The Oxfam Country Director
Members of Civil Society present
Colleagues from the media
Ladies and gentlemen
I am delighted to have been invited to address this important gathering on behalf of the UN in Zambia. This gathering is important because of the pivotal role that Civil Society Organizations play globally to enhance human development and promote human rights. Launching the Action 2015 Campaign is linking CSOs in Zambia to CSOs around the world so they can all raise their voices and together be part of making real change happen.
2015 is a very significant year. It will see the end of the Millennium Development Goals and the launch of a new set of Sustainable Development Goals to succeed them. Many of you here today will already have played a role in the dialogues that have been taking place here, and worldwide, about the Future We Want. 2015 will see three major international conferences: the first, in Addis Ababa in July on Financing the new Sustainable Development agenda; the second, in New York in September on the Sustainable Development Goals; and third, in December in Paris, the Global Climate Change Summit. Together these three major international conferences will set the international agenda on a new course up until 2030.
Today we are looking forward to that new agenda, but let us not forget the agenda that is not yet quite over. Zambia has made significant and steady progress on several Millennium Development Goals. These include primary school enrollment, which increased from 80% in 1990 to 93.7% in 2010. Zambia is also on track to achieve gender parity in primary school enrollment and in literacy among 15-24 year olds. For HIV and AIDS, the number of Zambians infected with HIV has dropped to 14.3% of the population and this figure is expected to drop further once the 2014 Demographic Health Survey data set is published.
In contrast to this progress, there are still Millennium Development Goals not yet achieved in Zambia. Poverty levels remain very high. Over 42% of Zambians are still extremely poor. There are low levels of completion at secondary school level; and continued gender inequality. Girls are particularly vulnerable – levels of early marriage and early pregnancy are at crisis point. Over 67% of the population has no access to improved sanitation facilities. Although there is still a little time for improvement in these areas before the final evaluation of the Millennium Development Goals which is underway, it is clear that these goals will not be met.
In fact, although the Millennium Development Goals will end this year, the needs which they are addressing will not. The SDGs will therefore build on the Millennium Development Goals in areas of poverty, health, hunger, illiteracy among youth and so forth. But there will also be a focus on building peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, with access to justice for all, and building accountable and inclusive institutions. The SDGs will target the rule of law and participatory, representative, transparent and honest government at all levels. They will also address climate change, ecosystem degradation, and other environmental threats.
This wide and cross-cutting agenda is one reason why there are 17 proposed Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets, as opposed to the 8 Millennium Development Goals and their 21 targets.
There has from the beginning been criticism that the Millennium Development Goals were introduced without enough consultation at the local level and were essentially imposed top down. So this time round, the process of designing the Sustainable Development Goals has been widely consultative, not only at the top levels of governments, but right down to the grass roots.
National consultations have been held in around 100 countries, including Zambia, reaching out to those in the poorest and most marginalized communities, who are not usually asked for their views on global agendas. Nearly 5 million people around the world have described ‘the World We Want’. In New York, there has been an Open Working Group of governments, including Zambia, which each fed in consolidated views from their country and region. Here in Zambia consultations around the country showed people’s priorities to be:
- quality education with life skills
- better health care
- equality of income, gender, access and opportunity
- better job opportunities and an enabling business environment
- an honest and responsive government
- eradication of poverty
- access to clean water
These are complex, qualitative goals and they show that people themselves are looking for change in the way that development is designed and delivered. They want development pathways that are cross-cutting, meaningful and sustainable; that speak to quality of services not just numbers of services provided.
For example, it is a good first step to ensure that all children have access to schooling. But are they leaving school with qualifications and skills that enable them to get a job? Sustainable development is about inclusivity, quality, and progress. There are on-going consultations led by the UN system on what it will take to implement this wide and ambitious Sustainable Development agenda. Apart from governments, there will need to be engagement of civil society, academia, communities themselves, to translate the global agenda into local action. There will be a need to invest in governance capacity, to involve the private sector, to engage local people to monitor progress actively including at the local level. All governments will be held to account by their people for progress in sustainable development in their country.
So what does the post-2015 sustainable development agenda mean for CSOs in Zambia? 2015 is the year of debate and decision on the 17 proposed Sustainable Development Goals. The Sustainable Development Conference in September will adopt the new set of SDGs. So there is still time to feed into the global debate views from the local level here. The Zambian government has taken a leading role in the global debate and design of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals. So the first thing you can do as CSOs is to engage with the government as it participates at the global level by mobilizing debate and helping people at the local level to articulate clearly their concerns and priorities.
The second thing you can do is to start already to think about how the new Sustainable Development Goals should be localized into meaningful ambitious Sustainable Development Goals for Zambia. The same process happened for the Millennium Development Goals: the top level global targets were each localized into targets for each country, relevant to local circumstances. The third thing you can do is prepare to engage with the government, the UN and other development partners as we start to implement sustainable development programmes in the future. Development is not a one-way street. It is not something that should be done by governments or international organizations to people. It needs the participation of people in the process. It needs regular feedback on how it is going – is all that activity actually making a real and desired difference to people’s lives? CSOs have a key role to play in helping bring about that dialogue throughout a development programme – from the very outset, determining local needs and priorities; and all the way through the implementation process, including evaluation of how effective it was at the end.
Let me end on a youthful note. Those who will be particularly affected by what we do in the Sustainable Development agenda are the youth. Children in high school today will be in their 30s in 2030, which is the deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals. They will have families of their own, who need to be fed, clothed, educated, employed and treated when they fall sick. If governments, with the support of international organizations, deliver on the Sustainable Development agenda to create the world that people have told us they want, then that world in 2030 will be a very different place and it will Leave No-one Behind. In 2015, the UN in Zambia will intensify our outreach to Zambian youth to make sure that we hear their voice. I encourage all CSOs, and particularly those involving the youth, to be a part of sustainable development, to raise your voices. The Action 2015 Campaign is a great place to start!