Legislators Embrace National Rollout of the Sustainable Development Goals

As part of rolling out advocacy on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a multi-stakeholder dialogue was held from 11 to 12 May 2016 in Harare. The dialogues, which involved 180 Members of Parliament, the Office of the President and Cabinet, the United Nations and Development Partners, underlined those legislators as representatives of the people have the mandate to mobilize constituencies and to ensure the allocation of budget to attain the 17 SDGs by 2030. IMG_7670_Rev_0_0.jpg

Speaker of the National Assembly, Jacob Mudenda said that legislators would work with all key stakeholders including the UN family in ensuring the successful rollout and achievement of the SDGs.

To effectively roll-out the SDGs in Zimbabwe, the Speaker emphasized, “As parliamentarians we possess the power to set the tone for robust public discourse on the SDGs with focus on goals and results”.  Noting on the need to focus on domestic and foreign resource mobilization to fulfill the commitment on the SDGs, the Speaker said, “It is the responsibility of the Parliamentarians to scrutinize the policies and operations of government departments towards the SDGs and reviewing international agreements to assess their conformity with Zimbabwe’s performance.”

Meanwhile Senate President Edna Madzongwe said a proactive response to the SDGs was in tandem with Parliament’s institutional strategic plan of 2014 to 2018 to enhance equity and contributions from Parliament in the national development agenda.

 “The focus on the 17 SDGs is on delivery of basic human rights, food and nutrition, improved health and education, clean water and sanitation, as well as affordable clean energy, and as representatives of the people MPs need to press for prompt and concerted action on SDGs from the Executive,” she said.

“It is important for motions being raised in Parliament to focus on solutions and what MPs can do individually and collectively to ensure the success of SDGs.”

Madzongwe recommended that MPs could do this through cascading information to their constituents to ensure the national adoption of SDGs did not remain on paper, but was inculcated to communities down to ward level. “MPs can lobby for laws and policies that streamline SDGs, as it will ensure that the current laws meet the needs of the present generation,” she said.

Madzongwe also suggested that MPs promote attainment of SDGs through critically examining Bills brought before Parliament to ensure they conformed (aligned) to the SDG agenda, and through reviewing international treaties and conventions to assess their commitment to the global goals.

United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative to Zimbabwe, Bishow Parajuli urged Members of Parliament to take an active role in driving the SDGs which were adopted at the UN General Assembly last year.

“The SDGs are a global commitment to “take bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world on to a sustainable resilient path,” and in so doing ensure that “no one will be left behind.”

It emerged that given the broadness and inter-linkages of the SDGs, the new global agenda will require a collective and an integrated approach to address the various challenges. Parajuli said that legislators play a central role in policy formulation and relevant laws to facilitate pro-poor growth or budgetary allocations to prioritized sectors.

Parajuli said that the Addis conference on Financing for Development in July last year established a policy framework and agreed on concrete actions on how to finance the SDGs. Given the emerging development landscape, the delivery on the SDGs rests on a tripartite global partnership: the governments, private sector, and donors. But the fundamental responsibility for this global partnership lies with governments. This responsibility is multitude and challenging but within reach as the means and know-how to achieve the SDGs is abundant.

Parajuli added that the Government can play a decisive role in mobilizing the means and know-how to implement the SDGs. First and foremost is the active commitment to achieve the SDGs, which will require aligning existing policies to SDGs and designing policies to achieve SDGs through future policies and strategies.

Secondly, a policy environment conducive to attract capital is vital, especially for a country like Zimbabwe which is grappling with liquidity issues, narrow fiscal space, and limited investments. Capital is plentiful, but there is a need to have the right national and international policy environment to attract them.

Thirdly, Parajuli noted that transport infrastructure that facilitates both public and private investments should be enhanced through partnerships that minimize the burden on the fiscus.

Fourthly, the continuous upholding of universal norms and standards on the rule of law, human rights and good governance will incentivize the flow of Official Development Assistance and private capital.

UNDP Economics Advisor, Dr. Amarakoon Bandara said that the role Parliaments play is essential to increase a sense of national ownership and can also lead to improved progress on the road toward development. “Parliaments are key actors in most democracies and are in the unique position of representing various geographical areas, different social or ethnic groups, and diverse political viewpoints and traditions in making the SDGs a success,” Bandara said.

Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda noted that MPs, the youth and government departments should publicize SDGs. He said government will implement all SDGs with emphasis placed on 10 goals (2) to end hunger, (4) ensure equitable education, (5) achieve gender equality, (6) sustainable management of water and sanitation (7) ensure sustainable modern energy to all (8) promoting sustainable economic growth, (9) promote sustainable industrialization (10) reduce inequalities among countries (13) combat climate change and its impacts and (17) strengthen and implement global partnerships for sustainable development.

Meanwhile Macro-Economic Development Ministry Secretary, Desire Sibanda said the former MDGs were partially achieved because different sectors including Parliament and civic society were not aware of them.

“The African continent participated more on the formulation of the SDGs than the MDGs, and when the SDGs are being implemented they become an African and Zimbabwean document,” he said. Sibanda said there was need for political will at the highest level in the implementation of SDGs, including commitment by MPs.

“There is need to strengthen ZimStat so that they can contribute national information to the implementation of the SDGs. We need to engage the international community to unlock capital because without foreign direct investment we are unable to implement SDGs,” he said. “We should also look at issues of financing SDGs, which will require much more players than government alone in terms of domestic financing. We need to mobilize resources and curb illicit outflows, ensure we get value from the extractive industry and broaden the tax base, as well as Diaspora remittances that were close to $1 billion last year.”

Zimbabwe and UN signed the 2016 to 2020 Zimbabwe United Nations Development Assistance Framework (ZUNDAF) as a strategic programme framework to support SDGs transformation and Zim Asset in Zimbabwe.

With a budget of $1.64 billion to be mobilized, the 2016-2020 ZUNDAF aim is to support six priority areas that are HIV/Aids (16%), gender equality (3%), public administration and governance (4%), poverty reduction and value addition (13%), and food and nutrition (18%).

The two day dialogue ended with participants resolving to set-up a Parliamentary Committee on SDGs, to take the SDGs to their respective constituency and for the UN to provide a seminar on its engagement in Zimbabwe and on the SDGs.