In 2015, Zambia as part of all the 193 United Nations (UN) Members States adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
These Goals focus on ending hunger, reducing poverty, improving health, providing access to quality education, promoting gender equality, ensuring clean water and sanitation, providing affordable and clean energy, ensuring that there is decent work and economic growth among others.
Commonly known as the 2030 Agenda, if they are fully attained, it will result in the well-being of all individuals, communities and citizens as a whole. In other words, if all the 17 sustainable goals are fully attained in Zambia, they will lead to sustainable development of the country. Today, as a global community, we stand at mid-point to the year 2030, which countries set as the deadline to achieve these vitally important universal, indivisible, and interconnected global development goals.
The 2023 Global Sustainable Development Report that was launched on
12 September 2023 shows that at the halfway point of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the world is far off track and that without urgent course correction and acceleration, humanity will face prolonged periods of crisis and uncertainty – triggered by and reinforcing poverty, inequality, hunger, disease, conflict and disaster. This has implications on countries’ ability to eradicate poverty and improve people’s livelihoods, economic growth and environmental protection.
Similar to many other countries, most of the targets for the SDGs in Zambia are off-track. This is due to a combination of factors including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and inadequate financing. Zambia’s Voluntary National Review (VNR) of the SDGs (https://zambia.un.org/en/245569-zambias-voluntary-national-review-2023) presented during the High-Level Political Forum in New York this past July, clearly reveals the extent to which progress toward achieving the 2030 Agenda has been impacted.
For instance, under SDG 4 that seeks to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all, school closures during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted access to learning for most children, negatively impacting education outcomes in 2020 when compared to 2019. However, with the free education policy, employment of additional teachers and construction of new classrooms and review of the curriculum, there is hope that Zambia can attain this goal. Similarly, with SDG 3 on access to health, improvements in staffing levels, skilled birth attendance and the National Social Health Insurance Scheme coverage present hope that the country can address other constraints and get closer to achieving this goal.
Closely following progress on all the SDGs, the UN is urging action. Commenting on the Global Sustainable Development Report 2023, Secretary General António Guterres stated:
“Despite impressive engagement around the Sustainable Development Goals, the world is far off track. Much more effort, investment and systemic change are required.”
It is notable that Zambia has integrated economic, social and environmental factors into the country’s development frameworks. The Eighth National Development Plan (8NDP) is 87% aligned to the SDGs, underscoring Zambia's commitment to the 2030 Agenda. The UN remains committed to supporting the country achieve the SDGs in line with the 8NDP.
While acknowledging the existing challenges that the country faces, there is hope that Zambia can overcome these and get back on the path to achieving the SDGs by 2030, while focusing on economic transformation for improved livelihoods.
As we prepare for the 2023 SDG Summit that will take place from 18-19 September 2023 in New York, which will focus on marking the beginning of a new phase of accelerated progress towards the SDGs, we note that Zambia is making strides. The ongoing efforts to build back better are largely credited to a series of responsive policy decisions and interventions consistently executed through various government flagship programmes. These initiatives, bolstered by support from development partners, including the private sector and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), continue to focus on fostering both economic growth and human development, thus playing an indispensable role in expediting the realisation of SDG-related programmes.
Several actions are required at various levels. Zambia ought to prioritize effective governance across all sectors, while simultaneously giving due consideration to local solutions and innovations in harnessing both domestic and external resources for the sake of sustainable development, including the adoption of digital technologies. In addition, forging strategic partnerships will play a pivotal role in supplementing government initiatives, enabling the nation to capitalise on opportunities for Foreign Direct Investment, technical and financial support from bilateral and multilateral development partners, as well as engagement with various domestic and international non-state actors within the country.
Ensuring inclusive development requires an all-of-society approach where we all agree that making progress means changing the way we do things. Having a ‘business as usual’ approach is a sure way to fail. We, therefore, need to make bold and transformative decisions to leapfrog development in the nation.
The UN will walk with the Zambian people in ending poverty, promoting education, stamping out Gender Based Violence, breaking inequalities, and conserving the environment, among other areas.
We need to remain cognisant of the fact that the SDGs remain our blueprint to sustainable development. The 2030 Agenda is an agenda of justice and equality, of inclusive sustainable development, and human rights and dignity for all.
Making the achievement of the SDGs a reality is a responsibility of all of us. Together, we can make it happen.