Consultation on the implementation of Agenda 2030 and the national Leave No One Behind dialogue

Nov 16, 2016

UNDP Country Director Mr. Walid Badawi making a Keynote address

Theme: “One year appraisal of SDGs implementation process in South Africa and lessons learned”


Programme Director,

Ms. Shange-Buthane, Executive Director, Amnesty International South Africa

Ms. Mniki Mangaliso, Director of African Monitor

Mr. Ameermia, Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission

Mr. Andre Nikwigize, Partners for Peace

Representatives of Government, civil society UN Agencies,

Fellow participants,

Ladies and gentlemen.

All Protocols observed.

On behalf of UNDP South Africa, I would like to thank Amnesty International, CSVR and African Monitor for inviting me to be with you this morning. I am honoured to have been requested to speak to you in this consultative workshop that seeks to take stock of the domestication of SDGs and to plot a way forward on how to ensure that civil society as well as all marginalised and excluded voices are part of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

This consultation comes at an opportune time as over the past few months we in the UN have been hard at work here in South Africa and elsewhere to support the mainstreaming and domestication of the SDGs, working with a range of partners both within and outside government in this endeavor.

In June this year, UNDP was pleased to organize a public debate, dubbed the OR Tambo debate on SDG domestication in South Africa which brought together government, represented by the Statistician General, the Director General in the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), together with the private sector, all under the independent academic platform of the Wits School of Governance and in partnership with the Tambo Foundation. This curtain raiser, helped to unpack some of the opportunities and challenges confronting SDG domestication and I will elaborate more on these later in my intervention.

But moving beyond this debate, the UN in South Africa has been reaching out to a wide range of other partners including several government departments, the private sector, Development Financing Institutions, the legislature and international development/donor partners on this agenda. Importantly in all these engagements, a recurring theme has been the pivotal role of civil society and the need to ensure that civil society is an integral part of the implementation, monitoring and reporting on the progress the country is making on the SDGs.

Progress in mainstreaming and implementation: local and international experiences

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me now turn to the topic I have been asked to address here today which is: “One year appraisal of SDGs implementation in South Africa and lessons learned.”

While these are still early days to be talking about the implementation of SDGs since we have only had them for one year, let me attempt to provide some perspectives on this. But first let us contextualize the development space as these are indeed challenging times for development in South Africa and in many other developing countries who must contend with, among others:

A sluggish economy due to a range of factors not least is the low commodity prices and low demand which is posing fiscal constraints on government

Severe droughts exacerbated by the impact of El Nino

Pervasive inequalities and discrimination.  As we know, disadvantage comes in many forms, affecting the poor in general, women, and marginalized groups. Lack of access to opportunity and to basic services holds back human development, and those suffering these deprivations are the least able to influence the political process. The 2030 Agenda compels us to support development which is inclusive of all.

So what will it take to achieve the 2030 Agenda in these trying circumstances?

First, strong national ownership and leadership is needed – I believe there is strong commitment by the South African Government to domesticate and mainstream the 2030 Agenda into the NDP. Efforts by DPME, Stats SA and others to do so have already begun and efforts to clarify who will lead the national SDG coordination process towards domestication is awaited and we look forward to working with that nodal department.

Second, the pledge to ‘leave no one behind’ is the cornerstone of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. It calls on countries to reduce inequalities by tackling income disparities and discrimination in laws and social norms. We know that the NDP focuses on the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment, so the policy framework is in place so we must now work to unleash human potential where special attention must be paid to the following communities:

Women: UNDP’s 2016 African Human Development Report estimates that gender inequality in Africa’s labour market costs the continent as much as $95 billion per year. Investing in women and girls is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. A review of the NDP as compared to the SDGs reveals some gaps in this area of gender equality and we see opportunities for further strengthening I this area

Youth. With more than sixty per cent of its population under the age of 35, South Africa has the opportunity for an enormous demographic dividend – if the right investments are made. Youth empowerment and employment must be a priority.

Urban populations. Many of South Africa’s poorest and most marginalized people now live in cities. Indeed by 2030 more than half the continent’s population will be urbanised. The New Urban Agenda adopted at Habitat III in Ecuador last month aims to ensure that cities can be inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. But there is much to do to achieve that.

Rural communities – particularly those living with little infrastructure and few services, and/or in remote borderlands. We can learn a lot from our engagement with cross-border initiatives like that backed by the Governments of Ethiopia and Kenya, and from our global experiences with devolution of governance and off-grid energy solutions.

Third, sustainable development requires whole of government and cross-sectoral approaches. Often the key obstacle to achieving an important goal will be outside the immediate sector targeted for attention. This became clear when obstacles to achieving the MDGs were analysed – results in one targeted area depended on progress in others. With the SDGs it will be critical to identify and act on key accelerators of progress from the outset –such as the empowerment of women and girls, sustainable energy for all, and inclusive growth which contributes to poverty eradication and reducing inequalities and marginalization.

Fourth, broad coalitions around the SDGs are needed. Achieving the SDGs is a multi-trillion dollar challenge. It requires domestic resource mobilisation, public and private investment, technology transfer, knowledge exchange, innovation, and capacity development. Aid flows and concessional finance will remain critical for least developed, low income, and vulnerable countries, but no so much for an upper middle income country like South Africa. An ability to harness and channel these vast resources towards NDP outcomes is a major challenge which will require further consideration by all involved.

Parliaments and civil society have important roles to play in raising awareness and monitoring progress made on the 2030 Agenda and in ensuring accountability for commitments made. To be effective, they will need access to data, and the capacity to analyse it, and they must have voice. This is where organizations like African Monitor are vital.  You, together with other similar formations, speak for the voiceless. You demand action by those who are responsible and accountable to deliver on national and local programmes. You demand attention to dignity and opportunity for every man, woman, child and family.

Finally, public mobilization is critical. A recent survey by GlobeScan, a market research firm, found the average level of public awareness of the SDGs across thirteen countries was just 28 per cent. Public awareness in the two African countries in the survey was above average – at 34 per cent for Kenya and thirty per cent for Nigeria. More work on this is needed in South Africa and civil society will be a critical player in this regard.

Ladies and gentlemen, more lessons can be gleaned as several countries have initiated SDG-focused programmes which are being documented by the UN as pioneering case studies in early SDG implementation. Country experiences have been documented in a publication called “The Sustainable Development Goals are coming to life – stories of country implementation and UN support.” We would be happy to share a link to this publication with you which expounds on the lessons I have highlighted.

The report indicates that among the countries that have made good progress in ensuring multi stakeholder forums in the SDG agenda include, El Salvador that has established a National Council for Sustainable Development to foster synergies amongst development stakeholders for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. But also Uganda, Brazil, Indonesia, Georgia, and the Dominican Republic have undertaken similar measures, just to name a few.

In South Africa, we are exploring with the government the possibility of setting up a national steering committee involving all stakeholders to ensure a more structured and systematic approach. In this connection, I am happy to note that later in the day a panel will look at multi-stakeholder engagement which can probe this issue further and propose viable options which UNDP will be pleased to contribute some global experiences in that regard.  Should a concrete proposal emerge, UNDP would be happy to bring this to government attention for consideration.

I would like to say something on specifically on SDG 16, whose main focus is on governance, participation and inclusivity. In conversations we have had with Government stakeholders, they have acknowledged the central role of civil society – Stats SA is developing Governance indicators and has indicated that most of the data in this area is sitting with civil society organisations and government must work with them – DPSA in the OGP country action plan has identified the National Alliance for the Development of Community Advice Offices as lead implementing agency. As UNDP we are supporting and partnering in these efforts on SDG 16 and look forward to collaborating with you further to ensure that South Africa has a robust SDG monitoring framework.

UN role in Mainstreaming and Supporting SDGs agenda

Let me now turn briefly to the role of the UN. The UN development system has initiated a programme of support at the country level to bring the SDGs down to a level where they can be integrated into national programmes of action. This programme defines a common approach for effective and coherent implementation support, under the acronym MAPS which stands for Mainstreaming, Acceleration and Policy Support. MAPS provides a shared resource for the UNCT’s substantive engagement with governments and partners on the SDGs, paying special attention to the crosscutting elements of partnerships, data and accountability.

In UNDP, we are also hosting a new SDG Action Campaign building on the experience of the former Millennium Campaign for the MDGs.  It’s an advocacy campaign which aims to give voice to citizens and civil society and to encourage them to engage in and monitor implementation of the 2030 Agenda at local and national levels. 

Our online platform, My World 2030, will also keep working to build the profile for the SDGs and engage the widest possible cross-section of global society with them.  This platform did a wonderful job in getting many millions of citizens around the world engaged with the design of the SDGs. A big message from that outreach was that people want to stay engaged – the My World platform can facilitate that.


With the strong engagement and advocacy of civil society, of which African Monitor is such an important part, and by building broad coalitions of action across society, I believe it is possible to move mountains, move governments, and bring about change.

As you go into the afternoon session, I will leave you with some key challenges and questions that you may wish to ponder including:

How best can civil society formations organize themselves and speak with one voice?

Is the umbrella/alliance approach the best way to go or should a sectors/goals approach be more useful to ensure maximum and meaningful engagement?

Is civil society doing enough to bring the voices of the poor and marginalised into the 2030 Agenda?

Let me close with one of my favorite quotes by Margaret Mead, who said: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” You We have the power to change the world. Let us rise and use it.

I thank you.

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