Central Africa: The heads of UN presences gathered in Sao Tome pledge to accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The 7th annual meeting of special representatives and envoys of the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, regional directors and resident coordinators of the UN system in Central Africa was held from 12 to 13 April 2019 in Sao Tome, capital of Sao Tome and Principe. The meeting was opened by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Communities of Sao Tome and Principe, Ms. Elsa Maria Teixeira de Barros Pinto, and focused on the theme of “Advancing the Sustainable Development Goals to Promote Peacebuilding”. It was chaired by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Central Africa and head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), Mr. François Louncény Fall.
Several other UN institutions attended the meeting in Sao Tome, in particular the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), represented by its head, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, Mr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas; and the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region, represented by the new Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region, Mr. Huang Xia. Also in attendance were the resident coordinators of the UN system or their representatives in Cameroon, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Sao Tome and Principe, as well as UN entities with regional dimension such as the UN Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa; the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); and UN Women.
During their discussion, the UN senior officials reviewed the contributions and capacity of their respective offices towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in support of Central African States and other key partners. They also exchanged views on issues of common interest to ensure a better contribution from the UN system to conflict prevention and resolution and in political, peace and peacebuilding processes. Key partners include regional and sub-regional organizations with which the UN in Central Africa cooperate, notably the African Union and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).
Following two days of discussion, the UN senior officials based on the interlinkages between the SDGs and recalling that there is no peace without development and no development without peace, concluded that it was necessary to enhance their actions in order to create new synergies to tackle the challenges faced in Central Africa, contribute to accelerate sustainable development in each country, and prevent conflict. They insisted that the UN should focus on one of the principles underlying the SDGs, namely “the further left behind” to ensure that no one is left behind during the process towards advancing these goals.
They subsequently made several recommendations grouped by theme, including conflict prevention, advancing the SDGs, human rights and justice, capacity-building, resource mobilization and UN coordination. More specifically, they recommended that the UN should:
- Prioritize prevention and building peace and social cohesion;
- Enhance the support of the UN system to States in the sub-region to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs;
- Focus on “the further left behind” in their support to accelerate sustainable development so as to ensure that no one is left behind, and involve all actors in the promotion of the SDGs, including civil society organizations at the grassroot level;
- Strengthen the engagement of women’s and youth organizations in accelerating the achievement of the SDGs;
- Contribute to and assist the States in reinforcing the education sector throughout the sub-region as a key driver for conflict prevention and building the capacity of youth for a better future;
- Contribute to the fight against impunity, including through enhancing the independence of the justice system;
- Further contribute to enhancing national, sub-regional and regional capacity, including the capacity of ECCAS and capacity related to statistical data to support planning, monitoring and evaluation and facilitate evidence-based decision-making;
- Continue to promote regional and sub-regional cooperation based on comparative advantages;
- Further enhance coordination among UN entities to create new synergies, and contribute to accelerating the achievement of the SDGs and conflict prevention; and
- Integrate cross-cutting actions to combat climate change into sustainable development initiatives.
This was the first time that the annual coordination meeting of heads of UN presences was held outside Libreville, where UNOCA headquarters is located. The decision to relocate the 2019 meeting in Sao Tome was one of the recommendations from the 6th meeting held from 26 to 27 April 2018 in the capital of Gabon.