Hilary Ogbonna

Acting Regional Coordinator, Africa of the United Nations SDG Action Campaign, Mr. Hilary Ogbonna spoke with Abimbola Akosile on the side-lines of a regional meeting on developing a governance and accountability mechanism for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa organised by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) at the Kempinski Hotel, Accra, Ghana, recently. Excerpts:

I noticed the name of the organisation has changed from the United Nations Millennium Campaign (UNMC) to the UN SDG Action Campaign; what is the reason behind this transformation?

Our earlier mandate of the UN Millennium Campaign (UNMC) expired with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on December 31, 2015. Prior to that in October 2015, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon invited us to present to him a new strategy that would ensure our new level of action corresponds to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and after that our mandate was now renewed under a new global campaign called the UN-SDG Action Campaign.

The motive and objective of this new campaign is not too different from the earlier Millennium Campaign but in addition to that we are now enabled and empowered to be the new UN inter-agency initiative under the UN Development Group (UNDG) that would do basically three things: first is mobilise citizens and other stakeholders for the promotion and propagation of the SDGs; two is popularise the goals of the SDGs, and three is ensure accountability, monitoring and evaluation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Now the focus of our achieving all this agenda would mean that we would work first and foremost with citizens, citizens across board, empowering them with different tools, empowering them with capacity, giving them spaces and platforms through which they would not only understand the SDGs but are able to see themselves as major players in the process of national domestication and the implementation of the SDGs, building upon the participatory processes of the post-2015 process that you would all agree with me has been one of the most engaging and participatory processes in the history of the United Nations. We would also be building partnerships, multi-stakeholder partnerships working with governments, parliaments, local authorities, the private sector, the academia and civil society to forge national and global consensus in terms of implementing the SDGs, monitoring the SDGs and participatory reporting processes that would bring in citizen-generated data in form of surveys, in form of citizens’ dialogues, citizens’ tracking tools and our ability to get all these but also to coalesce them into impactful outputs would be one of our major expectation of our roles as the UN-SDG Action Campaign.

Can you shed more light on the update in meeting the various citizens’ needs encapsulated in MyWorld Survey?

What we have done with MyWorld Survey is monumental; we have shown that it is possible for the voices of citizens to not only be gathered but also to be used to influence global and national processes, and building on that, we are now at the level of going to develop a new survey that would capture the entire 17 goals, we call that MyWorld 2030. This is going to gauge, assess the vision of citizens on how their governments are implementing the SDGs; it is going to be a periodic survey where we would be asking people questions on how their government is implementing the SDGs. We hope that by later this year we would be rolling out pilot launches in different countries, the entire methodology is being developed now and we hope that Nigeria will still provide leadership as far as the rolling out of this is concerned.

For this SDGs process to be successful the role of parliamentarians cannot be under-emphasised or over-emphasised as the case may be. Now I recall there was a recent parliamentarians’ retreat on these SDGs held at the National Assembly in Abuja, Nigeria; is there any fallout from that retreat, has there been an improvement on implementation of the SDGs?

Yes, following up from that retreat was a regional parliamentary conference on the SDGs under the auspices of the African Network of Parliamentarians on the SDGs that was hosted by the National Assembly of Nigeria. We have gone ahead to develop a parliamentary manual on the SDGs. This manual shows the different roles parliaments can play in the domestication, in the implementation and in the monitoring of the SDGs. We have a draft now and we hope that it would become a tool that parliaments across Africa would use. We are also strengthening engagement at national levels with national parliaments, we are providing support for the formation of parliamentary committees and caucuses; we are giving them tools with which they can use to raise motions on the SDGs, tools that they can use to further push for how their countries would be engaging with the SDGs in terms of accountability, in terms of financing, in terms of oversight roles, all the roles that the parliaments need to play in SDGs implementation. We see that happening with the parliamentary committees and caucuses.

It has been several months since the new global 17 Sustainable Development Goals were adopted by member-countries at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, in September 2015. From your own viewpoint, is Nigeria still on the right track towards realising these SDGs?

It is too early to talk of right track and wrong track. What Nigeria has is, institutions in place that were already used to implement the MDGs. Those institutions at national and state levels are still there and Nigeria is building upon it. I think it is still too early to judge whether we are on the right track or not. Nigeria was one of the earliest countries to develop a Transition Plan for the SDGs. We hope that by next year Nigeria would be saying we are implementing development strategy that has integrated in it the SDGs. We also hope to similar initiatives at State level. I think this is a transition period; the major question should be asked from January next year (2017) with the national and state budgets, programmes and emerging frameworks.

Are all the SDG goals realisable, even the ones talking about jobs for everybody?

All the SDG goals are realisable; they are realisable if all the environment are put in place, if the right political will is put in place. They are all realisable because they are not different from the vision of governments. Governments across the world want to provide jobs for their people; governments across the world want to end poverty, there is no government that wants to spread poverty. I think these are day-to-day government vision and aspirations and I think the time has come for us to ensure that our governments own it, and that our governments ensure that they (the SDGs) are doable and achievable.