In 2015, all UN member states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development consisting of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 169 targets and 230 indicators. The SDGs are a shared vision for humanity and the 2030 Agenda is anchored in all universal human rights (economic, social, cultural, civil, and political rights). “Leave no one behind” is the central, transformative promise of the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals. It represents the unequivocal commitment to eradicate poverty in all its forms, end discrimination and exclusion, and reduce the inequalities and vulnerabilities that affect people and undermine the potential of individuals and of humanity as a whole.
After six years of implementation of the 2030 Agenda, Guinea-Bissau is one of the seven African countries to present their first Voluntary National Review during the next High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) to be held in July 2022. The report is expected to show what steps the country has taken to implement the 2030 Agenda, including the goals and targets, and provide an assessment of the results on the ground. The Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Integration approached UNDP Guinea-Bissau to support the government in preparing the report. The VNR is a multi-stakeholder engagement including, besides the national and local authorities, the United Nations Development System, Civil Society Organizations, academia, and the private sector.
In that context, UNDP Guinea-Bissau has been supporting the UN Resident Coordinator Office, the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Integration, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Communities and the National Statistics Institute in the organisation of regional consultations which were intended to inform the progress made towards achieving the 2030 Agenda objectives. The main objective of these consultations has been to ensure a broad and inclusive participation of the various stakeholders, including representatives of the most disadvantaged groups such as women, children, youth, the elderly, people with disabilities, and those who live in the most remote rural areas of the country. “We wanted to present the status of progress towards achieving the SDGs but going beyond the reporting exercise. We were really looking for a dialogue with parties, listening to the various sectors of civil society to reflect the views of the different groups and analysing together the problems, the causes, and the solutions to those problems”, Elisabeth da Costa, Senior Human Rights Advisor in the UN Resident Coordinator Office, explains.
Both in the regions and in the capital city Bissau, the most discussed issues were related to health and education, which happen to be two of the five priority SDGs for the HLPF 2022. The weak investment in those essential sectors and the lack of governance and transparency, together with the political instability that has historically prevented the continuity of policies, were highlighted as the main obstacles that the country is facing. 25-year-old Maneque Correia da Silva, from the National Network of Young Women Leaders (RENAJELF), also appoints cultural practices such as forced marriages that violate women's rights as one important topic to raise. "The lack of voice of women and girls in family institutions and the fragile political participation of women are an impediment to the full achievement of the SDGs. Without the effective empowerment of women, it will not be possible".
Other participants also considered the decentralisation of essential services as key to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs. “Centralisation in Bissau does not contribute to reducing poverty if people have to come from the regions to make formalities”, one of them said. Director General of Planning, Issa Jandi, shares this idea of everyone’s participation in the implementation of the SDGs and the National Development Plan. “The SDGs are not being implemented only in Bissau, nor only by the Government, but by all of us. It is a task that concerns everybody: when a woman sells fruit to pay for her children's schooling, she is contributing to the achievement of SDG 4. And that’s why the consultations in the regions are important”.
Overall, the preparation of the report is progressing and the joint work of the government, UNDP and the national and international consultants who are supporting the process is bearing fruit. The five priority SDGs to be included in the document are already analysed (SDGs 4, 5, 14, 15 and 17) and the next few weeks will be crucial to finalise a document that rigorously shows Guinea-Bissau's progress towards the 2030 Agenda.