Decentralisation as a Catalyst: How UNDP Namibia’s Accelerator Lab is pioneering Systems thinking for Sustainable Development

September 12, 2023

In recent years, the concept of systems thinking has become increasingly popular in the development sector. Relatedly, in many parts of the world, including Namibia, decentralisation is seen as a way to facilitate sustainable development. With decentralisation, and in line with reviewing the Decentralisation Policy of 1998, comes the idea of devolving power to the local level, allowing for greater local ownership and agency. 

This is especially important in the context of Namibia, as the United Nation’s Development Programme (UNDP) Accelerator Lab Namibia will be working with the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development on its Steering Committee to review the current decentralisation in finding new ways to facilitate sustainable development. 

Systems thinking is a critical tool in facilitating decentralisation in Namibia, as it allows for a holistic view of development. It allows us to look at the interconnectedness of different parts of the system, and to identify areas of synergy and conflict between different actors in the system. It also enables us to identify and address underlying patterns, and to create positive feedback loops that can lead to long-term sustainable development.

In the context of decentralisation in Namibia, the UNDP’s Accelerator Lab is finding various entry points to encourage and promote systems thinking to facilitate decentralisation. At the same time, the Lab is also focusing on localizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as a lever to promote local ownership and agency of people in making inroads towards progress. This is important, as the SDGs are global goals, and localizing them is a way to ensure that the goals are relevant and achievable for the local population. Localizing the SDGs also allows for more effective implementation, as it ensures that the goals are tailored to the specific needs and context of the local population.

In addition to promoting systems thinking and localizing the SDGs, the UNDP’s Accelerator Lab is also looking to promote collaboration and calling for partnerships across sectors. This “whole of society” approach is essential in order to ensure that the decentralisation process is successful and sustainable. Collaboration across sectors is also necessary in order to ensure that all stakeholders are included and that their voices are heard. This is particularly important as Namibia has 14 highly diverse regions and many different stakeholders with different needs and interests. One of the initiatives we will we be exploring in collaboration with our Communications Team consists of identifying local initiatives to promote  the work of UNDP by launching a call to source local “SDG Legends”. With this information, we plan to map the initiatives and individuals across Namibia that correspond to localising the SDGs to help us track progress on achieving the SDGs.

Overall, the process of reviewing the progress of decentralisation may take a while, and while it is also time sensitive, the UNDP’s Accelerator Lab is actively working with the committee in representing UNDP to promote decentralisation through systems thinking and through the localisation of the SDGs. In order to ensure that decentralisation is successful and sustainable, it is essential that local ownership and participatory approaches of people at all levels is promoted and that there is collaboration across sectors. By promoting local ownership, strengthening agency, and by fostering collaboration, we will all collectively help to create a better future for Namibia. 

Do you know any local initiatives and or Legends championing the localisation of the SDGs?  Reach out to us and work alongside us as we promote #SDGLocalisation #Local2030.