By Keffyalew Gebremedhin – The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
“The 2030 Agenda compels us to look beyond national boundaries and short-term interests and act in solidarity for the long-term. We can no longer afford to think and work in silos”
– Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, during the adoption of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Agenda for Development, 25 September 2015
Sometimes, there is a meeting of minds between The Guardian and I; we share the same perspectives on certain issues; this time especially as far as the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are concerned.
I say this, without ignoring the fact that a world with the MDGs is better than the one without.
The Guardian wondered in a September 24, 2015 article “Almost exactly 15 years after the MDGs were announced, world leaders will once again agree a “plan of action for people, planet and prosperity”, and annouce the successors to the MDGs, the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). Though the finer details of the SDGs have yet to hammered out, the mere fact of their advent raises an inevitable question: will they succeed where their predecessors failed?.”
Monday morning, Sept 28, 2015, as I flipped through Ethiopian news from different sources – to my great disappointment – the first item that came was about the Man in the Office of the Prime Minister being awarded the South South Award for achievements in the Millennium Development Goals, innovation and technology.
Contention with South South Awards
South South Awards is not a United Nations entity. It is stablished in 2011 and so far from the Presidents of Azerbaijan to Zambia and in between from Kenya and Tanzania in east Africa, Nigeria Senegal, Cape Verde in the West, Lesotho in the south to South Africa a couple of times to Angola, Qatar, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, African Union (AU), Seychelles, Fiji, United Nations, Botswana, Barbados, Rwanda, El Salvador, Panamá, UAE, Bangladesh, Mauritius, Uruguay, now Ethiopia, etc., have received awards, allegedly for monumental contributions to global and technological development and the environment, among others.
The list of awardees also includes so many civil society leaders, film actors, musicians etc have visited its podium to receive their respective honors. All have been told they have been key players in global development, as have been told several heads of state the list of whose names and titles requires several pages.
How this young entity selects its winners is the most troubling question. For all I could, see the selected individuals have nothing to do with the MDGs or sustainable development, except the sexy names. Seek in any of the international papers, one cannot find any of the individuals given recognition as alleged in a tiny centimeter of space on any of the papers or television windows.
Perhaps, it may have been simply seen as hobnobbing by wealthy presidents including well-known dictators, ambassadors and ministers in a social circle of their own organized for them by influence peddlers.
That is why I could not get my head around this story of an award for undeserving dictators and lackeys, including the face of the TPLF regime in the person of the Man in the Office of the Prime Minister in Addis Abeba.
Ethiopia’s MDG achievements?
I recall reviewing in detail and extensively the Secretary-General’s report on MDG progress through 2014. The 2014 report of the Secretary-General saw nothing outstanding. In fact, Ethiopia is mentioned in the 2015 report once; that is in connection with reduction in under-five mortality, which has been going down since 1995. Of course, it is also indicated that the experiences of “Bangladesh, Cambodia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania— prove that low income need not be an impediment to saving children’s lives.”
In general, the report states: “In sub-Saharan Africa, the annual rate of reduction of under-five mortality was over five times faster during 2005–2013 than it was during 1990–1995.” However, the maternal mortality ratio declined by 64 per cent in Southern Asia, between 1990 and 2013, while in sub-Saharan Africa it fell by 49 per cent.
The Secretary-General in his latest report observes that while poverty is more severe in Sub-Saharan Africa, where its reduction is conjectural, “61 percent of countries countries have no adequate data to monitor poverty trends.” Still the claim is that the proportion of those living on less than $1.25 a day has fallen from 47 percent in 2011 to 41 percent, according to the report. For various reasons, the report underlines that the poverty rate in Sub-Saharan Africa continues to lag behind other regions, because of which 40 percent of the population still lives in extreme poverty in 2015.
The Secretary-General’s report points out: “In sub-Saharan Africa, projections for the 2014–2016 period indicate a rate of undernourishment of almost 23 percent. While the hunger rate has fallen, the number of undernourished people has increased by 44 million since 1990, reflecting the region’s high population growth rate. The situation varies widely across the subregions. Northern, Southern and Western Africa have already met or are close to meeting the target. But in Central Africa progress has been hampered by rapid population growth and environmental fragility as well as economic and political upheaval. The number of undernourished people in the subregion has doubled since 1990.”
Even on this, the May 2015 report by the FAO specifically indicated that 32 percent of Ethiopians are undernourished, while the regional figure is 23 percent. This has not proved to be deterrence for political FAO from awarding the TPLF regime for reducing undernourishment, possibly a response to political pressure on it.
In fact, the conclusion of the SG report about Sub-Saharan Africa – Ethiopia included – as a whole was sort of dim. Thus, there was little that could distinguish Ethiopia’s MDG achievements separate from other countries to deserve any prize.
On this, The Guardian also states:
The UN’s final report on the MDGs, released in July, painted a decidedly mixed picture. The MDGs helped lift more than a billion people out of extreme poverty, but the goal of achieving universal primary education was just missed, as was the target of halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger.
Did South South Awards ever hear Ethiopians accusing the ruling party of failure and for bad governance?
To my mind, therefore, the South South Awards action is simply discordant with Ethiopian reality. The enterprise itself must have been engineered by some recruits seeking attention for continuity of their own project. South South Awards ceremonies are coordinated by the Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations in New York.
More importantly, there is something that has gone wrong with the selection of my country as one of this year’s awardees. Whatever its worth, the prize to Ethiopia has come against the backdrop of Ethiopians openly and without fear voting last August against the regime, including hardline political operative of the regime’s publicly denouncing its bad and poor governance records.
Furthermore, Ethiopians have seen this at the ruling party’s 10th congress that took place at Mekelle during the last quarter of August 2015. Of that, Addis Fortune quotes the Man in the Prime Minister’s Office himself, who while acknowleding the bad governance in response to the criticisms but as usual passed the buck, saying: “It is now visible that the rent seeking political economy has overwhelmed our cities”.
The paper further writes of the problems:
Fortune has learnt that some of the shortcomings observed in senior leadership members and members of the Front include lack of strong and deep understanding of the Front’s political world view, slow progress and lack of performance uniformity in galvanising the Front to play a prominent role in the country’s political economy, lack of fundamental progress in improving efficiency and limited clarity in outlook to mobilise members and resources. Furthermore, despite increasing the number of its members to historical highs – totaling 7.4 million – serious questions are raised regarding the quality of their capabilities and some even allege that new recruits join the Front for personal gains. The report also outlined a significant ailment in relation to a rent-seeking, anti-democratic and opportunist mindset at all levels of the Front’s leadership structures.
As far as Sub-Saharan Africa’s MDG achievement records, including Ethiopia’s has alarmed many at the United Nations. In reviewing the report, what I have picked out from the United Nations Secretary-General’s report and put on my blog at that point are as follows:
* Goal 1 relating to the Eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, is unlikely to meet the target by 2015. At the same time the report claims hunger is continuing to decline.
* &bsp; In comparison with other regions, ” sub-Saharan Africa has shown limited progress in recent years, remaining the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment.”
* despite a modest reduction in the prevalence of underweight children since 1990 across regions, “Sub-Saharan Africa was the only region where the number of undernourished children increased, from an estimated 27 million to 32 million, between 1990 and 2012. Oceania has demonstrated the least progress of all regions.”
* The greatest improvement in SSA is under Goal 2, the achievement of universal primary education. The report notes, “the adjusted net [school] enrolment rate increased by 18 percentage points between 2000 and 2012.” However, the report cautions that this is no dance time in SSA, since the region faces a big challenge in the form of rapid population growth. For instance, compared to 2000, there were 35 per cent more school children to accommodate in 2012. It also lamented the fate of 33 million children of primary school age who were not in school, of which 56 per cent were girls, due to armed conflicts in some countries.
“…Only three out of five pupils in sub-Saharan Africa, and only one in two pupils in Oceania, were able to complete primary school. Boys were at greater risk than girls of leaving school earlier.” SSA is also home to over half of the world’s out-of-school population, aid to basic education declined by 7 per cent between 2010 and 2011.”
* Much progress has been made in the global rate of under-five mortality, which in 2012 was almost half of its 1990 rate, dropping from 90 to 48 deaths per thousand live births. The estimated number of under-five deaths fell from about 12.6 million to 6.6 million over the same period: about 17,000 fewer children died each day in 2012 than in 1990. Of this, in his words, the Secretary-General stated: “Sub-Saharan Africa continues to confront a tremendous challenge. Not only does the region have the highest mortality rate in the world for children under age five—more than 16 times the average for developed regions — but it is also the only region where both the number of live births and the under-five population are expected to rise substantially over the next two decades. In 2012, one child in ten in sub-Saharan Africa did not live until their fifth birthday.”
* Risky behavior is still in need of changes in SSA. As the region most affected by the HIV epidemic, it is only 39 per cent of young men and 28 per cent of young women aged between 15 and 24 who had comprehensive knowledge of HIV. In Ethiopia, this has necessitated a revisit by donors, especially the United States that has seen that HIV/Aids is still a major killer in Ethiopia.
Although malaria surveillance systems in most high-burden countries are weak, the latest trend analysis did indicate that the world was on track to achieving its MDG malaria target fully. However, only an estimated 36 percent of the population living in malaria-risk areas in SSA were sleeping under an ITN in 2013.
Again, the report states, “All regions, with the exception of sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania, have reduced their under-five mortality rate by more than half.”
Access to drinking water
* One would find hard put to believe when we say this is theoretical in Ethiopia than a reality in the daily lives of our people. Forget the rural areas. Women and old men in Addis Abeba, spend more time – up to ten hours a day – to fetch water from far away places where availability of water is rumored. Whihe made two or three years ago, the parody for good governance about water and electricity in Ethiopia is humorously presented in the video hereunder:
Improved drinking water
In 2012, the proportion of the world’s population with access to an improved drinking water source was 89 percent, up from 76 per cent in 1990. The target of halving the proportion of people without access to an improved source had already been achieved in 2010, five years ahead of schedule.
It is also noted from the report that over 2.3 billion more people gained access to an improved source of drinking water between 1990 and 2012, out of which there were 1.6 billion people who had gained access to a piped drinking water supply on the premises—the highest level of service, associated with the best health outcomes.
In SSA, where the initial coverage had been low, the proportion of the population with access to an improved drinking water source increased by 16 percentage points between 1990 and 2012, despite significant population growth.
Early on UNICEF reported its estimate that 10 countries that are home to almost two-thirds of the global population are without access to improved drinking water sources. These are: China (108 million); India (99 million); Nigeria (63 million); Ethiopia (43 million); Indonesia (39 million); Democratic Republic of the Congo (37 million); Bangladesh (26 million); United Republic of Tanzania (22 million); Kenya (16 million) and Pakistan (16 million)
In 2012, one billion people still resorted to open defecation, a practice that needs to be brought to an end, as it poses a huge risk to communities that are often poor and vulnerable already. Open defecation is most prevalent in Southern Asia, Oceania and SSA.
The vast majority—82 per cent—of people practicing open defecation now live in middle-income, populous countries, such as India and Nigeria.
UNICEF reports that 36.9 million of Ethiopia’s 38.1 million open defecators live in rural areas.
30 per cent of the world’s youth are digital natives, active online for at least five years. In Ethiopia, the number is embarrassingly low, The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), sees Ethiopia as a country at the bottom of the ICT efforts, along with the Central African Republic, Burkina Faso and Guinea.
How could South South Awards overrule the voice of the people and award the Man in the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s Office as an awardee for the above-mentioned contributions? Equally unnoticed is the fact that for South South Awards, corruption has become a virtue and rewardable indeed!
Trust me, South South Awards has tarnished the image of their four-year old show off enterprise!