No one must be left behind!

Abimbola Akosile examines the various efforts to ensure that the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are realised in Nigeria and other parts of Africa through collective stakeholder involvement, which was the focus of a regional meeting jointly organised by the Open Society for West Africa (OSIWA) and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) in Accra, Ghana, recently

Someone once defined the new sustainable development goals in a unique manner. To the sanguine fellow and friend of this reporter, SDGs simply mean development of the people, by the people, and for the people.

This suave definition goes against the norm, where democracy and development, especially as currently practised in many African countries, has repeatedly excluded and marginalised the average citizen, who are supposed to be the direct beneficiaries of any development process.
From the executive, who, upon assumption of power, are immediately insulated in cocoons of power away from the view of the common man; to the legislature, who are more concerned with gains from their perks of offices than fulfilling the aspirations of the electorate; and the judiciary which more often than not favours the elite at the expense of the masses, there has been a disconnect between the gains of development and onward delivery to the direct beneficiaries.
The same disconnect, which was glaring in the relatively non-inclusive nature of the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is now a major focal point of discussion among concerned stakeholders, especially the civil society groups around Nigeria and Africa; with the need to address it and ensure the SDGs are inclusive and meet the development yearnings of the people.

Governance Barometer

And this was the same reason why the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) hosted a regional brainstorming meeting in Accra, Ghana from August 10 to 12 on the design of an SDG Governance Barometer.
The Accra meeting followed a conceptual meeting that was organised by OSISA and the Pan African Parliament Secretariat in 2015, and a follow up meeting between OSISA’s Economic and Social Justice Cluster and the Democracy and Governance Cluster with OSIWA in March 2016.

The meeting sought to chart a way forward in the type of governance barometer that will be developed for the post-2015 development agenda, taking into consideration the goals, targets and indicators developed for the SDGs. The overall goal of developing the barometer is to mobilise civic engagement in holding their governments accountable for realising the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda.

The governance barometer is envisaged as a platform that will strengthen the voice of civic organisations and strengthen the oversight capability of national and regional parliaments.
The specific objectives of the forum included: to help identify an approach for the barometer; to interrogate the potential of parliamentary bodies and by exploring and identifying strategic partners within the African Union agencies; and to identify key pressure points and interventions required to address anticipated challenges in the implementation of the post-2015 agenda.

Prioritising Inclusion
According to a development expert, Dr. Otive Igbuzor of the Centre for Leadership and Development, Abuja, “Inclusiveness encompasses equity, equality of opportunity and protection in market and employment. Inclusive growth refers to both the pace and pattern of growth. It is about raising the pace of growth and enlarging the economy while leveling the playing field for investment and increasing productive employment opportunities.

In a recent presentation titled ‘Setting an Agenda for Inclusive and Sustainable Development in an Era of Change in Nigeria’, Igbuzor noted that “Inclusive growth is a concept that advances equitable opportunities for economic participation during economic growth with benefits incurred by every section of society. Inclusive growth aims to improve living standards and share the benefits of increased prosperity more evenly across social groups.”

Also, a development analyst, Mr. Lekan Fatodu, harped on the need for the private sector to be actively involved in the implementation and the realisation of the SDGs in Nigeria and Africa.
In a position paper titled ‘SDGs: Finding the Missing Link’, Fatodu noted that the SDGs are out to deepen conversations on global development and impose more responsibility on every stakeholder around the world towards their achievement.

“Renowned economist, Jeffrey Sachs, has described the SDGs as a new kind of globalisation. Indeed, the adoption of the SDGs can be seen as a serious response to all that is lacking in globalisation, and as a firmer resolve in ensuring economic growth, social fairness and environmental sustainability. However, moving this new agenda to a desirable end would require more committed hands that will work with governments across the world, which will prepare the ground towards the actualisation of these ambitious goals.

“Consequently, the private sector is counted on to bring the needed hands. The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, was first to make the call to the private sector. He said “Our planet and its people are suffering too much. This year has to be the moment for turning global promises into reality. Governments must take the lead with decisive steps. At the same time, businesses can provide essential solutions and resources that put our world on a more sustainable path.”

Fatodu identified some Western business leaders who have taken practical roles in response to the UN scribe’s call. These included British billionaire and entrepreneur, Richard Branson, who through Virgin Unite launched a digital-based initiative termed Global Goals Alliance to increase awareness on the SDGs. The world’s richest man, Bill Gates, has also thrown his weight behind the new agenda, and on efforts towards the attainment of the goals.

He noted that “While efforts being made by Marine Platforms led by Mr. Taofik Adegbite and Heirs Holdings, headed by Mr. Tony Elumelu are recognisable, involvement of more individuals of influence from the private sector would positively improve the ratio of the country on the SDGs index. And to potential contributors and supporters of this global agenda, this is not just about aligning the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy of companies to the SDGs,” he added.

Vital Outlook
Analysts believe there is need to mainstream citizen participation and ownership in the development process in Nigeria and Africa. Through various channels, citizens can get to hold their governments accountable for any lapses, make meaningful inputs in the development planning and implementation process.

The proposed governance barometer on the SDGs, which was exhaustively debated in Ghana, seeks to provide tools and various platforms to citizens across Africa to engage the development process across the continent, from town-hall meetings to parliamentary sessions; from private sector involvement to engagement with traditional rulers and religious leaders, who can form powerful pressure or lobby groups.

Also, using development initiatives like the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), best lessons and sustained awareness creation can help boost partnerships between government, civil society, the media and most importantly the citizens, who are the direct beneficiaries, in successful implementation of the SDGs. To ensure no one is left behind, that is a worthwhile goal.