Friday, October 2, 2015

Success of UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030: the world must listen to Africa

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

 Traditional wisdom counsels: “If you set up a trap to catch a prey, you don’t stand by and drive away all approaching games at the same time.”
The just-ended UN summit on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in New York where 193 world leaders engaged in jaw-jaw gymnastics with ‘BIG, BIG English” (as we say in Ghana), was very refreshing indeed! This author finds the summit to be memorable in several ways. It was memorable because it coincided with the 70th natal day of the UN itself. It was memorable because it served as a platform for reflection on 15 years of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and adoption of another 15 years of SDGs. It was memorable because it was under a theme: “Transforming our world, realising the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” (SDGs).
What is Sustainable Development?
(…) “In 1983, the UN General Assembly created the World Commission on Environment and Development, (WCED) an independent committee of twenty-two members, headed by Gro Harlem Brundtland, the Prime Minister of Norway. Designed to examine global environment and development to the year 2000 and beyond, the commission seeks to reassess critical problems, to formulate realistic proposals for solving them, and to raise the level of understanding and commitment to the issues of environment and development.
“ Rather than presenting a gloom and doom report about the destruction of natural resources, our ‘Common Future’ offers an agenda advocating the growth of economies based on policies that do not harm, and can even enhance, the environment. The commission recognises that the time has come for a marriage of economy and ecology, in order to ensure the growth of human progress through development without bankrupting the resources of future generations.”
I have quoted the above paragraphs from WCED document with emphasis on the last sentence, “The commission recognises that the time has come for a marriage of economy and ecology…” It was out of that Brundtland report that the term Sustainable Development was born. Since then Sustainable Development has been defined affectionately as “development that meets the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
Traditionally, sustainable development can be illustrated by a fable thus: “Your great grandparents drank water from an ancient well and left it for your grandparents. Your grandparents also drank water from the same well and preserved it for your own parents. Your parents finally drank water from that well and handed it over to you. When you too, drink water from the same well, it is your turn to leave it intact for your children before you kick the bucket”.  This scenario is known in African folklore as “tradition goes on.”  However, the way “galamsey” operators or illegal gold miners are polluting rivers and contaminating water bodies in Ghana today, can our generation guarantee sustainable development of the future generations of our nation?   
Why the world must listen to Africa
On Tuesday, September 29, 2015, the Daily Graphic page 32 published a story headlined: “Review Africa’s role in global production.”  The story, which was written by the paper’s correspondent, Doreen Andoh, covering the UN summit in New York, reported on the addressed delivered by Ghana’s President on Saturday, September 26 at the event.  Her opening paragraph reads:  “President John Dramani Mahama has pointed out the need for Africa’s role to be reviewed in the effort to realise global sustainable development.”  She reported that President Mahama who spoke for Africa “stressed that if the world wanted young Africans seeking work in Europe to stay at home, it would have to relocate more industries and production to Africa.”
It is this clarion call on the world especially Europe to relocate factories in Africa that inspires me to write this article. In the 21st century of globalisation, it is imperative for Europeans to change their   attitude towards Africa if they are sincere about the success of the UN SDGs 2030.  It is not necessary to remind the world about the way they treated Africa through slave trade. From the 15th to 18th centuries Europeans brought ships to Africa and forcibly uprooted millions of able-bodied men and women who could have develop Africa to cultivate their plantations for them in some parts of the world. Paradoxically, today, it Africans themselves who are jumping into wretched boats to Europe but are being blocked. Why? Are their services no longer needed?    
In his book, “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” (2009), Walter Rodney, lamented about how some European insurance companies and other capitalist firms exploited indigenous hard working people of the Continent in the interest of Europe. “...The policy of colonial reserves in metropolitan currencies can also be cited as ‘service’ inimical to Africans.”   Page 253.
 If Europeans no longer need the services of Africans in their countries, they must listen to Africa, through Ghana’s President. For UN SDGs to succeed, President Mahama is advising industrialised nations to relocate some of their industries in Africa. This, he reasoned, would create jobs for unemployed battalions to stay and work on their mother Continent rather than embark on reckless journeys to Europe and perish in boiling waters of the Atlantic Ocean!
The author works with Information Services Department (ISD) Accra <>