From MDGs to SDGs: Botswana can lead again in the new development era

Sep 24, 2015

By Anders Pedersen*

Across the globe, world leaders including from Botswana Vice-President Hon. Masisi and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hon. Venson-Moitoi, are getting ready to adopt the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are essentially an agreed vision to put people and the planet on a sustainable path by 2030. This will form the bedrock of a new development agenda that can set the world on a course of action to end poverty, transform lives and protect the planet.

In Botswana, we’re looking forward to align our work on poverty eradication; environment and climate change; governance, human rights and gender equality and their outcomes even closer to the Botswana Vision Post 2016 and the National Development Plan 11. These new Global Goals will guide and help us achieve that. The Goals spell out how we work together to promote dignity, equality, justice, shared prosperity and well-being for all, while protecting the environment. We are the first generation that can end poverty and the last one that can avoid the worst effects of climate change.

I have learned from my work in Botswana and elsewhere that setting clear goals and targets accelerate development. For instance, our effort and investment in formulating a poverty eradication policy and strategy, as well as a climate change and adaptation policy are two of the plausible examples that show how the Government of Botswana with technical and financial support from the UN is using the SDGs as the bases for tackling the key challenges of poverty and climate change, while maintaining bio-diversity. Our ability to provide support towards promoting sustainable human development, including tackling the remaining HIV/Aids challenge, continues to be a foundation for our strong partnership with the Government of Botswana and the people of this country. As we gain more experiences and lessons from practice we look forward to continuing our work in the years to come.

Over the past 15 years, millions of people’s lives around the globe have improved due to the concerted efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which serve as the foundation for the next global development agenda (the SDGs). Globally most of the MDGs targets have already been met on reducing poverty, increasing access to improved drinking water sources, improving the lives of slum dwellers and achieving gender parity in primary school.

Similarly, Botswana has done very well by dramatically reducing poverty levels and achieving universal access to HIV/Aids treatment, and to social services such as education and health. Botswana has also shown true leadership in the sub-region during the MDGs era. With a vibrant young population and strong institutions, the country remained among the Global South’s rising unique examples. Although inequality is still a challenge, Government’s commitment towards addressing this gives us hope and assurance that by 2030, this will be a thing of the past.

As the United Nations in Botswana, we stand ready to step-up our support of the government’s development priorities, including its commitment to once and for all eradicate extreme poverty, to improve on educational outcomes and to further reduce maternal and under five mortality rates. We believe this is all possible within the next few years.

It is my belief, if trends continue, the world will not only meet more MDGs health targets in a very short period of time but also proceed to fast track the newly formulated SDG targets. Over the past 20 years, the likelihood of a child dying before age five has been nearly cut by half. Globally, the maternal mortality ratio dropped by 50%. More people than ever before are receiving antiretroviral therapy for HIV-infection. More than six million deaths from malaria were averted due to substantial expansion of malaria interventions. Enormous progress has been made, showing the value of a unified agenda underpinned by clearly defined goals and targets. Yet despite this progress, the indignity of poverty has not been ended for all.

That’s why these 17 new Goals will continue this journey towards progress for everyone that aims to go even further to focus the world on ending poverty, hunger and major health problems, as well as breaking new grounds by setting goals and targets on reducing the inequality gaps, attaining faster economic growth, creating decent jobs, addressing the energy for all, tackling climate change, and prioritizing and investing on peace, security and justice, among others.

I believe we will achieve substantial results by tackling the many interconnected challenges we face in our today’s world together. Taking action to achieve the Global Goals and building greater shared prosperity is in everybody’s best interest, it provides enormous investment opportunities that will benefit all people and the planet. Success in this new ambitious agenda for global action will be driven by leaders in governments, privates sector, civil societies and the people at all levels. The 17 Goals should matter to all of us, and we all have a shared responsibility for our future.

Let’s focus on our shared problems and work on overcoming the common problems all countries face. With new, interconnected Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that apply to all, we can go much further to end all forms of poverty, ensure no one is left behind, tackle unsustainable practices and chart a dignified future for all people in all countries.

The UN stands ready to support Botswana as it develops the next generation development plans, the Vision Beyond 2016 and the NDP11, for making the SDGs a reality. We are committed to working closely with the government, the private sector, civil society and many other partners in Botswana to achieve long lasting results for people and the planet.

*The author is the United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Botswana