UN deputy chief calls for action to deliver sustainable development in Africa

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed highlighted the continued relevance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), during a meeting with the President of Tunisia, Kais Saied, held on Sunday.

Ms. Mohammed was in the country to attend the eighth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD8), which concluded that day.

The conference has been organized by Japan since 1993, under the philosophy of “African Development for African people.” It is co-hosted by the UN, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank, and the African Union Commission.

A new era

In welcoming the UN deputy chief, President Saied spoke of the new era in the world, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, but also in Tunisia, which has a new Constitution that he said will establish greater accountability for all.

The President said TICAD has already brought important results for Africa, and there will be much to do to implement agreements reached during this latest edition of the conference.

SDGs remain relevant

Ms. Mohammed recalled that the SDGs remain a very relevant framework in this new era, and TICAD has served as an important reminder.

The 17 goals aim to bring about a more just and equitable world, including through ending extreme poverty, achieving gender equality, and spurring economic growth, while also tackling climate change and preserving the natural environment.

They were adopted by world leaders in 2015 and have a deadline of 2030.

The UN deputy chief said that in many places, governments have not yet succeeded in delivering better public services, particularly for women and girls.  She added that the UN will continue to support countries, and give hope to people.

Transforming education

Ms. Mohammed reminded President Saied of the UN Secretary-General’s invitation to attend the upcoming UN General Assembly and the important Transforming Education Summit.

The three-day event, which begins at UN Headquarters on 16 September, aims to set out a new vision for education that equips learners of all ages and backgrounds with the skills, knowledge, and values they need to thrive.

She said that as a professor, President Saied could help redefine and rethink education in Africa.

The President confirmed his interest in attending, and mentioned that adapting education to this new era is fundamental. He said a Supreme Council for education and learning is included in his country’s new Constitution.

The meeting with the Tunisian President took place a day after Ms. Mohammed addressed the opening ceremony for TICAD8.

A ‘perfect storm’

In her remarks, the Deputy Secretary-General called for action to confront what she described as “the cascading impacts of multiple crises” facing the world today.

She said recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of the war in Ukraine, the climate emergency and the financial crisis, are placing already vulnerable populations under severe stress.

“This ‘perfect storm’ is, in turn, creating a fertile breeding ground exacerbating existing and future conflict and unrest, thus compromising our collective efforts to achieve the SDGs and save lives and livelihoods,” she added.

Three areas for action

Ms. Mohammed said countries have an unprecedented opportunity to overcome these challenges and address security and sustainable development in Africa.

She underlined the need to accelerate action across three main areas to benefit African economies and achieve the SDGs.

The first calls for ensuring universal access to energy and a just and equitable transition to renewables.

A comprehensive approach is necessary here to chart energy development pathways in Africa, grounded in sustainable investments and strong partnerships, such as TICAD.

“With the energy access gap impacting about 600 million people, Africa will need the ‘energy development space’ to keep pace with its ambitions for universal, reliable and affordable access to clean energy,” she told the conference.

“The current global rise in energy prices can also prompt African countries to maximize the continent’s great potential for renewable energy. But this will require timely investments at scale.”

Transform food systems

The second area is focused on the need to transform global food systems, which means achieving food security, nutrition, self-sufficiency and jobs for young people across the continent.

“Expanding Africa’s breadbasket requires enhanced agriculture productivity and food systems that leverage new technology of modern irrigation systems, the mechanization of farming and the reduction of post-harvest losses, which are high priorities for the continent,” said Ms. Mohammed.

She added that the TICAD partnership can drive this transformation, through the right investments, technology and affordable innovations at scale.

Lastly, Ms. Mohammed stressed that there can be no solution to these interconnected crises unless countries address inequality and its underlying factors.

“There is need for a shift in the perception of Africa as dependent continent to one that is a key actor on the global stage, with the same rights and standing as any other region. Be it economic or political. The mobilization of adequate financing for sustainable development is an imperative,” she said.

Seize upcoming opportunities

Ms. Mohammed urged participants to seize the opportunity of the upcoming UN General Assembly, the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group, the G20 Meeting and the UN’s COP27 climate change conference, to strengthen collective action to recover better from the COVID-19 pandemic and respond to the impact of the continuing war in Ukraine.

Stating that “we are not starting from nothing”, she stressed the need for solid building blocks to achieve the ambition of delivering sustainable development for Africa.

The Deputy Secretary-General underlined the UN’s readiness to continue to accompany African countries in this journey.

Source: United Nations

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