SDGs Will Tackle Poverty And Other Social issues – Ochapa

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At the forthcoming 70th session of the UN General Assembly in September 2015, Heads of State and Government will adopt a declaration on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are expected to among other issues; complete the unfinished business of the MDGs.  Ogenyi Ochapa, the Director/Secretary of Programme, Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on MDGs, in this interview he, bares his mind on the progress so far recorded in the implementation of the MDGs and the expectations from the SDGs. Excerpts:

You recently represented Nigeria at the sixth Intergovernmental Negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda in New York. What were your experiences?

The meeting was one of the very important processes for presenting the zero draft document of the Post 2015 development Agenda to be adopted by global political leaders in September. During the actual negotiation of the document, Nigeria has seized the moment to renew her commitment to make the transformative shift needed to achieve sustainable development, inclusion and shared prosperity.

We also affirmed the statements earlier delivered by the distinguished Permanent Representatives of Rwanda on behalf of the African Group and South Africa on behalf of the G77 and China. As we are all aware, the process of framing a successor to the MDGs is long advanced with the formulation of 17 SDGs and 169 Targets. At the 70th session of the UN General Assembly in September 2015, Heads of State and Government will adopt a declaration on the SDGs. The SDGs seek to foster inclusive development whilst addressing the economic, environmental and social aspects of sustainable development.

How satisfied are you with the content in the zero draft?

Not fully. We have critically studied the zero draft and at the meeting, we noted that the document is yet to attain our desired expectation of what should constitute the nature and character of the MDGs Successor Agenda.

It is apparent that we need to put ‘flesh on the bones’ on some aspects of the document to accommodate the yearnings and aspirations of the poor and vulnerable, majority of whom resides in developing countries.

In this regard, Nigeria reiterated that the delicate balance achieved in the carefully negotiated Report of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals should not be reopened under any guise. We stressed that the entire outcome document of the OWG including the reservations should be embedded in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

What are the specific issues in the zero draft of the Post 2015 Development Agenda that are pertinent to my Nigeria?

We believed that the outcome document of the new paradigm must reinforce the integration of the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development as an interrelated and indivisible whole and as a pledge to leave no one behind. We are concerned that the section on the new agenda relegates the environmental aspect vis-a-vis the social and economic dimensions.

We have also stressed that the outcome document of the Post 2015 Development Agenda must continue to focus on addressing the critical challenges of poverty eradication and inequality between and within countries.

In addition, we are emphasising the need to stress all the Rio principles and in particular the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities. In this regard, we are urging the developed countries to, in line with their traditional responsibilities, take concrete steps to address the challenges of climate change and its bandwagon effects.

Finance was a major issue in the implementation of the MDGs. What is your take on financing the SDGs?

Nigeria believes that the Means of Implementation are much more than finance,  as was already recognised in Monterrey. We believed that an effective implementation of the post-2015 agenda will require the full range of actions – financial and non-financial, public and private, domestic and international.

There is the need to ensure that the means of implementation for each of the goals are clearly defined in the outcome document of the Post 2015 development Agenda.

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While we recognise that the Financing for Development Track would address the full range of the means of implementation including both enabling policy frameworks, mobilisation and effective use of financial resources, we are stressing that the Financing for Development process should complement and not compete with our discussion of the Means of Implementation in the Post 2015 development Agenda.

Data is a big issue in Nigeria, what are the mechanisms put in place to ensure proper tracking and review?

Like we posited during the negotiations, we are pleased to note that the zero draft recognises that follow-up and review is the responsibility of governments.

We believed that a solid, efficient and effective approach to follow-up and review mechanisms of the Post-2015 agenda will be crucial in order to assess progress towards the achievement of goals and targets at the national, regional and global levels. These mechanisms will allow us to continuously take into consideration lessons learned, include an element of peer review to share best practice and should enable an international call to action when progress is off track.

We, however, stressed that follow-up and review in the outcome document of the Post 2015 Development Agenda should be science-based, support the effective and coordinated implementation of the agenda; it should be based on effective multilateralism, openness, meaningful participation, transparency, and mutual accountability supporting the citizen-state relationship.

We have also underscored the importance of enhancing data revolution and narrowing data deficits in resource-constrained settings. Nigeria believes that governments are always not able to collect all the data needed to track progress on Internationally Agreed Development Goals.

Thus,  the outcome document of the Post 2015 Development Agenda must create channels for multiple, non-state and non-traditional actors who have the capacity to help member states achieve the required follow up and review mechanisms of the SDGs.

Looking back at the challenges that characterised the implementation of the MDGs, are you optimistic that the aggregated citizens’ development aspirations will be met in the SDGs?

I am very optimistic. The on-going effort, I can tell you, all highlight the quest to craft a people-centered and an inclusive global agenda.

We expect that this will guide development planning and execution for the next decade and a half. There are a number of lessons we have learnt from the implementation of the MDGs Agenda.

To start with, Internationally Agreed Development Goals (IADGs) such as the MDGs often galvanize development planning and execution locally.

The principles of the SDGs are in line with the commitment of Nigeria to improve the lives of the poor. And to forestall late adoption and deployment of the Post-2015 Development Agenda as it was the case with the MDGs framework, the Office is putting necessary implementation mechanism in place in collaboration with Ministries, Departments and Agencies, sub-national governments, the United Nations Country System, DFID and other International Development Partners, to ensure that it is integrated into National and State development strategies and plans for seamless execution.

The negotiation and transition processes of MDGs to SDGs, which coincides with the democratic transition in Nigeria, require national advocacy, follow-up plans, national domestication and early implementation. Learning from our experience with the MDGs, national integration of the SDGs will require multi-sectoral partnerships and collaboration.

 There appear to be controversies surrounding the performance of Nigeria in the implementation of MDGs. What measures have you put in place to harmonise report on progress?

You will agree with me that, Nigeria has recorded significant progress in the achievement of the MDGs. Evidence from the Performance Tracking Surveys conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics states that Nigeria has made progress on most of the goals.

As a country, we rely on the statistics provided by the NBS and currently efforts are in top gear to produce the final report on the implementation of the agenda. As you are aware, the first MDGs Report was published in 2006, while the second and third Reports were produced in 2010 and 2013 respectively.

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The three previous reports provided in-depth analytical reviews of progress recorded and actions required for attaining the MDGs. Accordingly, OSSAP-MDGs in collaboration with the UNDP and DFID-SPARC has commenced the process for the production of the 2015 MDGs Report.

The report will document key achievements, challenges faced and key lessons learnt at both the national and sub-national levels in the implementation of the MDGs in Nigeria and will also serve as Nigeria’s input into the UN Secretary-General’s Address at the next UN General Assembly in September, 2015. I am proud to say that the MDG story for Nigeria is a good one that we must be properly documented.

While you may hold this position, there are those that believe that Nigeria was completely of-track in the implementation of the MDGs. How well did we actually perform?

We may not have attained all the goals but we definitely scored a pass mark. Since inception in 2000, successive Governments in Nigeria have made effort to establish and strengthen the institutional, policy and financial frameworks geared towards the attainment of the MDGs.

The Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on the MDGs was established to provide policy, technical and political leadership as well as a robust co-ordinatory mechanism aimed at guiding the implementation of the MDGs in Nigeria.

I can tell you that Nigeria has recorded appreciable progress in the implementation of the MDGs particularly in the areas of universal primary enrolment, gender parity in education, and reduction in the spread of HIV/AIDs, maternal and child death, as well as the prevalence of hunger.

We found that there are divergences in MDGs progress across states, local governments and geo-political zones. As well, the introduction of multi-level incentive-based interventions, such as the Conditional Grants Scheme and Conditional Cash Transfers has proven to be key drivers of success in Nigeria.

However, the implementation of the MDGs in Nigeria, and indeed the whole of Africa, remains an unfinished business that needs to be rolled over to the Post-2015 Development Agenda. An update on the progress made on the MDGs in Nigeria showed that with particular reference to Goal I, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization honoured Nigeria for reducing by half the population of those who suffer hunger way ahead of the 2015 deadline.

As regards Goal 2, Primary Six Completion Rate improved to 88 per cent in 2012 from the baseline of 82 per cent in 2004 but declined to 74 per cent in 2014.  However, regional divergences in progress arising from security challenges in the North East are largely responsible for this decline. Nigeria has achieved the gender parity targets at primary and secondary education levels with the national average Gender Parity Index (GPI) being 1. There is significant improvement in Goal 4 with a reduction from the 2008 National Demographic Health Survey figure of 157 under-five deaths per 1,000 live births, to 89 per 1,000 deaths in 2014. This trend is similar for infant mortality rate.

The 2012 infant mortality rate of 61 per 1,000 live births declined slightly in 2014 to 58. With respect to MDG 5, Nigeria has continued to reduce the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR). In 1990, the MMR was estimated as 1,000 per 100,000 live births; in 2008, this figure dropped to 545 and in 2012, the figure was 350. The 2014 MMR figure stands at 243 per 100,000 live births, which means this target has been achieved. Goal 6 has also recorded remarkable improvement with the fall of HIV prevalence from a baseline figure of 5.8 to 3.4 in 2014. We can also tell the same success stories for Goals 7 & 8.

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