The Seventh Session of the African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (ARFSD) ended on Thursday, March 4, 2021 with a call on African countries to pursue full representation of all citizens, including women, children, and the disabled, irrespective of background, belief or geographic location, in efforts to attain the sustainable development goals (SDGs) without leaving anyone behind.
During the four-day forum, discussions showed that efforts by countries, including achievements made in achieving the SDGs and Agenda 2063, have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, setting back strides in addressing the continent’s development needs.
The forum, hosted by the Government of Congo Brazzaville and held virtually, also called on governments to ensure peace and human security, remove restrictions on spaces for activists and journalists and work to avoid election violence.
The forum also emphasised the importance of data which is a key component of tracking the SDGs. In this regard the UN Resident Representative in Zambia, Ms. Coumba Mar Gadio, stated that the UN has worked with the Zambian government to mainstream the SDGs and provided support to localize SDGs and national planning.
That, she said, was to ensure that the national plan followed a strategy to apply the SDGs.
Ms. Joy Kategekwa, Head, UNCTAD Regional Office for Africa, called for a regional approach in procurement as the continent continues to fight COVID-19; urged the continent to fight corruption; and added that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) should also work for women and young people.
In spite of the challenges, there are some success stories, as narrated by Ms. Micheline Baussard of the UNDP. She indicated that cooperation among regional groups has led to new initiatives and called on countries to develop a roadmap for attaining the SDGs.
“There is need to invest in human capital in the implementation of this roadmap,” she said, adding that “90 per cent of the goals are related and therefore impact from one goal will affect the other.”
Ms. Edith Madela-Mntla of the University of Pretoria urged that the process of implementing the SDGs should be people-centred and inclusive. The homeless, disabled and marginalized should be included in the process, she added.
Ms. Madela-Mntla also called on countries to pay attention to climate change and the environment; and look at how to manage COVID-19 related waste, think of how to deal with disasters, cyclones, floods and disasters and ensure low carbon emissions.
Among the key highlights of the forum’s resolutions, which would be reviewed by member-countries till March 14, 2021, include the need for countries to pay attention to data collection and the Voluntary National Reviews and Voluntary Local Reviews. The need for the SDGs to address poverty and gender across all sectors; reducing illicit financial flows, reinforcing small-holder farmers and looking at using the AfCFTA to create jobs in the agriculture sector.
Participants also called on governments and the private sector to enhance value chains across the continent and the use of innovative financing to address climate change.
The forum was held under the theme; “Building forward better: towards a resilient and green Africa to achieve the 2030 Agenda and 2063”.