Ensuring sustainable development
The term sustainable development is often misunderstood and some in the past have criticized it as being too vague.
“I know that this term is obligatory, but I find it also absurd, or rather so vague that says nothing.” Philosopher Luc Ferry
“The term is more charming than meaningful.” Philosopher Luc Ferry
The fact that this is a continuously evolving complex area that touches upon many interdisciplinary subjects makes it difficult to define. The United Nations Brundtland Report released in 1987 defined sustainable development as “development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Basically this first attempt to define sustainable development focuses on the interlinkages between economic development, environmental degradation and population pressure. Since then the idea on sustainability has been evolving. The United Nations 2005 World Summit Outcome Document defines the concept of sustainable development as “interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars” of economic development, socio-political development, and environmental development. The concept revolves on the relationship of these three pillars. Accordingly sustainable development should be socially and environmentally bearable, economically and environmentally viable and socially and economically equitable. There are indigenous peoples who are arguing through various international forums on the need to add a fourth pillar to sustainable development; cultural diversity. UNESCO’s “The Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity” of 2001 further elaborates this concept by stating that “cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature”. It states that “culture is one of the roots of development understood not simply in terms of economic growth, but also as a means to achieve a more satisfactory intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual existence”. Cultural diversity has quickly become another policy area of sustainable development.
Sustainable development is about managing economic, social and natural capitals. The general idea is about attaining continuous growth in a manner that protects resources, society and the environment although this sounds a bit paradoxical. Can development in one of these three areas be achieved without any significant impact on the others? Can progress be made on all three pillars in development projects?
The emphasis within the scope of sustainability itself cannot be the same in developed and developing countries. To be more specific for instance, the urging need of developing countries and their priorities are more leaned towards economic development and the priorities of those developed may be on social and environmental sustainability. So we should not expect all countries to have similar approaches and similar priorities on all three pillars of sustainable development even though these three are highly interrelated. Numerous books are written on the subject of sustainable development and most of them do not address Africa’s special needs.
John Baden, chairman of the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment, writes: “In economy as in ecology, the interdependence rule applies, isolated actions are impossible.” In reality, economic growth cannot be achieved without having any impact on society and the environment; the environment cannot be entirely protected without having any kind of impact on the economy and society; and there is no social development without any effect on the economy and the environment. Sustainable development is a concept with breadth and multiple dimensions that can be a maze of both complexity and contradiction.
Measurability is another controversial aspect of sustainable development. There is no one single indicator that measures sustainability. Joy E. Hecht in his paper: Can Indicators and Accounts Really Measure Sustainability? Consideration for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, underlined that measurability in sustainable development remained a challenge. He writes: “While much discussion and effort has gone into sustainability indicators, none of the resulting systems clearly tells us whether our society is sustainable. At best they can tell us that we are heading in the wrong direction, or that our current activities are not sustainable. More often they simply draw our attention to the existence of problems, doing little to tell us the origin of those problems and nothing to tell us how to solve them.” Others assume that the only way to make sustainability tangible is to have a set of well defined and harmonised indicators. And suggest that indicators should be identified and adjusted through empirical observations. Again it is essential to have a clear-cut understanding of the African context and take it into consideration in this practice.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) launched the first Sustainable Development Report on Africa (SDRA) in the 2004 – 2005 biennium. The SDRA is intended to help as a medium for assessing and monitoring sustainable development in Africa and among other things it is meant to promote a balanced integration of the three pillars of sustainable development which are economic, social and environmental. The second issue, SDRA-2 theme’s was Five-Years Review the Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD+5). The objective of this report was to provide the reader with an overview of Africa’s advancement in its implementation of the sustainable development agenda and to prompt action on the part of the various stakeholders, including governments, civil society, private sector and development partners, with the goal of accelerating progress towards meeting the continent’s sustainable development goals. The report touches on different thematic areas and reveals key findings including the challenges and constraints experienced during the implementation. The different aspects of sustainable development are covered in the report, even though all the relevant issues are not discussed in an exhaustive manner. That was not the goal of this report. However it provides pertinent information on the different aspects of sustainable development. The different thematic areas assessed in the report are sustainable development governance which includes peace, security and human rights; poverty eradication and socially sustainable development; sustainable consumption and production; natural resource base of economic and social development; the means of implementation and harnessing the interlinkages. Many key and relevant issues are covered under this report.
This kind of structured report and analytical work will help analyse the gap between the goals set and what’s actually achieved, hence allowing continuous improvement to be made in institutions and to policies and strategies to ensure sustainability. The three strategic pillars mentioned above are highly interrelated. The importance of having a contextually balanced and conscience approach cannot be stressed enough. In depth awareness of the African context of sustainable development is also vital.
According to the SDRA, the challenges faced in some countries on the continent and in some particular areas are constraints in the area of data collection. The report repeatedly underlined the need to strengthen the statistical capacity of countries to collect data that is essential for analysis and monitoring the progresses made.
African leaders committed themselves to NEPADs programme, and the results agenda of the MDGs, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) including other national and sectoral development plans. The NEPAD initiative and results agenda require the use of better statistics to have clear systematic measures and reports on the achievements of outputs, outcomes and impact of development policies. The African Centre for Statistics (ACS) is a division in the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. Among its mandate, is the responsibility to building statistical capacity and support member States, sub regional and regional organizations in the production of quality statistics. The Reference Regional Strategic Framework (RRSF) was developed to help build the capacity of national statistical offices in Africa after the UNECA repositioned itself in 2006. Since then the UNECA and its ACS division have been providing guidance to African countries on how to improve their statistics and increase their use in the critical areas of policy and decision making. Though many countries took advantage of such supports and made a dramatic improvement over the past five years, very limited progresses were made in some countries. The collection of data unique to sustainability, should also be given due attention. Countries should base their analysis and decisions on quality data.
The concept of sustainability has been vigorously challenged and still raises criticism at different levels. A number of intellectuals fiercely oppose it, arguing that the concept only helps the capitalists and some question the motive and purpose of sustainability. And others commented on the population control agenda that they believe to be at the root of this concept.
“Sustainable development is a policy approach that has gained quite a lot of popularity in recent years, especially in international circles. By attaching a specific interpretation to sustainability, population control policies have become the overriding approach to development, thus becoming the primary tool used to “promote” economic development in developing countries and to protect the environment.” Maria Sophia Aguirre
Some argue that the real purpose of sustainable development is to contain and limit economic development in developing countries, and in so doing control population growth. Joan Veon, a businesswoman and international reporter, posits that:
“Sustainable development has continued to evolve as that of protecting the world’s resources while its true agenda is to control the world’s resources. It should be noted that Agenda 21 sets up the global infrastructure needed to manage, count, and control all of the world’s assets.”
The other dispute comes from single focus groups such as environmental and human right activists. These single focus groups are merely concerned about one or two pillars of sustainable development and fail to recognize that sustainability requires interdisciplinary approach. Many lobbyists groups and NGOs campaign against nearly every development projects in the developing world. This is quickly becoming a trend, in most cases creating unnecessary pressure and tension. Recent economic progresses and international cooperation, especially Africa’s partnership with China, are allowing the constructions of new infrastructure. Gradually countries are building their Social Overhead Capital (SOC). This will in turn help them to attract more foreign investment. Many African countries are currently building hydropower dams and they see them as sources of clean energy.
One of the top ten economic performers in Africa is Ethiopia. It is currently building five hydropower dams and has recently launched a new project on the Blue Nile River that when operating at full capacity will produce 5,250 Megawatt. Western NGOs have been campaigning against some of the dams on environmental or human rights grounds. Over four hundred NGOs led by Survival International this month signed a petition against one of its nearly completed hydropower project, the Gibe III that is expected to generate 1,800 Megawatt. They say that 200,000 Ethiopians who rely on fishing and farming may become dependent on aid to survive if the dam goes ahead. The government argues that all the necessary studies where made and that the impact on both the society and environment is negligible. Here it is important to bring things into perspective. Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries and has been growing at a rapid rate of 10 plus percent a year for the past seven years and the demand for power is growing at an even higher rate every year. Chronic power shortages were common for the past few years in the country and have hindered investments. The government had to take decisive measures to put a halt to this energy problem that threatened to slow down the countries growth. And the country is trying to transform its agriculture driven economy to an industry driven economy in the coming five years. The country’s prime minister called those who are campaigning against the hydropower dam projects in Africa as “borderline criminals” who are helping to keep Africans poor.
“These people will not allow the disturbance of butterflies even if this means millions of people have to be subjected to the deadliest killer disease of all; poverty. I am not a believer in conspiracy theories but, if I were I would conclude that these people want Africa to remain as it is with all its misery and poverty so they can come and visit nature in its pristine state in winter every so often.” Meles Zenawi Prime Minister of Ethiopia
The important question will be: How can we proceed in the area of sustainable development?
Again economic development is at the core of sustainable development for developing countries. So the activities in these countries are and will continue to be driven by their hunger for economic growth. But this should not mean that social sustainability and environmental sustainability are going to be ignored. In fact, many African countries are making meaningful social and environmental advancements (development) and have not neglected the work in these areas.
There is a need for better consciousness on social and environmental issues and generally on sustainability. Government should continue fostering greater cooperation between the different stakeholders, including governments, civil society, private sector and development partners. Projects should be given careful thoughts, should be well analysed and the impact on society and environment weighed meticulously. However developing countries should not be crippled on grounds of ensuring sustainable development. What should be rather scrutinized is whether countries are undertaking the most socially and environmentally sustainable alternative possible to economic development. Given the resources, the economic condition of a particular country and its need to address development issues; is this project the best possible option as far as social and environmental sustainability is concerned. And a more cost benefit approach should be used as an alternative to evaluate sustainability. Sonia Bueno a Cuban-born researcher and entrepreneur made a very interesting suggestion in her essay: Transforming the Water and Waste Water Infrastructure into an Efficient, Portable and Sustainable System. In this essay she suggests an alternative approach that is based upon an integral, long-term cost-benefit relationship as a measure and monitoring tool for the sustainability of project, activity and enterprise. Under this concept the aim is to evaluate sustainable development by following the principles of conservation and increment of value rather than simply restricting any kind of impact on environment or society.
It is needless to say that developing countries should remain conscious about the social and environmental impact their economic activities might have. Whatever economic activities they undertake, whether it is building infrastructures and industries or running them, using energy, mining, achieving food security or speeding up urbanization, they should make cautious assessments to ensure better results in social and environmental sustainability. International cooperation and strategic partnerships should be developed further and for this to happen mutual understanding on the African context of sustainability is crucial. Ultimately the world has to learn to depend less on single focus whistle-blowers and make a carefully weighed and balanced judgement based on multidiscipline information.
The MDGs, NEPAD programme and Development
The achievement of the millennium development goals (MDGs) is critical for the realization of what some call the renaissance of Africa. The MDGs drawn from the United Nations millennium declaration at the millennium summit in 2000 provide a common framework for combating poverty, ensuring sustainable development and promote peace and security. It consists of eight goals thought to help break the vicious circle of poverty and put underdeveloped countries on a path of sustainable growth and development.
These eight goals: Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; Achieving universal primary education; Promoting gender equality and empowering women; Reducing child mortality; Improving maternal health; Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; Ensuring environmental sustainability; and Developing a global partnership for development, were more or less ideas in one of Jeffery Sachs’ famous books. Jeffery Sachs was the special adviser to the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. As the matter of fact anybody who read Jeffery Sachs book “The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Times” can easily identify his foot prints in the MDGs. In this book Sachs discuss about a plan that can help eradicate extreme poverty around the world by 2025 by focusing on the one billion poorest people around the globe caught in a poverty trap of disease, physical isolation, environmental challenges, political instability, and lack of access to basic required needs such as capital, technology, medicine, and education. He also shatters some persistent myths about poor people and shows how developing nations can do more to help themselves.
William Easterly in his book The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Effort to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good, sternly argues:
“The West spent $2.3 trillion in foreign aid over the last five decades and still had not managed to get 12 cent medicines to children to prevent half of all malaria deaths. The West spent $2.3 trillion and still had not managed to get $4 bed nets to poor families. The West spent $2.3 trillion and still had not managed to get $3 to each new mother to prevent five million child deaths.”
Easterly sharply criticizes Western large scale-planning that may seem appealing to market fundamentalist who call for market solutions to solve the problems associated with poverty and is one of the outspoken economist cynical about imposing the “Washington Consensus”. Easterly a University Economics professor is also a former World Bank economist. The way forward for him is to examine each culture individually and offer aid specific to local conditions.
Another economist, whose ideas are widely seen to be competing with those of Jeffery Sachs, is Paul Collier the author of “The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done about It”. Collier also focuses on the bottom billion. He reveals that fifty failed states; home to the one billion poorest people on earth, pose the most fundamental challenges of the developing world and pinpoints a set of solution that can help tackle the long standing issues. Collier analyzes the causes of failure identifying a set of traps that entangle such countries, including civil wars, reliance on extraction and export of natural resources, and bad governance. He wrote: “Standard solutions do not work, aid is often ineffective, and globalization can actually make matters even worse driving development to rich countries”. According to him what the bottom need is a bold new plan backed by the G8. He argues that the group of eight has to adopt policies, new laws against corruption, new international charters and even conduct carefully “calibrated” military interventions. Even though some of his suggestions sound extreme and impractical in the eyes of today’s international politics, he pointed out some key points in his analysis.
All three renowned economist mentioned above have wealth of experience and are people in touch with the realities in the developing world. And there intellectual works are based on great amount of statistics. Some see there views as different contradicting approaches in the battle against poverty but these are not competing ideas but rather very useful ideas complementing each other that can serve as general frameworks to be later on customized according to the need and context of each developing country. Looking at the progress of the MDGs, it is important to understand and recognize that in principle, we are in the right path in the stratified combat against the vicious circle of poverty. But there is an old expression that says the devil is in the details. That’s where in depth knowledge, analytical skills and great flexibility is required. How well can African nations develop strategies and policies within these broad frameworks to effectively achieve the goals? In other words the main question is: How can it be achieved?
The three economists mentioned above have a number of things in common and that includes their dissatisfaction with the approach used by the West for years.
Encouraged by the level of political commitment shown on the MDGs, African leaders embraced the call for global partnership to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger and in 2001 the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) was established. NEPAD programme is an all African initiative coherent with the MDGs. Most importantly it is owned and managed by Africans. Briefly described by the NEPAD Secretariat itself; “NEPAD is a pledge made by African leaders, based on a common vision and strong and shared conviction, that they have urging responsibilities to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger and to place their countries on a path of sustainable growth and development.” (Statement taken from: NEPAD in Brief)
Colonialism, the cold war, the world economic system and years of failed policies and ideologies exacerbated poverty and fuelled conflicts on the continent of Africa. In most cases post-colonial Africa inherited weak states and dysfunctional economies. Furthermore many African leaders lacked the political will required to take their countries out of poverty and Africa remained marginalized from the world economic and political scenes for decades. The battle of the two dominant ideologies during the cold war was another negative factor that further aggravated poverty and instability. For centuries Africa’s role in the global economy was limited to providing cheap labour and raw materials. Although the continent is rich in natural resources, these resources were largely misused and have been sources of conflicts in the majority of the cases.
After African countries gained their independence in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s they had only two options. And that was to follow capitalism or socialism; ideologies that were never meant for African nations. In fact the same is true for many other theories, ideologies and other economic philosophies. The problem was further exacerbated by the cold war as the two super powers tried to extend their ideological territories. The great divide created during the cold war has affected open mindedness on policy issues. Especially the US or more generally the West’s flexibility and its will to entertain other ideas have been seriously affected. And many international institutions and even some African intellectuals failed under their influence. The West including America has invested a great deal of money and tried to change the world for the better. There was no lack of good intensions. But it was done under a confined mind set. Many people are still in that cold war driven mentality even though they are not conscious about it. They are more ideological than pragmatic. Some American intellectuals should be conscious that views and ideas outside Capitalism are not necessarily Communism. At the same token the developing world was numbed by the deafening propaganda from the socialist camp. This has to change and is gradually changing.
TIME Magazine columnist Alex Perry in his essay; Lions on the Prowl: By confronting their problems, Africans have earned the right to dream great dreams, writes about how Africans have started addressing African problems. In this essay Perry discusses how Africa’s economic growth is rising steadily and the growing opportunities for investment. He wrote: “It isn’t in comparison with its past that Africa is doing well. It’s in comparison with the feted stars of the new economy.” In a paragraph that depicts the current political and economic environment he wrote: “But when the global elite meet in Davos, they might take a moment, stop thinking about China and the European sovereign debt crisis and the democratic sclerosis in the US, and think about the continent that often gets left out when great matters of globalization are discussed.” And in another paragraph he adds: “The benefits of globalization, long something of a conviction at Davos will mean something really mean something – when they are extended not just to Asia’s but to everyone.”(Quotations from: TIME January 31, 2011 issue)
French President Nicolas Sarkozy who assumed the EU’s rotating presidency seems to be committed to put a halt to Africa’s marginalization from the world political and economic arenas. The President visited Addis Ababa during the 16th Ordinary Session of the African Union Commission. He expressed his support for Africa to have a more active role in the United Nations Security Council, the IMF and the World Bank. In an interview to Capital (an Ethiopian News Paper) the French ambassador to Ethiopia Jean-Christophe Belliard says: “The French President is coming with new ideas, and if there is one outcome we want to see, it is Africa having a better say in world affairs, a fair representation of Africa in the UN Security council, a fair representation of Africa in the IMF, the World Bank, G8 and G20. France wants Africa to be heard and represented, not on ad-hoc basis but regularly.”
The fact that this view is rapidly gaining momentum is encouraging for Africa. But on the other hand it is essential for Africans to improve in the area of policy making and analytical thinking. Open debates on policy issues, is critical and can help Africans refine their skill in this area. It is only then the continent will take advantage of such political settings.
NEPAD provides a framework for sustainable development. The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) recognizes that achieving sustainable economic growth and development requires creating enabling environment at all levels. The plan calls on international development partners to support the continent’s effort to foster peace, security and stability, conflict resolution and prevention, democratization, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, gender equality and good governance. These were identified by African leaders as the necessary conditions required for ensuring sustainable growth and development. The NEPAD Secretariat has continued to offer intellectual leadership and technical and policy support in the priority areas for which it was established. Africa has made a significant leap over the last few years in the areas of agriculture and food security, good governance, capacity development, gender, infrastructure development, education and health, science and technology, trade and markets access; environment and climate change. The NEPAD Secretariat works closely with the African Regional Communities (REC). The RECs are responsible for the implementation of development programme but the NEPAD secretariat coordinates and mobilises resources. NEPAD is doing a very good job in this area. However NEPAD’s planned integration into the African Union is a great concern. NEPAD may be drowned in the bigger bureaucracy of the African Union and become less effective. Africa should proceed with caution and carefully consider the terms of the integration. However if successful the integration will make political leadership more convenient and help reduce redundancy.
The MDG Report 2009 (MDGR 2009): Assessing Progress in Africa toward the Millennium development Goals indicated that the progress towards achieving the MDGs was on course despite the food crisis, fuel crisis, and the global financial and economic crisis that started in the year 2008. The report also underlined the need to scale up the much-needed development assistance by development partners if gains are to be safeguarded and future achievements secured.
Even though from the very first beginning some development partners failed to increase aid and development assistance as pledged, international cooperation has brought the MDGs a long way in Africa. China’s development assistance and vendor financing including the technology transfer it brings along, GTZ’s (now GIZ) work on capacity building, infrastructure, good governance and its partnership with Africa in the area of peace and security, US assistance and increased aid on HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis, European Union attempts to eradicate poverty by encouraging trade and providing aid for MDGs and fostering them, are among the different areas of global cooperation. Development partners and international institutions are becoming more and more effective by focusing mainly on technical assistance. The African Union, NEPAD, the African Development Bank and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa are providing intellectual leadership and strategic framework for Africa. UN agencies, funds and programmes, NGOs and other IGOs (Inter-governmental Organizations) are engaged in the more technical areas of implementation.
The recent economic crisis presents challenges in achieving the MDGs. G8 countries struggled to meet pledges made for development assistance. And the situation can get even worst with most of developed countries deep in deficit. European countries are taking drastic austerity measures and the Euro zone is in profound crisis. Some argue that governments have spent a lot of money treating the symptoms of a huge economic disaster and are left with virtually nothing to deal with the main issues. And they predict that the tough times are only ahead. Hence developed countries may not be in the position to maintain the level of development assistance.
Look at the trillions of dollars spent in aid. What was actually achieved? Many argue that development aid from the West has done very little good and that African leaders have become heavily dependent on it that they have become reluctant in bringing development. They argue that aid money is rarely used for the right purpose and has rarely reached the intended recipients and that it has been only serving the corrupt. This is a legitimate observation. But the most important question is why? It is mainly because of the way aid was provided. And this is not a matter of personal opinion but of factual assertions with relevant data. Africans heavily depended on off-the-shelf policies from the West and were indifferent to answer the demand of their people. There was no African initiative in the efforts made to lift Africa from its poverty and the path followed for decades was more or less fruitless. It is true that Africa should learn to be less dependent on foreign aid. And there should be a mechanism to ensure that aid is used for the right purpose and ensure accountability and transparency. There are some progresses in this aspect as well.
The need for efficiency and adequate utilization of scares resources is becoming more critical than ever. Given the current economic situation, development partners may or may not be able to live up to Africa’s expectations when it comes to aid. Africa should improve on the way it uses and mobilize resources. Improvement in efficiency of resource utilization including cracking down on corruption, prioritising different development activities based on their importance and supply only the necessary fund and cutting the cost of less important activities, reducing non-productive consumption and mobilizing local resources seem the way forward for Africa. The economic growth that many African countries have managed to produce over the last few years should boast further economic development and sustainability on the continent. But this can only happen if Africans can cut on their non-productive consumptions and reinvest the wealth or the capital gained. Fostering savings and subsequently being able to mobilize these resources and channelling them to the right development activities should be given due consideration. The other critical area for securing resources for development is in the area of tax collection. If government can effectively collect taxes in a timely manner, it will certainly help secure more resources.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has a division working on strategic frameworks in the area of regional integration, trade and international negotiation, infrastructure and natural resources development. The division in charge previously known as the NEPAD and Regional Integration Department (NRID) now the Regional integration, Infrastructure and Trade Division (RIITD) is responsible for the development of natural resources in Africa. Its task is essentially to do analytical works and provide intellectual leadership for the achievement of NEPAD goals on regional integration, trade and infrastructure. During his visit to Addis Ababa, Australian Foreign minister Kevin Rudd pledged that his country will work with Africa in the area of mining and Energy. Australia has a vast experience in this area. And the cooperation will allow Africans develop new regulations and enhance the existing ones to maximize benefits from natural resource. The Foreign minister promised that his country will be working closely with the African Union to bring new breakthroughs in this area. For a continent where most countries heavily rely on natural resources for economic growth, the need for leadership and cooperation in mining and energy is vital. Ensuring that African countries get the right benefits from these resources should be one of the top priorities.
Six countries in the list of top ten world countries ranking, based on the average annual decline in the poverty rate are African countries. These are namely Gambia, Mali, Senegal, Ethiopia, The Central African Republic, and Guinea. The economist notes that there were challenges in the area of funding as development partners struggle to fulfil pledges made to support and accelerate development and that the global financial crisis made it even more challenging. However, it is also important to note that meeting the MDGs and NEPAD targets is not limited to spending more money. The economist made some important remarks; “the top performers in Africa got successful in cutting poverty not by spending public money but by encouraging rapid economic growth.” That’s where effective policy making, strategy formulation and implementation come in the picture. Meeting the targets is not a matter of merely spending large sum of money it goes beyond that. It is also about stimulating the economy in the right way.
There are also other views. The Economist Magazine (issue: September 25th 2010) wrote that in ten years, the living conditions of the poor have been improving – but not necessarily because of the UN’s goals. Than how were the reductions in enfant mortality, and increased maternal health and literacy were achieved in Africa? How is Africa making progress in combating HIV/Aids, Malaria and Tuberculosis? How is the continent achieving an annual economic growth average of 5.5%? If there are any valid arguments about how these are being achieved without the MDGs, then they should be made public. But we haven’t seen one yet and the ones already made are a bit ambiguous. The United Nations has defended the MDGs and its secretary general Ban Ki-Moon, called the MDGs “a milestone in international cooperation”.
“The United Nations reckons that in 2008 over a quarter of children in the developing world were underweight, a sixth of people lacked access to safe drinking water, and just under half used in sanitary toilets or none at all. But while these figures are disquieting, a smaller fraction of people were affected than was the case two decades ago. So such data also indicate the world’s progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of targets adopted by world leaders at the UN ten years ago.”(The economist)
The MDGs and NEPAD programme are in fact taking Africa forward.
Whether African countries decide to follow balanced or unbalanced growth strategy or focus on food security by improving the productivity of the subsistent farmer and encouraging large scale corporate farming, or/and focus on land management, insuring environmental sustainability, human capacity building and develop their social overhead Capital (SOC); they have to come up with some real-time feasible plan that has taken their particular situation into consideration. Doing so requires having broader perspectives and being more practical. African intellectual leadership and the increased level of African initiative have played a decisive role in the current development achievements. Again Africa should continue building its capacity in the area of policy making. Western partnership in empowering Africans in this area is critical. When attempts to further involve Africa in international affairs yield fruit, we can expect that development will be even more accelerated.
Issues related to development, sustainability and peace are of cyclical nature. If there is no development there is nothing to sustain. If there is no sustainable development there is no peace. And if there is no peace there is not going to be some meaningful development. So the question is how do we sustain development? The next part of the African Road Map Series will focus on Sustainability.