The UN message on the Gaborone declaration for sustainability in Africa

Oct 8, 2013

This gathering is a follow-up to last year’s Summit that recognized the value of Africa’s natural capital to sustainable economic growth, maintenance and improvement of social capital and human well-being. The resultant Declaration, the Gaborone Declaration, demonstrates the commitment by the signatory countries to put the value of natural capital at the centre of decision-making, planning, reporting and business practice. There are 3 very important aspects of the Declaration that I would like to emphasize:
a. Sustainable development
b. The role of the private sector
c. Learning from each other’s experiences

Sustainable Development: The linkages between Africa’s natural capital and its social and economic needs cannot be addressed in isolation. The mounting challenges that the continent faces, including the degradation of natural resources, unavoidable consequences of climate change and an uncertain global economic environment require a different  development approach. Sustainable Development offers a way forward. As described in the Outcome Document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (‘Rio+20’), ‘….poverty eradication, changing unsustainable and promoting sustainable patterns of consumption and production and protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development are the overarching objectives and essential requirements for sustainable development,’ (para 4). 

Sustainable human development (SHD) reinforces this approach by emphasizing that the capabilities and wellbeing of people, and their relationship with the environment that sustains them, are what matter. SHD, therefore, focuses on ‘….the expansion of people’s freedoms to live long, healthy and creative lives; to advance other goals they have reason to value; and to engage actively in shaping development equitably and sustainably on a shared planet.’ It is imperative that the evidence of the implementation of the Gaborone Declaration will be on how it has contributed to moving Africa on to a sustainable development pathway.

In UNDP, our focus is moving towards helping countries achieve the simultaneous eradication of extreme poverty and significant reduction of inequalities and exclusion using a sustainable human development approach.

In this regard, the actions towards the Gaborone Declaration, however small they may be, go way beyond the Declaration’s own objectives and Action Statements. They enable countries to actually address the provisions of global development frameworks such as the Rio+20 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets among others.

It is also important, as we move on with the implementation of this initiative, to take note of the global development agenda. As we are all aware, the global development discourse is moving towards a new development framework beyond the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to a framework that has sustainable development and sustainable development goals (SDG) at the centre.

The Role of Non-state Actors: Sustainable development will not be attained by governments on their own. The involvement of the private sector and civil society will be important for development in general and for this initiative in particular. There is widespread evidence on the role that civil society plays in creating awareness and building capacity especially at the local level. A significant proportion of economic activity takes place through the private sector, including employment, processing of natural products into finished goods that are consumed locally or exported. Their buy-in and active participation will greatly enhance the objectives of the Gaborone Declaration. There are companies that are making progress in integrating sustainability in their operations, which serve as good examples for others to learn from. In summary, there are growing opportunities for innovative work with civil society organisations, the private sector, foundations, research institutions and other non-state actors. 

Learning from each other: Let us acknowledge that there is a lot of work that has been done, and that is going on in the area of natural capital and sustainable development in Africa and other developing regions. What is needed is for the experiences from this work to be shared for mutual benefit. This goes very well along the concept of South-South and triangular cooperation that maximises mutual benefits. We need to share knowledge on what has worked and what hasn’t together with information on who is involved and what they can offer. We also need to learn from each other the best ways to structure and harmonise policies, legal frameworks and regulations in ways that support sustainable development.

Let me conclude by saying that as UNDP, we have realized that the world is changing, and we are aligning our work to address the challenges associated with this change. Our work is now focusing more on ensuring that the following is achieved:
Sustainable human development is embedded substantively in development debate and action at all levels.
Growth is inclusive and sustainable, incorporating productive capacities that create livelihoods for the poor and excluded.
Citizen expectations for voice, effective development, the rule of law and accountability are met by stronger systems of democratic governance.
Countries have strengthened institutions to progressively deliver universal access to basic services.
Faster progress is achieved in reducing gender inequality and promoting women’s empowerment.
Countries are able to reduce and manage risks of conflict and natural disasters, including from climate change. 
Early recovery and rapid return to sustainable human development pathways are achieved in post-conflict and post-disaster settings. 

All of these are at the centre of sustainability and sustainable human development principles and can help countries achieve simultaneous eradication of poverty and significant reduction of inequalities and exclusion which form the vision of UNDP from 2014 onwards.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank You!

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