• UN Applauds Dlamini-Zuma on New Role

    The United Nations (UN) has welcomed the election of Home Affairs Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, as head of the African Union Commission.

    In a press statement, UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, says he is looking forward to working closely with Dlamini-Zuma on peace and security issues on the continent, highlighting the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and promoting sustainable development in Africa as priorities.

    Ban pledges the UN's full support and says that the UN will continue to strengthen its strategic partnership with the African Union to consolidate peace, security and development in the years ahead.

    To read the article titled, “UN chief applauds Dlamini-Zuma on new post,” click here.

    SABC News
  • Could Material Reuse and Recycling be the Answer to Achieving the MDGs for Africa?

    Much debate surrounds the real progress made by Africa to date with regards to attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). If the aim of having the MDGs was to encourage development by improving socio-economic conditions in the world’s poorest countries, why then, after over a decade of the initial meeting and with just under four years left to reach the set deadline, are the poorest nations still poor, and in some cases their conditions have even deteriorated since the turn of the millenium? Have the world leaders commited themselves in principle to something they know they will not achieve in practice? Has the environment, which is the most important resource essential to achieving these goals, been conserved and utilised sustainably so as to assist in poverty eradication?

    Most of our problems today are a result of poor policy planning, rampant corruption and greed among those in governments themselves. Governments are failing to render basic service delivery to citizens. There is a lag in employment opportunities, which has led to Africa being the ‘poorest’ continent. Perhaps now is the time for Africa to look at newer avenues so as to convert today’s ‘challenges’ into tomorrow’s opportunities. What if Africa looks at recycling, not just in principle, but also in practice? What if we look at recycling as a solution to ending poverty? As a strategy that will help attain universal education and promote gender equality? What if we see an opportunity in waste recycling to help combat HIV and AIDS pandemic and promote and foster sustainable partnerships, together with ensuring environmental sustainability? Perharps waste management and recycling could be the answer Africa is looking for to attaining the MDGs by the year 2015.

    It has been generally accepted that in any crisis (economic, social, natural) strapped nation, especially the less economically empowered world, the physical environment tends to suffer the most from human interference due to man’s coping strategies. The effects of the economic recession has had on many western countries has had drastic effects on African economies. Many have been left without a source of income due to mass retrenchments by many companies. This has played negatively on Africa’s human development, as can be seen by the number of African countries ranked to have very low human development in the 2010 Human Development Index Report. This has also added more burden to the already existing situation in development patterns in Africa, where unemployment and poverty levels are generally high.

    The reason why Africa has been lagging in achieving the MDGs, with little progress being recorded for the whole region, has been because of the lack of financially empowering employment opportunities that focus on the most disadvantaged. With high unemployment rates being prevelant, and many countires going through economic chaos due to unaccountability of public office bearers, Africa as a whole will certainly not be able to reach the MDGs before the set 2015 date. Formal employment is hardly readily available, and nepotism and greed have seen only a priviledged few being absorbed into the mainstream economy. However, provision of a steady income to households through selling of waste has potential of seeing many families send their children off to school, and hence achieve universal primary education in societies that are currently fincancially and economically challenged in Africa.

    So, will introduction of recycling initiatives and a scaling up of already existing initiatives in Africa mean a reduction in poverty and thereby address the development goals before 2015?

    The Cooperative Model - A coordinated and focused approach to waste recycling, employment creation, poverty alleviation and Africa’s attaining of the MDGs:

    The cooperative model is one that many African countries can relate to. Even in the early ‘primitive’ years of Africa’s development, many of our forefathers believed in ‘strength in numbers’ to get a particular task done. If properly coordinated, the cooperative model can offer poverty alleviation solutions not only in the waste recycling sector, but in all other sectors outside the mainstream economy. This is because employment creation opportunities created through the cooperative model are vast as compared to individual efforts. Much can be achieved with regards to poverty alleviation and other MDGs, apart from attaining environmental sustainability. One cooperatively run recycling initiative, for instance, a multi recycling buy-back centre, can create employment opportunities for no less than five individuals. The average direct beneficiary number per initiative can be 15, with an unlimited number of indirect beneficiaries who will be selling recyclable material to the buy back centre, in return for cash. In the end, depending on the locality, the sphere of influence that such an initiative can have will be large, extending to other communities where such initiatives are not readily available. Hence, everyone within the chain, from the street and kerbside waste picker to the cooperative running the buy back centre will have some form of income, that will help them meet some of their day to day needs.

    However, this can be best achieved if all stakeholders; including government, community members, schools, private sector and civil society, play their respective roles to providing an environment conducive for the promotion of these recycling initiatives in areas where there are high unemployment rates and environmental degradation owing to a lack of waste management services. The contributions of waste recycling to attaining the MDGs are unlimited. However, it is only through a properly planned and coordinated cooperative model structure that will help provide bulk buying, branding, marketing and financial services to both direct and indirect beneficiaries that the real benefits of waste recycling are realised and contribute to Africa’s attempt to reaching these goals. In so doing, African communities both rural and urban are empowered to be socially, economically and financially sustainable. Perhaps it is time for government to strongly consider recycling as a potential economic game changer in Zimbabwe as well.

    - Eliot Chisango is a researcher (focusing on waste management, recycling and sustainable development under the Environment sector) with P.E.A.C.E Foundation Trust, a Johannesburg-based NGO working towards addressing rural poverty. For more information on the Foundation’s activities, refer to
    Eliot Chisango
  • Rio+20 to Pave Way Forward Once MDGs Expire

    The United Nations (UN) Women says decisions taken at the Summit on Sustainable Development in Rio+20 from 20-22 June 2012 will inform what happens once the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire in 2015.

    UN Women executive director, Michelle Bachelet, points out that decisions taken in Rio will give direction to new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), critical among those the empowerment of women and gender equality.

    Bachelet believes that there are many competing interests in Rio but central to the success of any new SDGs will be the positioning of women in the document.

    To read the article titled, “Rio+20 will pave way forward once MDGs expires',” click here.

    SABC News
  • Poor Countries Remain Hungry – Report

    According Global Monitoring Report for 2012, the developing world's progress is ‘seriously lagging’ on global targets relating to food and nutrition, with child and maternal mortality rates still unacceptably high.

    The report notes that dealing with food price volatility must be a high priority, especially as nutrition has been one of the forgotten Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

    Released by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the report states that recent spikes in international food prices had stalled progress across several of the MDGs.

    To read the article titled, “Poor countries remain hungry,” click here.

    Sowetan Live
  • Agricultural Training Institutions’ (ATIs) Response to Small-Scale Agriculture in South Africa

    South Africa (SA) still lags behind in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals of food security and poverty eradication. The current trends of education in SA affect the agriculture sector. Agriculture information is not integrated with other development programmes to address the numerous related problems faced by small-scale and emerging farmers. Information is an essential ingredient in agricultural development programmes. There is fragmentation and lack of coordination within the system particularly with respect to governance, finance, articulation, progression and mobility.

    Educating and training people on agriculture can significantly contribute towards promoting and capacitating small scale and emerging farmers. However, the challenge in achieving this potential is that there is poor and inconsistent quality control (variation among institutions), and poor quality of staff especially in most agriculture schools and Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges. In addition, the ineffective and non-responsive education and training systems (curriculum, staff quality, poor linkage between Agricultural Education and Training (AET) providers and industry, low research base) and poor access to AET by emerging and new entrants into the agricultural sector makes it harder for people to get good agricultural training. Underlying these difficulties is the negative career image of agriculture that is painted by society. This is exacerbated by the shortage of critical skills in agricultural fields such as production, engineering, economics and development.

    Given the relatively small size of the small-scale agriculture sector in SA at the moment compared to the commercial farming sector, and its potential for economic growth, food security, employment and poverty alleviation, an investment in land development and land reform is crucial for the sector to grow. Investment in human capital development, in the form of professional, managerial and technical training, produced by investment in schools, FET and agricultural colleges, universities, and formal and informal farmer training will also be valuable in promoting the small-scale farming sector. One idea is for agricultural colleges and universities to adopt schools where agriculture can be taught as part of the school curriculum. The small-scale farming sector can be further enhanced by improvements in the performance of farmers’ services and support institutions such as marketing, credit, research and extension; and by promoting agriculture as an integral component of the rural development agenda.

    Marketing of agriculture as a profession through career days, conferences, and exhibitions is critical to changing community mindsets and to eradicate the dependency syndrome on social grants and heavy reliance on charity and remittances. Small-scale agriculture has an important role to play in food production and in keeping rural communities vibrant. Small-scale agriculture in SA is in a period of flux, exploration and experimentation. It will only be a success if there is synergy from all departments and a willingness to engage from the communities themselves.

    - Mulugheta G Araia, Fort Cox College of Agriculture and Forestry.
  • Falling Asleep in Parliament

    Day two of the seminar started on time at 9h00 with a wonderfully concise and accurate account of the proceedings of day one, the key points raised and the ways to meet the challenges. But before I get to the summary of the day, I want to reflect briefly on the presentations of the afternoon from civil society which got me thinking again about what can only be described as a level of mediocrity that has seeped into the nature and content of civil society engagements. It would appear that civil society leaders and representatives are trapped in the outdated modality of only being able to state their narrow position based views. They seem to lack that essential quality of NGOs and civil society of being able to engage with ideas and in short, even just listen!

    Maybe, during the Apartheid era, it was an absolute necessity to have and hold on to a very clear position as the system was at fault and thus we had to fight it. This practice has however remained with us as we moved into being part of a free society and this dogmatic and outmoded way of working now reflects on civil society as mediocrity and just plain dullness. This dullness was in stark contrast to some of the vibrant and engaging presentations from government officials and made me feel rather sad to be on the civil society delegation.

    Maybe it is time for a new school of learning for civil society leaders and representatives to learn how to think, to listen, to engage with ideas and focus themselves on building a great country instead of retreating to the dark and dank spaces of being in opposition to government, being unable to engage with ideas and being just plain boring! Remember when NGOs and civil society in general was a space buzzing with the energy of ideas and action to build a better society and world?

    Well, please can we have offers to help us with working with and among our leaders and representatives to take us back there or to an even more amazing new space where we can be inspired and energised to learn, grow and contribute to building this country? Where are our NGOs and their leadership? Based on what I saw and heard over two days, I can confirm that (as a sector), we need help us to get back to this space of being thought leaders action heroes of delivery of the Freedom Charter!

    Who will volunteer to lead this process and dialogue?

    Now that I have made some people happy and others happier, let me list for you some of the key outcomes of the first day of the seminar. It reads like an amazing outcome for a single day of work and bear in mind all this largely without the direct influence of NGOs…

    The key points noted on day one of the seminar:

    There was consensus and understanding that Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are about human dignity at their core and in South Africa, they reflect the values of our Constitution and Freedom Charter. Giving life to the MDGs is as Minister Manuel said, is an expression of democracy.

    It was re-iterated that there is a clear commitment to the minimum standards of the MDGs and their achievement.

    There was a commitment to the necessity of a coordinated approach of activities from all three spheres of government to make sure the MDGs are met.

    That the process to institutionalise the MDGs at all levels of government work with an emphasis on the quality of the services provided will be promoted.

    There was also a clear acknowledgement on the need for emphasis on improved oversight of Parliament at provincial and national level. In addition, it was noted that monitoring and evaluation must be stepped up and tied to a larger role for the research and development aspects of delivery of the MDGs.

    That any lag in the delivery of the MDGs must be picked up via the oversight process and addressed. This oversight process must use the existing oversight tools to ensure that MDGs are met and implemented for all.

    That the MDGs will only be achieved through partnerships across all sectors of society and the questions, process, and implementation of partnerships with academic institutions and civil society must be addressed to ensure that all South Africans own the deliveries of MDGs.

    It was also good to hear and see Parliament being very aware of the post 2015 agenda and taking some steps of its own to ensure that the post MDG landscape in SA is informed by local conditions and imperatives first and foremost and that any international instruments are secondary to what out lofty and noble ideals are.

    The words of Minister Manuel that the MDGs are “important but not sufficient” must remain a focus for our thoughts about the post MDG era.

    That the focus on the rights enshrined in the Constitution must form the basis of any post 2015 agenda in SA with a clear focus on not just delivery numbers but quality of services.

    In terms of the role of Parliament, it was noted that:

    Effective delivery of the MDGs is tied to the effective oversight of such delivery in the four years remaining.

    That the legislature will use all available tools for such oversight and that such oversight will form part and parcel of annual institutional activities of the provincial and national legislature. This will be brought to life through improved coordination between houses of parliament and committees and cluster committees and in particular through using the Multi Party Women’s Caucus as a key driver of the process of ensuring realisation of gender rights.

    That this improved oversight will be supported by requests for increased financial and research support for Parliament.

    It was also noted that a holistic policy and legislative framework for development and social services, which was fit for, purpose was developed and promoted. That any such process was tied to the development of the role of civil society.

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


  • 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
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