The United Nations (UN), the Government of Namibia, and their development partners came together for the official launch of the UN SDG Joint Fund Programme.
‘A collaborative effort, under the leadership and full ownership of the Government’ would come in the form of a commitment to provide the government with USD 1 million for implementation over a two-year period, ending in 2022, announced His Excellency, Mr. Sen Pang, UN Namibia’s Resident Coordinator, in his opening remarks on Thursday 23rd September.
The funds were provided under the UN Joint SDG Fund, which supports countries as they accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The objective of this Joint Programme is to create the right conditions and capacities for the alignment of public and private capital to the SDGs and the longer-term enhancement of the quality and scale of financing.
While Namibia’s socio-economic conditions, access to services, and wealth have rapidly improved, the opening speakers recognised that many problems still exist, including the country’s well known tripartite challenges of unemployment, poverty, and inequality. Therefore, the Fund is aimed at supporting the mobilization of domestic and international financing towards the SDGs and remedying existing humanitarian challenges. Activities facilitated by this catalytic capital include: an Integrated National Financing Framework (INFF); dialogues, alliances, and networks with the Government, development banks, financial sector, and investors; strengthening of capacities of public authorities and the ecosystem that can lead to a pipeline of impact-driven investments; and feasibility studies required to design innovative solutions and products that can unlock public and private capital.
A deeper dive into this followed as the technical side of implementing the Integrated National Financing Framework was laid out, including the three focus areas upon which it would rest: 1) a gender responsive finance strategy; 2) a national public-private dialogue platform and 3) budgetary transparency. The method here was supported by lessons from the Nigerian experience using a similar INFF model, as presented by Ms. Nabila Aguele, Special Adviser at the Ministry of Finance, Budget & National Planning in Nigeria: Notable lessons include the need for meaningful public-private dialogue that also includes a medium-term strategy, beyond the current budgetary period and reinforcing the need for gender inclusivity in the process.
The ministries of Finance; Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation;, and Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare each added their own unique perspectives, including the need to put employment at the centre of planning, as this success in this area would determine the economic success of the nation, and that greater policy coherence and project coordination across sectors would be necessary to achieve this.
The second half of the event involved discussion between two high level panels on the framework.
First, the stakeholders’ panel, involving representatives from the European Union (EU), South African Customs Union (SACU), and the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), discussed prospects for collaboration to strengthen financing for the SDGs in Namibia. They agreed that for an upper-middle income country with dwindling development partners, grant funding alone would not be enough, and that investment plans involving loan based public-private financing would need to be devised. Pivotal to this is the development of productive capacity to leverage the AfCFTA, customs modernisation, and free access to information. This latter sentiment’s potency on the need for transparency was confirmed with widespread agreement from the crowd in the subsequent question and answer session.
This panel was followed by the discussions between development partners from the UNDP, ILO, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNECA, and the African Development Bank on the topic of best practices, lessons learned, and statements of commitment to enhance development financing. The panel agreed that youth and women should be integrated into any national development policy or framework as children are our future to invest in yet bear the brunt of poverty. This budgeting should be governmentally cross-cutting and not only be youth responsive but also gender responsive and continue Namibia’s positive record on women in powerful positions. Moreover, the INFF should be seen as a planning tool, offering options for recovery from COVID-19.
The event concluded with an address from the Honourable Mr. Obeth Kandjoze, Director General of the National Planning Commission, who celebrated the opportunity and officially launched the Joint Programme.