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Johannesburg, 23 April 2020 – The APRM organized its first virtual Dialogue on Voluntary National Reviews (VNR) to continue its commitment as a regional platform for sharing knowledge, lessons learned, and best practices on the governance of Sustainable development goals and Agenda 2063 among AU member states. The VNRs stands at the core of the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), which takes place every year at the United Nations under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to show progress towards the implementation of SDGs in all continents. From 2016 till 2019, 35 African countries have submitted their VNR at least once while Egypt and Sierra Leon submitted VNRs twice and Togo three times. In the HLFP 2020, 17 African countries are foreseen to provide their VNRs, including Benin, Burundi, Comoros, Congo, Gambia, Kenya, Libya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Seychelles, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
The APRM virtual dialogue brought senior national experts from four African countries to deliberate on their countries’ experiences in VNRs, challenges as well as opportunities for improving the reporting on SDGs and Agenda 2063 in 2020 and 20201. The four states include Seychelle: Ms. Elizabeth Agathine, Principal Secretary for Economic Planning, South Africa: Dr. Kefiloe Masiteng, Deputy Secretary of National Planning, Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME); Benin: Mr. Aguessy Augustin, General Director of coordination for SDGs, Ministry of Planning and Development., and Egypt: Dr. Howaida Barakat, head of SDGs Unit at Ministry of Planning and Economic Development in addition to representatives from the UN Economic Commission for Africa and African Union Commission. The conversation which centered on the domestication of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the production and presentation of VNRs at the upcoming High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) in July 2020 and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the member-states mentioned above and their subsequent responses to it
Despite COVID-19, which is impeding gatherings, Seychelles, Benin, Egypt, and South Africa remain committed to the attainment of the SDGs and submit their VNRs in 2020 and 2021. Dr. Barakat emphasized Egypt is adherent to a participatory approach for the domestication and reporting on both agendas, which will take account of the aspirations of various segments of society, the respect for human rights, and the need to forge partnerships with international institutions and countries. Seychelles, on another note, demonstrated the country’s vision 2033, which aims to promote the creation of “A resilient, responsible, and prosperous nation of healthy, educated, and empowered Seychellois living in harmony with nature and engaged with the wider world”. Ms. Agathine also stressed the government’s eagerness to accomplish the VNR 2020 despite all the challenges they face to raise awareness on SDGs and ensure stakeholders’’ engagement in the evaluation process due to the postponement of many meetings due to social distancing policies of COVID-19.
Benin indicated that its VNR report, whose drafting is underway, will be ready by the end of May. A validation workshop applying social distancing will soon be held to pore over it. On another note, Dr. Maiteg clarified the crucial role of the Committee at the Presidency in following up on the implementation of SDGs and Agenda 2063 in South Africa. She also referred to the vital role of South Africa in the Common Africa Position on the post-15 Development Agenda as well as developing indicators for Agenda 2063. She that Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) were pointed out as exercises supplementing the presentation of VNRs and offering a better understanding of authorities’ endeavours to realize SDGs at the municipal level. It was noted that the South African cities of Tswane and Cape Town expressed their interest in partaking in VLRs at the national level.
Dr. Masiteng also highlighted that the COVID-19 crisis tested the political will to present a reliable model of collaborative leadership in South Africa and the accountability of different ministries while assuring the necessity of a whole-of-society approach to mitigate such disasters.
Commenting on this, Mr. Charles Akol, ECA representative, emphasized that while exerting efforts to tackle data paucity, universal reporting on SDGs is an aim that the African continent should strive for. Fragile states in Africa should be particularly encouraged to submit their VNRs at the 2021 HLPF to assess continental progress made on the SDGs. Even if the COVID-19 dissipates in the next weeks and months, its impact will remain for the foreseeable future. It is thus imperative for countries to stay steadfast in attenuating economic shocks.
Connecting to Agenda 2063,” The Africa we want”, Mr. Mesfin Ashagrie, Director of Strategy, Policy Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation, and Resource Mobilization at the AU Commission commended the member states’ ownership for submitting their VNRs despite COVID-19 negative consequences. He thus advises that African countries shall reflect on the impact of COVID-19 on SDGs, especially on the long-term in the VNRs. Mr. Ashagrie also motivates national representatives to align and relate the national goals while reporting on SDGs to Agenda 2063 as well as getting involved in the AUC Progress Report on the achievement of Agenda 2063, which will be adopted by 2021.
The collection of data was also identified as one of the challenges encountered by national bureaucracies. Without proper data, reporting will be complicated, so obstacles in terms of collating data must be captured in the same way as the high degree of convergence of goals between Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030. In this vein, Leila Ben Ali, head of statistical division at AUC, updated the participants on the AUC’s current efforts to collaborate with ECA and Africa Development Bank to consult with national statisticians to recognize data challenges in the health sector in Africa in response to COVID-19. She also encourages member-states to make use of remote options such as phone calls.
Mr. Jean Adou, the Coordinator for Monitoring and Evaluation, and Ms. Sara Hamouda from the APRM secretariat, emphasized that APRM is currently developing the APRM questionnaire to be fully aligned with both agendas’ indicators. F as well as the APRM eagerness to organize training for member states national statisticians and development experts on the M&E tools to report on both agendas, including the UNDP-ECA integrated tool as well as the APRM questionnaire. It has been assumed that the APRM will also be circulating a particular survey soon to assess the principles for effective governance of SDGs, which shall mainstream the government’s approach to mitigate COVID-crisis and show resilience in 15 African countries.
Further regional dialogues will be conducted with other AU member-states to ensure that African countries are adopting all possible approaches for the implementation of SDGs. Most importantly, the APRM dialogues seek to identify gaps which the APRM, in partnership with other AU organs and UN agencies, can assist member states in fulfilling it. The coordinator of the APRM regional VNRs Virtual dialogues is Ms. Sara Hamouda- Agenda 2063 Unit.
For inquiries please contact: Liziwe Masilela (Head of Communications APRM)