Ambassador Dr Mwaba P. Kasese-Bota, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Zambia to the United Nations calls on partners to deliver on commitments
Interviewed by Nosh Nalavala
Nosh Nalavala: According to your National Report, Zambia has made notable progress towards the implementation of Sustainable Development (SD). Some of the achievements include: the establishment of the institutional frameworks to facilitate implementation of SD; integration of some aspects of SD into national poverty strategic plans; diversification of the economy and promotion of sustainable land management. As a leading LDC do you feel that all the goals of the MDGs were fulfilled?
Ambassador Mwaba Kasese-Bota: The MDGs presented a platform in response to the emergency challenges of a particular time bearing a very prominent social dimension with a tacit understanding and implication of influencing economic growth to further aid improvement and attainment of the MDGs.
Given the nature of the MDGs, Zambia like many other countries have fared well on the MDG scale. Great improvements have been witnessed in terms of improving the entire health and education system, reducing the inequality gap through the social protection elements and floors, though much more remains to be done.
I must mention here that Zambia has in the last 10 years recorded significantly impressive performance in both economic growth averaging 6.0%. This growth, however, has been jobless and hence did not translate to reduced poverty levels.
Q: How will you now transition to successful Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will come into effect on 1 January 2016?
A: In implementing sustainable development and moving towards transitioning to the SDGs, Zambia has, within the national development planning framework, embarked on transformative development pathways anchored on broad-based approach that encompasses economic diversification and growth, social justice and also institutional transformation. The approach is deemed to combine with transformational institutional sectoral strategies and policies by government ministries within the set objectives and priorities of the National Development Plans and the National Vision 2030. This will also ensure that the transformative process is coherent and responsive to the needs of beneficiaries.
Q: Given the current state of development, LDCs like Zambia will be wary about committing to any global Green Economy agenda that has the slightest chance of styming development through the imposition of tariffs and other barriers to trade. What areas of the green economy will Zambia focus on towards successfully achieving the SDGs?
A: The global Green Economy agenda as one of the tools should assist developing countries to move towards sustainable development and make progress in the implementation of SDGs. This should be worked out together with the necessary support for technology and innovation for country led programmes.
Q: Does Zambia face any specific challenges in implementing the SDGs?
A: Being both an LDC and a LLDC with different but compound vulnerabilities of the two special groups , may prevent Zambia’s optimal performance on the sustainable development agenda, and further perpetuate our inability to participate effectively and compete favourably on the international global trade arena. Partnerships are critical, and more so to aggregately promote reduced tariffs and barriers to trade in addition to reducing the cost of transportation and of doing business as a whole.
Q: And what areas of the green economy agenda will Zambia focus on?
A: Some of the areas of the green economy of focus for my country includes amongst others; the energy sector — expanding the 1) national hydroelectricity, generation, transmission and distribution through infrastructure development and rehabilitation for clean energy; 2) expanding investment on new and renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, bioenergy, geothermal and other sources; agriculture, forestry and food production — through promotion of sustainable and smart agriculture practices and forestry management with safe and clean technologies; water resources management and sanitation (including ecosystems and biodiversity); and, infrastructure development and construction industry that promotes use of sustainable construction methodologies, materials and improved services support systems.
Q: Despite not being a large contributor to global emissions, Zambia does and will suffer from the damaging effects of global warming. Are you optimistic that LDC members will get funding towards mitigation and adaptation efforts?
A: Climate change is a real and present threat to humanity requiring our collective effort to stop and reverse the trend. This earth is a common heritage and the only habitat for humanity with no probability for replication. Protection of the environment and its mitigation is therefore not a matter of options but a ‘must do’, stretching far and beyond the commitments of post 2015 development agenda, and the upcoming UNFCCC provisions.
Q: What steps do you foresee towards climate change provisions?
A: Climate changes requires the sustained engagement and response of all partners and the international community at large, to an ambitious and comparable emission cuts by all industrialized countries; providing support to formidable mitigation and adaptation measures especially for countries in vulnerable situation such as LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS; and, support towards real “bankable” commitment on finance, technology and capacity as necessary, in order to facilitate environmentally friendly economic programmes sufficient for the achievement of the SDGs
Q: Could you foresee a successful road to the SDGs for LDC countries?
A: The MDGs were fewer in number compared to the number of SDGs which are now double in number, and the 169 targets. The ambition is certainly high and so is the challenge to meet the increased mandate of the new goals and targets in terms of implementation and follow up. Countries like Zambia will further need to integrate the Post 2015 Development Agenda, the Instanbul Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries and the Vienna Program of Action for LLDCs, so as to reduce on the overheads for the three processes as well as to effectively enhance attribution and reporting for all three processes through a single mechanism. The success of this process will require delivering on commitments by partners to support in terms of ODA, technical and capacity support to the three programmes of the Post 2015 Development Agenda.
Q: Since 1992, Zambia’s national poverty level has marginally declined by only 9.5 percent, from 70% in 1991 to 60.5% in 2010. The poverty situation in Zambia’s rural areas is worse, causing a great danger to sustainable development given that the livelihoods of many rural poor people is intricately linked with exploiting fragile environments and ecosystems. How do you see the SDGs narrowing the inequality gap and eradicating poverty? And stanching the exploitation of the ecosystem?
A: Zambia welcomes the transformative areas upon which the SDGs are founded, which are integrated and indivisibly balanced by the three dimensions of sustainable development of the economic, social and environmental pillars. Zambia has prioritized economic diversification and job creation especially for the youth and in the rural areas through the rural industrialization strategy which contributes to the higher objective of economic diversification with agricultural diversification and value addition. Zambia is working towards the vision of being transformed into becoming “a prosperous middle income country by the year 2030”.
Interview first appeared in the UN publication THE COMMITMENT