A PAN-AFRICANIST VIEW
Can Africa deliver on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)?
Almost halfway to the 2015 deadline for the achievement of the MDGs this question will be asked again and again across this continent. It is a question that invites cynicism from many corners.
There are many who are ideologically opposed to the MDGs who regard it as a neo-liberal surrender dictated by the current needs of the hegemonic powers for a more rapacious globalisation but pretending to listen to the poor. There are those who even see it as a conspiracy against the poorer countries of the world by imperialism. In this group are resilient Left Cold Warriors who claim the CIA drafted the MDGs! Yet others see the MDGs as laudable but see them as unrealisable because the big powers that cause the poverty on a global scale are also the ones pushing the agenda.
Since turkeys cannot be expected to vote for early Christmas it is unrealistic to expect those who benefit and control the current unjust global order to be its leading reformers. However, they see and use it as a campaigning tool legitimised by the declaration made and commitments undertaken by 189 government leaders across the world with timelines, indices of progress and targets for fulfilment. Yes, it could have gone much further but holding the leaders accountable for even these minimal goals will do more for the poor and create the space for bigger demands. This last view is the consensus of many activists working within the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) and the wider MDG campaigns in many countries.
The Nairobi meeting was definitely within that framework. Key leaders within the CSO coalitions from all the regions of Africa were present. The discussions moderated by Irungu Houghton were led by Ms Sarah Ochekpe (National Coordinator of the Campaign in Nigeria), Mr Sylvestre Bayesa (of the Mozambique Debt Network) and Mr Deo Nyanzi (Coordinator for the MDG campaign in Uganda). There were two Kenyan participants â€” Ms Muthoni Wanyeki, the Director of FEMNET and the Permanent Secretary , Kenya Ministry of Economic Planning who represented his minister, Mr Henry Obwocha.
All the speakers reported on the situation in their countries and discussed the opportunities and challenges facing them in the realisation of the MDGs, come 2015. There was unanimity in accepting the MDGs, in spite of their limitations, as a great opportunity to put issues of poverty and development on the agenda of all governments in Africa. Unlike in the past when progressive, pro-people ideas are discredited and labelled as â€˜communismâ€™ all the leaders signed up to the MDGs therefore all we are saying is that they live up to their commitments. More importantly, these commitments were not made by only the rich countries to the poorer ones but also by the poor countries to themselves.
While all speakers recognised that Goal Number 8 that deals with the inequities of Global Trade, Debt and Aid are very important and need global campaign for genuine progress all the other goals (1-7) can only be achieved at the national level and even in the countries it is only at the local and community levels that the impact of change or lack of them can be felt.
MDGs can only be delivered at community level. There was a lot of information sharing on the challenges facing campaigners. One, MDGs remain largely in the domain of governments and even here in the executive branch with legislatures having little role in monitoring any progress. Two, there is still popular ignorance about the MDGs among the vast majority of the peoples. Three, although NGOs are very active in many countries their being largely better organised in cities has meant limited percolation of the information down to the masses in the rural areas.
In this regard, Nyanzi shared the Uganda experience of moving away from Kampala and organising at district level with the meeting. The Nigeria campaigners are also strategically looking at ways of decentralising their work into all the 36 states of the country. Four, there is also the problem of competition for resources by NGOs that make them vulnerable to donor manipulation and also mercenary activism. Five, campaigners all agree that there was a need to popularise the MDGs and widen the constituencies to include all stakeholders whether they are based in urban or rural areas, employed and unemployed, the youth, women, students, labour, legislators, farmers groups.
The biggest challenge is mobilising the political will by our leaders to honour their commitments. Political will is not made automatically. It has to be cultivated, nurtured and mobilised. Governments cannot deliver on the MDGs if people are not aware of them and are not insisting that they do. Therefore the biggest task is to make people aware of the commitments. When they are equipped with that knowledge they can then begin to insist that their leaders deliver on them.
At the official level there is information in lead government ministries like the National Planning, Economic Development, Ministry of Finance and others. In some countries, the presidents have taken MDGs as executive pets. At the intergovernmental level, all UN agencies are supposed to mainstream MDGs in their programmes. The UNDP is the key agency in coordinating MDG activities and programmes. While openness, accountability and coordination at the local and national level are both desirable and necessary to achieve the MDGs there are still structural problems about the way in which our world is currently organised around the hegemony of a triumphalist neo-liberal ideology that will severely limit the capacity of many African states to achieve the MDGs.
can Africa deliver on the MDGs by 2015?