National 2013 MDG report validation workshop

28 Aug 2013

Speech by Mr. Ojijo Odhiambo, UNDP Namibia Senior Economist

Director of Cereonies – Ms Mary-Tuyeni Hangula – Chief National Development Advisor, Department of M&E and Development Partners Coordination, National Planning Commission;

Mr. Andries Leevi Hungamo, Permanent Secretary, National Planning Commission;

Members of the Diplomatic Corps;

Senior Government Officials;

Colleagues from the UN family;

Esteemed members of the press;

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Let me begin by thanking you, Director of Ceremonies and the National Planning Commission, for inviting me to make a few remarks on the occasion of the opening ceremony of this very important workshop. In three weeks’ time world leaders will meet in New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly. But this will be a General Assembly with a difference, coming as it does, with just over two years left to the 2015 MDGs timeline. To be exact, the meeting will take place with just some 820 days left before member states are expected to have met the MDGs. That doesn’t sound like an awful lot of time and many analysts have raised questions about what can realistically be done within two years to reach the goals. I take a different view, however. 820 days is a long time and a child born today will have celebrated two birthdays by the end of 2015, if measures to achieve MDGs, especially MDGs 4 and 5, are put in place now and/or implemented.  Over a cycle of two birthdays, there is so much that, we as society can do for children born today. For children born today and in the future, we can make sure that the delivery is safe. We can also make sure that those children and those born before and after them do not die of easily preventable diseases, are well fed, just like we will be fed in the course of today, are adequately clothed etc etc. In short, Director of Ceremonies, the future of a child born today depends on us working towards meeting the MDGs.

Director of Ceremonies, as you will well recall, at the 2010 High-Level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly on the MDGs, Member States requested the President of the General Assembly at its sixty-eighth session to “organize a special event in 2013 to follow up efforts made towards achieving the MDGs”.  On 11 January 2013, the President of the 67th General Assembly appointed the Permanent Representatives of Ireland and of the Republic of South Africa to co-facilitate preparations of the 2013 MDG Special Event, which event will take place on 25 September 2013. Namibia, as an active member of the family of Nations and having played a lead role in the formulation of the Millennium Declaration, with the then President, the founding father of the nation, Dr. Sam Nujoma being the co-chair of the Millennium Summit, and  the current Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Theo-Ben Gurigab, being the President of the fifty fourth session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, will certainly be reporting on its own progress, challenges faced and importantly, what it intends to do to accelerate process over the next two years.

Today’s occasion, is therefore of great significance, since it will accord us the opportunity to review and importantly, validate the progress that Namibia has made towards the eight MDGs and the 21 associated targets. But that is just one half of the story. The other half, which in my opinion is even more important, is that we are gathered here to deliberate of the preliminary results of national consultations on the country’s post-2015 development agenda.

Since I only have ten minutes, I will not say much on my own impressions of the progress that the country has made towards achieving the MDGs. We will have an opportunity to listen to a presentation on this in a short while. Suffice to say, Director of Ceremonies, that I am convinced that we need four ingredients as we galvanise our efforts to achieve the MDGs over the remaining 850 days.

We certainly need people. This cannot be gainsaid, since development is about people and has to be undertaken by people, a theme which is aptly captured in the country’s development Vision “ a prosperous and industrialised Namibia, developed by her human resources, enjoying peace, harmony and political stability”.

We need resources – financial resources. While financial resources mobilized within the context of global partnerships are important, experience tells us that domestic resource mobilizing is increasing becoming important, especially for a country like Namibia, which is classified as an upper Middle Income Country.

We also need capable institutions and the right institutional arrangements, including the right policies, laws and procedures and practices.

Perhaps most important, we need ideas and innovation to move from “business as usual” to “business unusual” and onto new frontiers of development.  Everywhere we look, we see how mobile telephony has revolutionized communication in Africa. But mobile telephony and innovations around it can also play a critical role in meeting the MDGs. Through mobile telephony a large number of the hitherto unbanked people are being banked – banking the unbanked. We can also improve agricultural production and productivity through mobile telephony by for instance, passing extension messages to farmers and linking agricultural producers to the markets. And certainly, tele-medicine offers tremendous opportunities for improving the health conditions of especially, the rural poor.  The opportunities are indeed boundless.

Lastly, since we have only approximately 850 days left, if we ever needed MDG champions, in all sectors – public, private and non-governmental sectors and at all levels of governance – then the time is now.

Before I conclude, allow me, Director of Ceremonies to also share a few thoughts on the important theme of the post-2015 development agenda. My thoughts are based on the voices that I have heard during the regional consultations that were held in the run-up to this validation workshop.  From the consultations, I have heard the following messages, which messages I thought would be useful to share with this audience. I will just highlight five of them:

First is that the MDGs, as currently framed, remain relevant to Namibia’s development, both in the period leading to the 2015 timeline and beyond. There have also been calls for greater ambition and realism in the Namibian context. Just to give a flavour, there have been calls for revising the poverty line upwards to better reflect the reality in Namibia. There have also been calls for a more systematic approach and greater coordination of efforts aimed at achieving the MDGs.

Second, is the need to address inequality, not just in terms of income, but also access to services; and productive resources and assets and opportunities.

Third, is the need to promote good governance, including intensifying the fight against corruption, enhancing transparency and accountability and the rule of law and importantly, improving conditions for investments and overall competitiveness of the Namibian economy.

Fourth, is the need to expedite the decentralization process, including consideration for a fiscal transfer mechanism founded on principles of equity and direct transfer of discretionary, and in some instances ring-fenced, development resources to the regions and constituencies.

Fifth, is the need to address climate change and promote the concept of sustainable development, which encompasses economic, social and ecological dimensions.

In conclusion, Director of Ceremonies, the MDGs are dynamic and provide a useful platform for development discourse and planning and implementation over the next 850 days and beyond. We need to embrace them as part of our daily policy formulation and development planning and implementation work. We, certainly, have the means and knowhow. And while time is fast running out, there is so much that we can still do if we act in a concerted manner and systematic fashion. The five-year sectoral strategic plans and the annual sectoral execution plans that are being prepared in support of NDP 4 implementation, for instance, offer tremendous opportunities for the country to make a final push towards the realization of the MDGs. Let us seize these opportunities.

I thank you all for listening to me.