By Badumile Duma
South African civil society organisations (CSOs) have continuously voiced concerns over the progress made in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the year 2015. Although 2007 marks the half-way point for attaining millennium goals, South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, are not on track to achieve the goals. While CSOs acknowledge that some gains have been made, they maintain that progress in reducing extreme poverty is insufficient.
The MDGs represent eight goals which were adopted in 2000 by all the world’s governments as a minimum measure for achieving poverty alleviation and development. The goals were drawn from actions and targets contained in the Millennium Declaration, which was adopted by 189 nations and signed by 147 heads of state and governments in September 2000.
The eight MDGs are:
Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
Goal 5: Improve maternal health
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development
At a recent one day workshop, organised by the South African National NGO Coalition (SANGOCO), Action Aid, African Monitor and the National Development Agency (NDA), CSOs gathered together to evaluate the progress made towards achieving the MDGs on the continent and in South Africa.
The workshop considered the factors that hinder the continent and South Africa from achieving the MDGs. Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, President of the African Monitor, states that we need to evaluate what has been achieved and what hasn’t. “Our approach as a continent should be to recognise that we are lagging behind, but also explore as a matter of urgency what we can do in the next 7 years to ensure that we achieve the MDGs,” he says.
Although Sub-Saharan Africa is seen as a lost cause by many commentators who have more or less concluded that the region will not be able to achieve the MDGs in the set time, Archbishop Ndungane holds the view that we do not have the luxury of not meeting the MDGs in the set time. He maintains that, “Failure to meet goals like poverty eradication is literally a matter of life and death for many people in Africa.”
Zanele Twala, the newly appointed Country Director of Action Aid International’s South Africa office, argues that civil society must use their space to mobilise and hold governments accountable. “We must ensure that people in power use their resources in a way that helps the poor,” she asserts.
Is South Africa on Track?
Twala notes that on the African continent, South Africa is one of the few countries that has the resources to meet the MDGs in the allocated time. However, she argue that current trends do not point towards the achievement of all the goals by 2015, despite the various attempt to argue otherwise. She states that in South Africa, the issue is not a lack of resources, but rather a lack of institutional support and planning.
In his evaluation of the progress made in South Africa towards eradicating poverty and meeting the MDGs, Hassen Lorgat, SANGOCO Campaigns and Communications Manager, argues that “We have extreme inequality and then we have surpluses.” In his evaluation of the first goal, he refers to a report released by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), which states that 1.5 million children in South Africa suffer malnutrition whilst 14 million children suffer food insecurity.
On the same point, Lorgat argues that “Unemployment continues to be a scourge in our society and whether we use broad or narrow definitions, poverty has increased in relation to an increase in job shedding”
In his evaluation of the third goal, which relates to gender issues, Lorgat refers to statistics highlighted by the NGO, People Opposing Women Abuse. The statistics show that 1 out of 2 women is raped in her life time, while 1 woman is killed every 6 days by an intimate partner. Lorgat contends that quite a lot still has to be done if South Africa hopes to meet this particular goal by 2015.
It is good to note that recently steps have been put in place to ensure that there is some progress in South Africa towards meeting goal six: to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. Lorgat notes that civil society has come out very strongly on this issue, helping to ensure that the revamped SANAC and HIV/AIDS and STI Strategy Plan becomes a reality.
Twala argues that in the South African situation, civil society must elevate the issue of poverty and MDGs. She maintains that civil society faces the challenge of bringing this issue to light and ensuring that the level of growth experienced by some is shared amongst all.. Ultimately, South African civil society must take up the challenge of defining their partnership with government as a means of ensuring that the goals are met.
What can be done to Accelerate Delivery
The 2007 Millennium Development Goals Report acknowledged that Africa is not on track: "At the mid point between their adoption in 2000 and the 2015 target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, sub-Saharan Africa is not on track to achieve any of the goals. Although there have been major gains in several areas and the Goals remain achievable in most African nations, even the best governed countries of the continent have not been able to make sufficient progress in reducing extreme poverty in its many forms."
As a counter measure to this dismal picture, Archbishop Ndungane proposes six steps that can be taken by African civil society to accelerate the continent’s and South Africa’s rate in meeting the MDGs:
1st Step: Intensify service delivery
2nd Step: Become involved in policy process
3rd Step: Advocate for better use of resources
4th Step: Monitor delivery of promises
5th Step: Mobilise voices of African CSOs
6th Step: Create solidarity with partners from the North and South.
- Badumile Duma, Information Coordinator, SANGONeT.