CONGO-BRAZAVILLE – The devastating effects of COVID-19 are being felt in all spheres of life, and in most cases, the pandemic has exacerbated poverty, hunger, violence against women, children and other vulnerable groups.
However, African countries can strategically use available tools to steer their countries out of the depressing ripples of the pandemic, and the global sustainable development goals Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) have been identified as efficient tools to help countries find ways out of the doldrums.
A panel discussion Tuesday at the ongoing Seventh Session of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (ARFSD) being held virtually, unanimously agreed that the VNRs can be useful in mapping out solutions and strategies to attaining the SDGs and Agenda 2063.
The four-day meeting is being hosted by Congo Brazzaville under the theme: “Building forward better: towards resilient and green Africa to achieve the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063”.
Giving the opening remarks, Collen Vixen Kelapile, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council of the UN, noted that COVID-19 was hampering Africa’s efforts to achieve the SDGs.
He urged African countries to use the high-level political forum (HLPF) to discuss their challenges with the pandemic and share experiences.
In sharing his country’s experiences, Obeth Mbuipaha Kandoze, the Director-General of the National Planning Commission of Namibia, said the southern African nation sees the VNRs as a key framework for the SDGS, adding it aligned with his country’s developmental goals.
For Egypt, the VNRs are a tool for policy and decision-makers in the implementation of the SDGs.
Sharing his country’s approach, Sherif Dawuod of the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development said in pursuing development goals, “you have to be objective because it gives you a balanced picture of what you are doing.”
In her presentation, Najat Maalla, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, said violence against women and children, especially, children in remote areas, the displaced and disabled had emerged since the outbreak of COVID-19.
She noted the socio-economic impact of the pandemic on families has led to trafficking and sexual exploitation of children.
However, some initiatives have been put in place to protect children and provide mental healthcare support. Isolation during the pandemic, loss of income, bereavement and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones.
Kofi Kankam, co-Chair at the Africa Regional Mechanism for Major Groups and other Stakeholders (ARMMGoS), urged African governments to engage all stakeholders as they implement the SDGs and respond to the pandemic. He called for the empowerment of citizens to participate in the implementation of Agendas 2030 and 2063 through capacity building. – The Economic Commission for Africa