poverty. These problems relating to urbanisation may seem daunting but the Bishops feel they are guided by faith and hope that united as one people we can surely surmount these formidable challenges.
The environment and Climate Change
According to the Statement presented by Ghana in the first OWG session in March 2013, climate change is one of the issues that hinder the development of developing countries and thus deserving of adequate attention in the post-2015 framework. In Ghana, increasing drought and perennial flooding has severe consequences especially in food-producing centres of the three Northern Regions of the country
Closely linked to the health of the nation is the issue of the care of the environment. Time and again, it is regrettable to note the persistent pollution of our water bodies, the littering of plastic waste everywhere, the careless felling of trees in the forests and savannah area and the rampant illegal mining (galamsey) operations in towns and villages. The GCBC called on the Laity and indeed all Ghanaians to rise up against this indiscriminate destruction of our environment and water bodies. The authorities charged with protecting our natural resources should be up and doing.
The idea of the National Sanitation Day on every first Saturday of the month, according to the Bishops, is laudable and commendable and appeals had to all Catholics and all Ghanaians to actively participate in this exercise as a Christian duty and a civic responsibility.
“We urge all Ghanaians to acquire the habit, not only to clean up our surroundings but most importantly let us all learn how not to make our environment dirty in the first place. We also strongly recommend the recent encyclical of Pope Francis on the care of creation called “Laudato Si’ ” to our Catholic faithful and all Ghanaians because it provides a good resource for all, but most especially, policy makers on the care of our environment. We can certainly do with more education on the care of the environment. All the Laity who are charged with the protection of the environment should know that the environment is God’s handiwork. To protect it is being faithful to God,” says the Ghanaian Bishops in their Communique.
In both the report of the UN-led national consultations on the SDGs and the recently concluded stakeholders’ discussion on the SDGs, health was identified as priority development concern for Ghana. Despite some progress in improving access to health services, principally through the introduction of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), substantial challenges remain in delivery of quality health care in Ghana. Consequently, infant, child and maternal mortality rates remain very high in Ghana, while preventable diseases like malaria continue to contribute significantly to child mortality.
Another priority issue relates to localizing the SDGs. According to several key stakeholders, government officials and the UN representative, localization of the SDGs must be prioritized in order to promote citizens ownership and facilitate successful implementation. It is considered important that the SDG indicators being developed are adjusted to the national context to make the goals and targets relevant to Ghana. To ensure successful localization, sufficient public education is deemed highly important in order to generate mass support for the SDGs and for particular policy actions arising.
Role of Media
Speakers at a media forum on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Accra stressed the need for the media to actively advocate for local ownership of the goals and hold implementing actors accountable.
Ms. Christine Evans-Klock, the United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator for Ghana, who chaired the forum, said once the SDGs are adopted; the media’s active participation in this regard would ensure that the universal goals contained in the document result in actions and policies to make a difference in the lives of citizens, rather than stay on paper.
She commended the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) for the initiative to inform the general public about the SDGs, how they came about and their importance in Ghana.
“The SDGs were developed after many years of hard work, through consultations that stretched across 190 countries and which gave voice to civil society, private sector and sought the views of millions of young people,” she noted.
Ghana was one of the countries tasked to host a national consultancy on the post 2015 agenda. The consultations were organized by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), with the UN and other relevant agencies, including civil society organizations, development partners, private sector, religious bodies and others at regional and national levels.
In Ghana, discussions were mainly focused on a better future for young people, including the quality of education and access to decent work, whiles some focused on localizing universal development goals, owning them and mobilizing support to make a difference in Ghana.
The process of developing Ghana’s 40-year development plan, of which the first 15 years of it will be informed by the SDGs and pledged the United Nations readiness to assist Ghana in implementation strategies to achieve the goals.
Professor Kwame Karikari, SDG Ambassador in Ghana and Board Member of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), said the MDGs did not receive the kind of sustained media advocacy; monitoring and coverage that would have added to the gains that were made and commended the MFWA for involving the media in the SDGs from the beginning.
Compared to the MDGs, the SDGs were broader, going beyond socio-economic issues and thus required all parties to support. The SDG provided the elements for national consensus on a development agenda that was devoid of any political tinkering and urged political parties to fashion their manifestos based on it.
The Media must be focused on challenges that appear in the implementation of the goals and also how Ghanaian citizens, like civil society groups are involved in the implementation of the SDGs.