Justus Wanzala interviews UN Resident Coordinator Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI (IDN) – Kenya held a national official launch of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on September 14 in an event presided over by President Uhuru Kenyatta. A day to the launch, the government and partners in the private sector and civil society finalised a national road map to guide implementation of the SDGs.
This happened just a month after the appointment of Siddharth Chatterjee as the United Nations Resident Coordinator to the East African Nation. Chatterjee coordinates 25 UN agencies in the country and at the same time serves as the Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Before his appointment, Chatterjee was the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative in Kenya.
In an interview with IDN-InDepthNews correspondent Justus Bahati Wanzala, Chatterjee said that like other developing countries, Kenya should explore alternative sources of funding to finance implementation of SDGs instead of relying on dwindling donor assistance. The global financial crisis that began in 2008, and recent refugee crisis that has affected many European countries alongside the terrorism scourge in Europe have constrained those countries to concentrate funds on addressing those compelling issues.
Following is a slightly abridged text of the interview:
Question: What are the tools you are using to raise awareness in Kenya about the SDGs?
Answer: The Kenya Government has been at the forefront in getting the SDGs off the ground. In fact, Kenya’s United Nations (UN) Ambassador Macharia Kamau and Ireland’s UN Ambassador, David Donoghue, dexterously facilitated the final intergovernmental negotiations. The role of Kenya and Ireland as co-facilitators of the post-2015 development agenda has been meritorious.
The SDGs also dovetail well the Kenya Vision 2030, which is the country’s development blueprint covering the period 2008 to 2030. The vision’s economic, social and political pillars cohere perfectly with many of the SDGs. To that extent, the government is playing the leading role and our work as the UN system is largely supportive.
All UN country teams including Kenya use a special tool developed by the United Nations Development Group known as ‘MAPS’, which mainstreams the SDGs into each country’s national and sub-national development plans. ‘MAPS’ stands for Mainstreaming, Acceleration, and Policy Support.
MAPS focuses on policy coherence and multi-stakeholder engagement, paying special attention to the cross-cutting elements of partnerships, data and accountability for the domestication and implementation of the SDGs. This is the tool we use not only to raise awareness at all levels Kenya but also to generate timely and reliable data and reporting on the SDGs.
To deliver on MAPS, the UN system in Kenya under the leadership of the Government of Kenya together with the UN Country Team has established the UN SDGs Technical Working Group. UNDP is providing technical support. This group has focal points at the highest technical level from each UN agency and it supports the national government and county governments in the domestication and implementation of the SDGs.
Q: To what extent would you say you have succeeded in raising such awareness?
A: I am proud of the progress in Kenya. The SDGs were only endorsed on September 25, 2015 – just a year ago – and none other than President Uhuru Kenyatta is presiding over the official launch of SDGs. This already indicates keen government leadership, and one of the important frameworks that will be launched is the National SDGs Roadmap, whose formulation was supported by the UN system in Kenya.
As part of this roadmap, the UN system will support awareness and sensitization on the SDGs across all levels of government, with the aim of mainstreaming the SDGs in national and sub-national development plans.
The UN system laid a lot of groundwork in terms of awareness even prior to the endorsement of the SDGs on September 25, 2015.
For instance in early 2015, we held a media discussion on the unfinished business of the MDGs, the Post-2015 development agenda and how the UN was supporting the Government in the domestication and implementation of the SDGs.
We also held a national forum on SDGs, which brought together Government agencies, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), UN system, academia, the private sector and special interest groups.
In May last year, we supported a CEO Forum presided over by the Deputy President of Kenya, William Ruto, which was attended by heads of private sector institutions while at the end of last year all County Governments also attended a sensitization workshop on the SDGs.
The above are among the many interventions that the UN system has supported. However, and in the spirit of leaving no one behind, I am determined that we must take awareness raising and sensitization on the SDGs beyond the focus on national institutions.
We will progressively ensure that the grassroots are also informed about the SDGs and have a role to play in the implementation process. The UN system will be working with the national and county governments as well as CSOs and other strategic partners to translate the SDGs into Swahili and other sensitization materials to continue with awareness efforts that have already started.
Q: Which of the Goals are in your view most relevant for Kenya?
A: I believe all the goals are pertinent in equal measure. In fact, all 17 SDGs are interlinked, hence the need for cross-sectoral approaches in their implementation. Take for instance Goal 1 which calls for ‘ending poverty in all its forms everywhere’. I am convinced that this will only be achieved if we dedicate ourselves to a human-centric, rights-based approach across all the other 16 SDGs. It will take elimination of poverty and improvement in quality of life for all, including women, youth and people with disabilities, but also good governance and protection for the environment.
The same applies to gender equality and empowerment of women in the global economy, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. If we are able to achieve this goal, we will also be making significant effort in the eradication of poverty and building inclusive and sustainable societies.
The recent Africa Human Development Report launched at the very successful Tokyo International Conference on Africa’s Development (TICAD VI) meeting on August 28 by the UNDP Administrator Helen Clark together with President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks of this reality. The report states that Africa is missing its full growth potential simply because half of its growth resource – women – is not being fully utilized. As such, it is estimated that the continent is losing as much as $105 billion, which is 6 percent of GDP in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The message here is that women and young people must be at the centre of the development narrative and unless we prioritize all the goals, we stand to lose economically, socially and environmentally.
Q: Are there ODA (Official Development Assistance) funds available to implement Goals of particular relevance to Kenya?
Q: Well, we must understand that ODA has been dwindling since the global financial crisis, which started in 2008, coupled with the recent refugee crisis that have hit many countries in Europe and the subsequent surge in terrorist attacks in some of these countries. This means funds are being redirected by these countries to support their own internal affairs, which is contributing to dwindling ODA to support the implementation of the SDGs.
I believe that the message here is that developing countries including Kenya will have to turn to other sources of funding for the SDGs. Such funding sources were defined in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda outcome document that placed emphasis on domestic public resources, with ODA mainly being seen as catalytic funds.
We need a blended financing mechanism which must break from the previous donor driven development paradigm and bring in multiple stake holders around the table such as the private sector, expanded tax base, incentivizing foreign direct investment, multilateral and private financial institutions etc.
Q: In how far can such cooperation contribute to raising necessary funds?
A: My thinking is that Kenya like all developing countries would have to forge strategic partnerships with various actors, especially the private sector. The private sector must serve as the engine of growth; hence the government must create the enabling environment for them to create jobs for school leaving Kenyans.
This country is producing almost one million graduates from technical colleges and universities every year, but less than 200,000 jobs are available for them. Kenya must take advantage of its youthful population; in fact Kenya is at the cusp of a demographic dividend.
Let me add to this. Kenya is at a demographic transformation. Fertility levels are declining gradually and Kenyans are living longer. There is reason for optimism that Kenya can benefit from a demographic dividend within 15 to 20 years.
It is estimated that Kenya’s working age population will grow to 73 percent by year 2050, bolstering the country’s GDP per capita 12 times higher than the present, with nearly 90 percent of the working age in employment.
But this is only “a window of opportunity”, which shuts in an average period of 29 years. There’s nothing pre-ordained about a youth bulge producing a growth dividend.
So we have to move quickly. In addition, sources of domestic resources must be diversified and used efficiently in order to contribute significantly to the achievement of the SDGs.
Q: What progress has been made since January in implementing the Goals most relevant for Kenya?
All the 17 SDGs are relevant to all countries including Kenya. However, we have the unfinished business of the MDGs, which are articulated in Goals 1 – 5 (Goal 1: Poverty eradication; Goal 2: Zero hunger; Goal 3: Good health & well-being; Goal 4: Quality education; and Goal 5: Gender equality). Then we have other goals that will definitely need our attention, including Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy; Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth; Goal 13: Climate action; and Goal 16: Peace and justice with strong institutions.
The Government of Kenya is making steady progress, with for example several investments in social protection programmes addressing the problem of poverty. This includes the Youth Enterprise Fund, Women Enterprise Fund and the UwezoFund. There are also investments in the health sector such as the free maternity package and the First Lady’s Beyond Zero Campaign.
I am optimistic about the progress in gender equality and empowerment of women, especially the constitutional two-thirds gender rule.
I am also aware of the considerable challenges ahead for the government and all development partners including the UN system. These priority challenges are what we will be working with the government to confront.
Q: Do you as UN resident coordinator and country representative of UNDP exchange notes with your peers in other African countries?
Yes, we have for instance the network of UN Resident Coordinators and UNDP Resident Representatives through which best practices, ideas and notes are exchanged. When the network meets for its annual cluster meeting this year in Malabo (Equatorial Guinea’s capital city), the theme will be the SDGs.
Further, South-South learning will also be critical for the exchange of knowledge and ideas in the implementation of the SDGs. This will entail making use of South-South and Triangular Cooperation in our region.
In this regard, the leadership role of Kenya in the areas of innovation, digital economy and mobile money will be quite important to exchange with other colleagues in our region, since all countries in the region are working towards achieving structural economic transformation through technology and innovation. [IDN-InDepthNews – 15 September 2016]
Photo: Siddharth Chatterjee
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