On the 15th of July 2021, the APRM held a side event on the margins of the 2021 High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) to share experiences between African Countries and strategic partners on the progress of SDGs and Agenda 2063 in the time of COVID-19. The meeting mainly exhibited resilient policies and initiatives implemented by african countries to mitigate the duanting consequences of the pandemic especially on SDG 3 (health) and SDG 16 ( institutions and peace). National Representatives from Kenya, Egypt, Sierra Leone and Namibia, along side officials from the United Nations Development Programme, UNESCO, UNDESA and other United Nations agencies took part in the event to reflect on national and international efforts paid to puruse these goals within the covid-19 complex context.
The CEO of the APRM in his official remarks, thanked Member States and strategic partners present for their participation and support of APRM processes. Reiterated was the commitment of the APRM to monitor and evaluate the governance areas of Agenda 2063 as reflected in Aspiration 3 and 4 which align with Goal 16 of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. Higlighted is the APRM VNRs platform which remains impertaice for Member States to share national experiences and lessons learned concerning the implementation of SDGs and Agenda 2063, while acknowledging the strategic partnership with UNDP and UNDESA to capacitiate national executives and experts and support national resilience and responsiveness to shocks and the adoption of innovative practices. On another note, Prof. Maloka also commended national efforts to track policy responsviness to curb the pandemic like the recent APRM targeted reviews in Sierra Leone on ‘’Public Health Governance and COVID-19 Response’’. The review is foreseen to be launched during this quarter. He also alluded the government efforts to produce the vaccine by local hands as in the case of Egypt.
On resilient health practices, H.E Dr. Mustapha Kai-kai, of Planning and Economic Development in Sierra Leone highlighted efforts taken to bolster the health sector’s resilience. He clarified that the government developed a COVID-19 Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan in 2020. This plan drew and leveraged all existing structures from the country’s previous experience with Ebola. Despite efforts to capacitate the health sector with help from international partners, it was noted that further support is crucial in order to address existing limitations.
Other countries also expanded their efforts to improve their health systems; SDG 3. In Namibia, for instance, Hon. Obeth M. Kandjoze, Director-General, National Planning Commission noted that as part of their efforts to strengthen the health sector, measures had been put in place to provide adequate training and personal protective equipment to all healthcare workers.
Dr. Hala El-Said, Minister of Planning and Economic Development explained that the government of Egypt successfully launched the 100 million Health Initiative to address the hepatitis C epidemic. Since then, this Health Initiative has been expanded to address other chronic diseases and pressing health issues. These governmental efforts to advance the healthcare system have contributed to the improvement of various health indicators such as a decrease in maternal mortality rates, and an increase in healthcare coverage. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of measures and policies were also introduced in the county such as a 100 percent budget increase to the health care sector, which is expected to further increase to 200 percent in 2022. Most notable are the current government efforts to manufacture a COVID-19 vaccine which would mark a major step towards the continent becoming more self-reliant.
With regards to implementation of SDG 16/Aspiration three of Agenda 2063 which focuses on fair and effective institutions, good governance and rule of law,.Republic of Sierra Leone and Namibia both emphsized the need for more efforts to be made in order to strengthen institutions that fight corruption. Hon. Kandjoze clarified that the decisive actions that had been taken by the anticorruption Commission in Namibia aim to strengthen institutional performance for more effective accountable and transparent governance systems. Highlighted was also the need for empowered institutions which would also play a faciliatory role in the implementation of economic recovery policies. This is critical for the continent because there has overall been a reversal of socioeconomic gains as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Egypt has also put in place a number of initiatives to increase citizen participation in governance processes. A policy tracker on SDGs that has been instrumental in pinpointing policy issues, and also aided decision making.
Mr. Saitoti Torome , Principal Secretary, State Department for Planning in Kenya, referred to the importance of the VNR process to help countries in tracking their progress on SDGs. He also emphasized the need to comprehensively address our perennial challenges, particularly those arising from political transitions, negative ethnicity, inclusion, inequitable development, and fight against corruption. Thus, Kenya is keen to ensure smooth reporting on SDGs in full integration with national Medium Term Plans, supported by the AU organs and UNECA.
Speaking from an international prespective, Jaco Du Toit, Chief of Universal Access to Information Section appreciated African countries’ efforts to enhance reporting on SDG 16 and access to reliable information, especially in the COVID-19 crisis. Freedom of expression and ensuring the safety of journalists is also a prerequisite to ensure access to reliable and verified information. Other Strategic partners, – UNDESA and SDGs centre for Africa, likewise, emphasised the critical role of partnerships in achieving the SDGs as well as the need for better coordination to ensure that interventions complement each other and promote synergies. This is given the limited resources available for development programmes that requires proper coordination between regional and interntional organs.