Humanitarian Diplomacy Dialogue – South Africa

Debate on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has intensified recently in both the public and policy sectors. With less than five years to go until the deadline of 2015, and with the majority of the goals seemingly out of reach, many are questioning the design and implementation of the MDGs, as well as the international community’s commitment.

In order to contribute meaningfully to the discussion, and to bring an African context to the debate, the IFRC’s African zone office dedicated December’s inaugural Humanitarian Diplomacy Dialogue to the subject — MDGS Beyond 2015. The gathering included diplomats, academics, and representatives from NGOs, governments, the UN and the Red Cross Red Crescent.

Alasan Senghore, head of the IFRC’s Africa zone office, welcomed guests by explaining that the dialogue’s aim was to provide thought leadership, and open debate and consultation.

“Africa has many challenges, but it also has its own solutions. We need to harness the energy of young people, and the wisdom of the elders, and work together to improve the lives of the people of Africa,” said Senghore.

The debate was guided by four panellists — an academic, an MDG specialist, a civil society representative and a government representative — who all took part in a lively discussion that was moderated by well-known South African broadcaster, Chris Maroleng.

Talking about grassroots buy-in of the MDGs, Sadi Luka, Chief Director for community development in the South African Department of Social Development, said: “People must see themselves as active partners and not passive beneficiaries. When are we in Africa going to share our own best practices with the rest of the world?”

Dr Osten Chulu of UNDP added: “The shortfalls in progress towards the MDGs are not because they are unreachable, or because the time is too short. Rather, it is because of unmet commitments, inadequate resources, misuse of resources, a lack of focus and accountability. We must empower the public to take their leaders to task. Development is a two-way process. If they are not aware of what their leaders have signed up to, how can they hold them accountable?”

In an impassioned plea, Pooven Moodley of Oxfam urged the international community to uphold its commitments. “There is disillusionment in the MDGs because of the empty promises made. But progress gives hope and inspiration. We know it can be done. All that’s needed is the will. If Africa fails, we all fail.”

Reiterating the need for African solutions, Professor James Ogude from the University of the Witwatersrand said: “It’s not enough to say to people ‘eat, have shelter and shut up’. Education will see Africans rise to the next level of development, to mobilize local resources and re-ignite action from African communities themselves.”

The panellists concluded that the MDGs can be achieved in Africa, but they need united effort and community ownership.

Future dialogue events will include talks, seminars and debates on Afro-optimism, the importance of young people in leadership development, and women as catalysts for community empowerment. For further information, please contact Nooshin Erfani at nooshin.erfanighadimi@ifrc.org.

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