UGANDA: Inadequate sensitization, a Docile population curtailing progress towards SDG targets

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Activists say its very unlikely for Uganda to achieve targets for Sustainable Development Goals by 2030; Courtesy Photo

Uganda is more likely to miss the targets for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as set in the global development agenda by the year 2030, partly due to lack of sensitization and information dissemination to the population about the need for development, as well as the ignorant, docile and dormant population that do not demand for accountability from leaders.

This observation was made during a stakeholder engagement between Civil Society leaders and media practitioners in Uganda where the need to accelerate implementation of the SDG agenda through communication and action, was highlighted as key to realization of the global development goals.

The Secretary General for United Nations Association of Uganda, Mr Richard Baguma, said there is urgent need to empower communities with information about SDGs as well as political will to integrate people into development plans and expenditures if the country is to achieve reasonable progress towards the set targets. He said, for this to be possible, the media should be brought on board to facilitate empowerment of masses with information and knowledge about plans, strategies and progress in implementation of the SDGs.

“The stakeholders have been very weak in dissemination of information about the need for development, the development programs available, and the beneficiary empowerment. Equipping the people with knowledge especially the media and the influencers, and integrating them into the development agenda and expenditure, is critical to the implementation of SDGs” Mr Baguma said.

17 in number, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. Through the pledge to Leave No One Behind, countries committed to fast-track progress for those furthest behind first.

The Voluntary National Review (VNR) Report for Uganda (June 2020), shows that progress has been made in allocating resources and implementing the SDGs, and good progress is evident in relation to SDG 1 (Ending poverty), 4 (Quality education), 5 (Gender equality) and 16 (Peace and Justice) averaging over 75 percent, while 3 other SDGs 6 (Clean water and sanitation), 8 (Decent work and economic growth) and 17 (Partnerships for the goals), Uganda scored an average of 70 percent.

According to the report, Uganda’s good performance in SDG 1 (Ending poverty) was driven by among other things the social protection programmes that have beneficial effects in several areas such as food security, education, employment and productivity in targeted districts.

Uganda also scored well in SDG 4 (Ensure inclusive and equitable education) with 63.3 per cent of under 5 years developmentally on track in literacy, physical, social emotional and learning domain outcomes. Under SDG 5 (Achieve Gender Equality and empower women and girls), Uganda registered significant progress in eradicating female genital mutilation prevalence among girls and women when it decreased from 0.6 percent to 0.3 percent in 2016 despite the practice still common in some areas.

Notably, under SDG 16 (Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels), the report notes that a feeling of safety increased significantly from 51 percent in 2013 to 94.3 percent in 2017 for those reporting felling safe during daytime.

However, Uganda still lags behind, with slow or no progress towards achievement of targets in the rest of other goals other goals including; Ending hunger (Goal 2), Ensuring health and well-being for all (Goal 3) Ensuring affordable and clean energy (Goal 7), Building resilient infrastructure, industry and innovation (Goal 9) Reducing inequalities (Goal 10), Ensuring sustainable cities and communities (Goal 11), Responsible consumption and production (Goal 12), Taking urgent action on Climate change (Goal 13), Conserving life bellow water (Goal 14), and Protecting and restoring life on land (Goal 15).

Baguma also pointed out poor utilization of available resources as one of the key factors behind Uganda’s poor performance towards the set targets as evidenced in misuse, stealing of public funds by corrupt government officials. “We misuse resources. We steal them. We do not utilize them where we don’t think we have personal advantage and return them unutilized. How can a district say they are not utilizing money for roads? Is there a district which has all roads done?” He said.

It is indicated that Uganda is aware of the fact that the global growth remains uncertain given the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has had on economies around the world. COVID-19 has been one of the largest reversals of any development effort globally with development processes including funding, activities and plans curtailed to more than 50 percent in some areas.

Baguma says, there is however an opportunity to work towards achievement of the country’s SDG targets but it requires an extremely strong and consistent political will at all levels coupled with discipline as well as active demand for accountability from the population.

“All the money for empowerment of youths has been embezzled, misused and abused. Why are young people so docile and so dormant and not demanding answers? These are some of the things that make us fail to achieve our goals partly because as a population we are docile” Baguma adds.

He says, while some developing countries have invested trillions of dollars to revive their economies, there has been huge inequalities in the manner this has been done. He called for increased financial investment into activities that will help achieve the SD goals, investment in the private sector, mitigation of climate change, peace, nutrition and health of the people.

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