By: Jeam-Paul Adam
Africa has exhibited extraordinary resilience while confronting the triple crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and economic recession. The continent has defied seemingly insurmountable yet diverse unnerving political, socio-economic, health and developmental challenges with notable fortitude.
Despite these successes, the continued economic impact of the pandemic is spurring African leaders to also reflect on strategies to revamp the development model that can help African countries collectively achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
These collective experiences shared across the continent make up the backdrop of the 8th African Regional Forum for Sustainable Development (ARFSD) scheduled for the Rwandan capital, Kigali from March 3-5.
ARFSD is a formal continental podium that derives its mandate from the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and acts as one of three multi-stakeholder platform mechanisms that follow-up on reviews and consolidates actions meant to achieve the SDGs.
The other three platforms complementing the regional forum are the voluntary national reviews (VNRs), undertaken at national level, the voluntary local reviews (VLRs) undertaken at city or local authority level and the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) at the global level.
Amalgamating and building up on the gains so far made in realizing Agenda 2030, which was adopted by the UN member states in September 2015, is an obligation of the ARFSD agenda. Now in its 8th year, this annual forum is co-organized by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), African Union Commission (AU), African Development Bank (AfDB), the host-nation and sister UN system agencies.
It brings together high-level decision-makers including ministers, experts, policymakers, academia, private sector, civil society and development partners to debate and deliberate on economic and social development progress in the continent.
Primed to include African priorities, the forum integrates the review of the SDGs alongside the AU’s Agenda 2063 development blueprint. ARFSD further advances these two complementary development agendas by adopting a wholesome people-centered and inclusive model to stimulate the synergies and ambitions of sustainable development in the continent.
ARFSD is clued-up to reflect African-centric perspectives and adopts two main outcomes. The first, “Summary and Key messages” is the collective input and deliberations of the forum. The second is the “Declaration of the Forum”, which is christened in the name of the host city, distills the deliberations of the forum to come up with Africa’s collective position on issues of concern.
The 2022 ARFSD declaration will bear the name of Kigali succeeding the “Brazzaville Declaration” which was the signature name of ARFSD declaration from the Forum held in the Republic of Congo capital in 2021.
Rwanda as Chair of the Bureau of the 8th ARFSD will carry the mantle of presenting the agreed continental outcome to the HLPF, which convenes in July for a global level review followed by a ministerial declaration that informs and triggers actions accelerating implementation worldwide.
Available assessments of the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063 implementation progress indicate that most African nations are off-track to achieve the targets and set-goals of the two development blueprints within the set timeframe. The unprecedented impact of COVID-19 and climate change have for the time being dented and slowed Africa’s quest to realize both agendas. Deliberations of the previous forums identified gaps and areas of weaknesses in realizing the dual agendas and offered solution pathways.
Core objectives of this year’s forum will include an in-depth appraisal on the implementation of five of the 17 SDGs, on quality education (SDG 4); gender equality (SDG 5), life below water (SDG 14); life on land (SDG 15) and partnerships for the goals (SDG 17).
Deliberations on Africa’s input in the 2022 HLPF as well as the identification of ambitious strategies and policy actions to build back better will also be discussed at the forum.
A new epoch for Africa
The year 2022, marks the beginnings of building momentum towards the “Decade of Action”. The theme for this year’s forum “Building forward better: A green, inclusive and resilient Africa poised to achieve the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063” is bold in ambition. It also reflects a new epoch for Africa to accelerate implementation progress.
While the theme follows the tradition of alignment to the HLPF unity of purpose banner, it is conceptualized to resonate with the hopes and priorities of Africa. It implies a new economic model for Africa built on sustainable value creation, and inclusive trade and development.
While a sliver of good news against the COVID-19 pandemic reflects resilience and recovery through vaccines rollouts, health preparedness and responses, Africa has shown its willingness to overcome and prevail over its complex development challenges.
The 8th ARFSD will champion the continent as a destination of opportunity in line with the targets of the five SDGs on the agenda alongside corresponding continental aspirations.
The Decade of Action, Hope and Opportunity
Africa yearns for workable solutions to solidify the gains made, and secure rapid climate resilient development with shared prosperity for all.
The ARFSD continues in the established tradition of harnessing Africa’s collective goodwill embedding all its constituencies to find practical solutions and scalable remedies for the continent’s development challenges.
The forum displays governments working together with all stakeholders and international partners through various multi-sectoral platforms to support development initiatives targeting young people, women and children.
So far, this has been possible as ARFSD advances stronger, accessible, open, durable and sustainable governance structures that are tolerant, accommodative and inclusive to augment, and at the same time, bolster development.
The 8th ARFSD also capitalizes on Africa’s “Decade of Action”, which is a critical decade to reinvigorate the continent’s pace to attain the SDGs, realise Africa Agenda 2063, “build forward greener” and fulfill the Paris Agreement’s ambitions.
Jean-Paul Adam is the Director, Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resources Division at the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).