• MDGs and the Long Road to Parliament

    When I received the call from my colleague Gladys Mirugi-Mukundi, at the Socio-Economic Rights Project based at the Community Law Centre 
(CLC) asking me to attend the ‘Consultative Seminar on the Role of Parliament & Provincial Legislatures in the Achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)', I balked at the idea. For starters, seminars in Parliament are not particularly enjoyable; they are pretty stuffy affairs with protocols and lots of dull PowerPoint presentations and even less engaging speakers. Then there is also the matter of the event being held in Cape Town, but maybe that is a blog for another time…

    So after a feeble protest attempt, I agreed and this morning found me in the Old Assembly Chamber in Parliament and there is a palpable buzz in the historic room as old comrades from provincial and national government, civil society and para-government agencies gather for two days of intense dialogue and debate about the role of Parliament and the provincial legislatures in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The gathering itself is remarkable given that to date in South Africa, the MDGs and the entire national dialogue about them has been limited to pompous NGO types, even more pompous government officials and sometimes a very bewildered journalist from the weekend newspapers, who looks like he wants to be on another assignment.

    The other aspect of the MDGs has been the contestation between civil society and usually national government in the form of the Presidency and/or Statistics South Africa (Stats SA). This tension plays out as civil society usually claiming incorrect statistics and government claiming subversion when NGOs dare to challenge the basis and analysis of the annual country report. The absence of Stats SA on the programme was also a good sign, given that last year, civil society organisations rejected their annual country report based on the lack of any realism to their data and analysis[1]

    So it was a welcome change to my perceptions when I heard Mr. C T Frolick, MP, House Chairperson: Committees, Oversight & ICT (National Assembly), set the tone for the day when he succinctly declared that the seminar was a exercise to improve oversight and find ways to improve what was being done all over SA to meet the MDGs. Frolick noted that human development is key to social and economic progress and the MDGs were a key aspect of that kind of global partnership for development. He further noted that the current MDG Country Report may show that SA is set to achieve some goals but other reports show that we have challenges and suggest a stronger role for Parliaments at local, provincial and national level in ensuring greater oversight of implementation.

    I was indeed already feeling better about attending – it seems that MDGs are now finally, firmly and palpably on the agenda for Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of the Provincial Legislatures (MPLs).

    Frolick ended by noting that all parliamentary committees have been requested to exercise direct oversight on achievement of MDGs, in the scope of their focus areas to ensure delivery of the targets. He reminded the delegates of the need for a strong focus on the role of women and added that proposals from the seminar report will focus on ways to strengthen delivery of the MDGs with other stakeholders and more coordinated oversight approach.

    But it was the next speaker that truly blew me away, it was great to hear Minister in the Presidency: National Planning Commission, Trevor Manuel, sound like an NGO type when he said he has 'maverick views' on the MDGs and proceed to give life to that by stating that he felt that the MDGs were  'important but insufficient' in SA, where we have the Freedom Charter and the Constitution as key pledges of a better life for all. Manuel also noted that we have adequate resources in SA for the delivery of the MDGs and that by doing so, we must remember that they serve as a pledge of democracy to the people of SA.

    Again, a breath of fresh air, as what Manuel said has a lot to do with the notion over the past few years that government and NGOs are not seeing eye to eye in regard to the localisation of the MDGs and their achievement. It is a great achievement for NGOs and civil society in general that senior government officials are now not just aware but also promoting the achievement of the MDGs as a means of realising the Freedom Charter. It feels like the divide that seemed to exist between government and civil society in the past few years is now well and truly on the way to being done away with and finally NGOs and government can once again, as in the heydays of the 90’s work together to build a great country.

    Manuel was however not the only speaker who had me listening, Ms J C Moloi-Moropa, MP Chairperson: Portfolio Committee on Public Service & Administration also managed to recognise the role of civil society in championing the MDGs for many years and also noted that one of the outcomes of this process would be the recommendation that government ratify international treaties that protect and promote socio-economic rights as well.

    It was however, Ms B N Dlulane, MP, Chairperson of Parliament’s Multiparty Women’s Caucus who finally and very clearly noted that it was a great moment for Parliament that this seminar was in fact happening as the MDGs were in the past only something championed by NGOs and a few members of Parliament. Dlulane’s acknowledgement is indeed music to the ears of social service and development workers across the country, working daily to give life to the MDGs.

    In all, I am glad I attended the seminar, despite my initial reservations as at least, I have seen and heard first-hand that all the great work that has gone on for so many years now in civil society and by NGOs in particular, is finally bearing fruit. It is a privilege to be part of this moment in our history, where Parliament, the representatives of the people are in fact taking seriously their role in making sure we deliver the ideals of the Freedom Charter and Constitution to the people. Phambili – Sisonke!

    I hope my wonderful experience of finding comrades among Parliamentarians today will continue tomorrow, when I will bring you an update on some of the other presentations, including from SANGOCO, SALGA, Centre for African Heritage Studies and the ICESCR Ratification Campaign. You can view a copy of the programme here.

    - Rajesh Latchman is Coordinator at the National Welfare Forum and serves as a volunteer Convenor of GCAP-SA.

  • Dark Cloud Over Africa Attaining MDGs

    The Department of International Relations and Cooperation says there is a "dark cloud" hanging over the possibility of Africa attaining its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

    Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane points out that, "Studies are predicting that, given the current trends with less than five years towards 2015, Africa is unlikely to achieve every single one of the MDGs."

    Nkoana-Mashabane states that if Africa fails to achieve the MDGs, then the world would have failed, warning that the road to 2015 and beyond will not be an easy one.

    To read the article titled, “Dark cloud over Africa attaining MDGs,” click here.
    The Citizen
  • South Africa: Politicians Need to Help Sisters Do It for Themselves

    Riding a taxi home the other day I was somewhat in awe of the woman driving it. She appeared to be the owner of the vehicle, in her mid-forties, dignified and commanding respect simply by the look of pride on her face.

    I am also proud when I see examples like this of "sisters doing' it for themselves", to borrow from the famous Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin song.

    However, when, as part of my job, I go through the recent Global Millennium Development Goals Report, I cannot help but feel dismayed. These South African "sisters" are doing it for themselves but many are still missing out on job security, decent employment and education.

    Worse, these are not yet prominent issues in this year’s local government elections, where the main debate seems to be around infrastructure, not job creation or education.

    Two MDG goals in particular - Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education and Goal 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women - are especially relevant.

    Given that gender equality and the empowerment of women are at the core of the MDGs, along with the fact they are paramount if we are to overcome poverty, hunger and disease by 2015, these are definitely pressing issues for all our country's elected and aspiring politicians.

    When it comes to schooling, disparities in tertiary education do not end at enrolment but are also seen in the area of study. Women are overrepresented in the humanities and social sciences and underrepresented in science and technology. This illustrates a reinforcement of socio-biological stereotypes which ensure women do not stray too far from their feminine household role, where they are supposed to be nurturing and non-competitive.

    We see this in the labour sector as well. One example is the 2009 Gender Links Glass Ceilings: Women and Men in Southern African Media study, which found that stereotyping is common in media houses across the region. Women journalists are given softer reporting beats such as lifestyle, gender and health while male journalists work hard investigative beats such as politics or economics.

    Employment wise, in sub-Saharan Africa women occupy just one in three paid jobs outside agriculture, and it comes as no surprise that women are typically paid less than their male counterparts and have less secure employment.

    Despite this, there is an increase in women entering the labour force throughout their child-bearing years, finding ways to juggle the pressures of their unpaid family work and paid employment. Time will only tell what impact this has on the regional economy and male-female relations.

    Women perform more unpaid work than men, leaving them "time poor" with less sleep and leisure time. The burden of combining the "traditional" work of a mother and wife and the paid work of the labour market inevitably impacts the level of participation possible for women, as well as their access to decent work.

    The 2009 research report Global Trends in Women's Access to "Decent Work" notes that job security and occupational safety and pay do not automatically improve for women as employment increases. In fact, it may get worse as women are more vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers.

    Limited men's participation in unpaid care work and child care is another hindrance to women's access to good employment opportunities. In addition, high levels of gender-based violence persist in South Africa, which is both a cause and consequence of poverty.

    As we approach Election Day it is clear much more needs to be said and done if we are to achieve the MDG goals and facilitate women's access to education, training and full employment and decent work by 2015. The question now is which party, if any, will take up these important issues? Sisters need some help so they can do it for themselves.

    Doreen Gaura is a gender activist and writer based in Cape Town. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary series on South Africa's local government elections. It is published here with the permission of Gender Links.
    Doreen Gaura
  • UNDP Commends Zambia Over MDGs

    The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says Zambia has made steady progress in attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
    UNDP associate administrator, Rebecca Grynspan, whose visit to Zambia is her first to the Africa region in her current position, says the country has done well in terms of working towards meeting the MDGs by the year 2015.
    Grynspan further says that the Zambian economy is growing at a fast rate, adding that the UN will continue supporting the country's development agenda as well as the various efforts aimed at meeting the MDGs.
    To read the article titled, “UN envoy praises MDGs strides,” click here.
    All Africa
  • NGO Told to Channel Funds Through Fiscus

    The Zimbabwean Government says all United Nations country team agencies should direct financial assistance to government through the fiscus rather than the current scenario where various disbursements modalities are being used.

    Chief secretary to Cabinet and President Robert Mugabe, Misheck Sibanda, points out that Zimbabwe is no longer a classic humanitarian case, hence more financial and technical assistance should now be channelled towards developmental programmes.

    Speaking during the signing ceremony of the Zimbabwe United Nations Development Assistance Framework for the period between 2012 and 2015 in Harare, Sibanda assured the UN agencies that the development assistance availed to the country would be managed with greater accountability and transparency.

    To read the article titled, “NGOs told to direct funds through fiscus,” click here.
    All Africa
  • Manuel Admits Govt’s Service Delivery Failure

    Planning Minister, Trevor Manuel, says South Africa has failed to deliver quality services to the poor, despite adequate funding.

    Manuel points out that, “We must accept that despite the adequate allocation of funding, we fail to deliver quality services, especially to the poor."

    Manuel says legislators needed to recognise that the quality of democracy should be measured in a country's success in uprooting poverty, reducing inequality and broadening opportunities.

    He was addressing members of the European Union and South African legislative sector at the 2010 International Consultative Seminar, which focused on the role of legislatures in achieving the United Nation's millennium development goals in Cape Town.

    To read the article titled, “Manuel admits state fails on services,” click here.
  • African Countries Unlikely to Meet MDGs

    Zambia's founding president, Kenneth Kaunda, says most African countries will not be able to meet their Millennium Development Goals (MDG) targets, particularly poverty eradication and the fight against HIV/AIDS because of a lack of education.

    Speaking at the launch of the literary competition at Orkney, North West, Kaunda, pointed out that, "If we are going to be moving at this pace, we will not meet those challenges. We must improve on the speed that we are moving now to bring about the necessary qualities and quantities of education."

    The competition is the brainchild of the Dr. Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality and it is aimed encouraging residents to start using libraries and read books as a tool of empowerment.

    To read the article titled, “Kaunda says African countries unlikely to meet MDGs,” click here.

    SABC News
  • Humanitarian Diplomacy Dialogue on MDGs Beyond 2015

    Debate on the MDGs has recently intensified in both the public and policy sectors. With less than five years to go until its deadline of 2015, and the majority of the Goals seemingly out of reach, many are questioning the design and implementation of the MDGs, as well as the commitment from the international community. A recent summit in New York, attended by the world’s leaders, seems to have done little to provide the direction and clarity so clearly needed at this crucial juncture.

    The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, in conjunction with the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Information Centre in Pretoria, is pleased to invite you to its Humanitarian Diplomacy Dialogue panel discussion on the MDGs beyond 2015.

    • Prof. Ogude, Wits University;
    • Mr. Pooven Moodley, Oxfam Regional Advisor for Southern Africa;
    • Dr. Osten Chulu, UNDP;
    • Ina Mentz, Deputy Director, Strategic Planning and Policy Monitoring, Department of Social Development, South African govt.
    Moderator: Chris Maroleng

    Time: 10:30 am – 1 pm

    RSVP: Nooshin, E-mail: by 29 November 2010
    Event start date: 
    Event venue: 
    IFRC offices (44 Wierda Road West, Wierda Valley, Sandton)
  • Call for ‘Strong’ Political Will in Achieving MDGs

    The United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, says strong political support is needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

    Addressing the G20 summit in South Korea, Ban said that despite widespread skepticism, he believes the goals are still achievable before the 2015 deadline.

    “...I believe that with strong political leadership and good policies targeted towards the right people, right areas and smart investment and adequate financial resources, I am sure that this is achievable," he explained.

    To read the article titled, “Strong political support needed to achieve MDG's,” click here.

    SABC News
  • UN Foundation Observes Progress Made on MDGs

    The United Nations Foundation board of directors is holding a Board meeting in Ghana and will meet with government and NGO leaders to learn and share strategies for advancing progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

    The meeting comes at the culmination of a year-long effort by the UN Foundation to raise awareness about the need for innovative partnerships between governments, civil society, and the private sector with the UN to address global challenges.

    The meeting in Ghana builds on the positive momentum generated during the recent high-level UN Summit in New York that showcased how the UN is achieving progress in Africa and must be accelerated around the world.

    To read the article titled, “UN Foundation to Observe Progress Made on MDGs,” click here.

    All Africa
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