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Will Malawi realise the 17 SDGs?

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On September 25, 2015 world leaders adopted 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) at this year’s United Nations General Assembly. The SDGs replace the eight Millennium Development Goals that were adopted in 2000 with a 15-year life span.

They are expected to expire in December.

And Malawi leader President Peter Mutharika commended the adoption of the goals as the only way out of the many challenges that are centred on extreme hunger and poverty saying the achievement of four Millennium Goals in the past 15 years is the manifestation that the country can as well achieve the new 17 SDGs.

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“With respect to the new goals we are going to end goal number one on poverty alleviation with specific targets, we know 80 percent of people are in rural areas and they are our farmers who produce all these things that we eat so we are going to make sure that they are able to make income from their products,” said Mutharika

“We are also going to introduce a number of public works programmes, like the cash transfer so that people can be using it to pay school fees and maybe they will be able to use the money in other initiatives like farming. The beneficiaries will in future not be in need of money through those programmes as they will be able to generate their own, however, all these cannot be achieved in a day,” added Mutharika.

The MDGs are the world’s time bound and quantified targets for addressing extreme poverty in its many dimensions — income poverty, hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter, and exclusion — while promoting gender equality, education and environmental sustainable.

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While the newly adopted SDGs aim at tackling the pressing issues of our time, including poverty, inequality and climate change, they are not different from the MDGs.

This has since raised fears that, although Malawi is one of SDGs’ signatories, there will be difficulties to attain all the 17 goals by 2030 as the country only managed to attain 50 percent of the eight millennium goals that have been rolling for 15 years.

Malawi achieved MDG number 4, which required the reduction of child mortality, MDG number 6, which required combating HIV and Aids, malaria and other diseases, MDG 7 on environmental sustainability and MDG 8 on the development of global partnerships for development.

During the same period, the country fell short of achieving crucial development goals that would perhaps bail Malawi out of the many challenges it is facing. Among others Malawi failed to achieve MDG 1 on eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, MDG 2 on achieving universal primary education, MDG 3 which required the promotion of gender equality and women empowerment and MDG 8 which required nations to improve maternal health.

And some members of the civil society organisations in the country who held the United Nations caravan on September 24, ahead of the adoption of the SDGs on September 25, observed that unless leaders feel compelled to act on global citizens’ wishes, there is a risk that these goals would quickly be forgotten.

And some of the youths who are encouraged to participate in both implementation and attainment of the SDGs question the integrity of the leaders in both economic and development governance. They cite lack of political will among leaders and the continual exclusion of the youth on development.

“There is nothing for the youth without the youth. Our leaders are greedy and for this reason we will always struggle to achieve the global goals while our neighbouring countries will always come ahead of us,” observed Bertha Mtalimanja, one of the youth.

These sentiments are echoed by youth advisor for the Action Aid Malawi, Stella Agara.

“There are a number of issues that led to the county’s failure to realise the MDGs, one of which is lack of motivation when creating the goals and a lot of people did not know what they were as the goals were not people centred,” said Agara, adding:

“There were inadequate resources for the implementation of the MDGs and this limited the outcome of the goals.”

However, the fact that Malawi managed to achieve four of the eight MDGs gives her confidence that Malawi can also do better on the new goals.

On his part, Coordinator of Action 2015, which focuses on the SDGs and MDGs, Simekinala Kaluzi, observed that it was sad that, although the global goals were established after reaching consensus, third world countries, including Malawi, do not really participate in the implementation of the goals.

“The poorest countries are not contributing a lot to environmental degradation if you compare the situation to rich countries but you find that countries like Malawi are the ones bearing the brunt of climate change,” said Kaluzi.

On one hand, Kaluzi also shares the sentiments of Agara by saying that it is very important for the rural communities to know exactly what is happening at national level if they are to play a pivotal role in a drive to push Malawi out of poverty.

But having seen Malawi struggling to alleviate poverty, achieve universal education and fail to meet two other goals in the past 15 years, what should be done for the 17 SDGs to translate into results by 2030?

Agara suggests: “We need more sensitisation and make sure that everyone knows about these goals and their importance. We also need to invest heavily in these goals; we must also underscore the importance of financing because without proper funds we cannot be able to achieve the sustainable development goals.”

She also emphasised the importance of monitoring and evaluation of data that will help to analyse the country’s progress in achieving the goals.

Kaluzi says government should make sure that it has the finances to support the implementation of the goals if they are to help Malawi.

“Government should find ways to collect maximum revenue for the implementation of the goals. We cannot be dreaming of realising the goals if our coffers are dry. We, therefore, need fiscal discipline on the side of government to ensure it minimises the loss of funds through dubious ways like the cash gates which we had, said Kaluzi”

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