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Experts harp on Voluntary National Reviews to achieve SDGs following COVID-19

By Kamal Tayo Oropo [NAN]


Experts at the seventh session of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (ARFSD) have called for Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) in order to overcome challenges caused by COVID-19.

The experts came to this conclusion during a panel discussion of the forum being held virtually in Brazzaville, Congo, monitored in Lagos by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday, while noting the devastating effects of COVID-19.

They said the effects of COVID-19 were being felt in all spheres of life, and in most cases, the pandemic had exacerbated poverty, hunger and violence against women, children and other vulnerable groups.

NAN reports that the four-day meeting is being hosted by Congo under the theme: ‘Building forward better: towards resilient and green Africa to achieve the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063.’

The discussants unanimously agreed that African countries could strategically use available tools to steer their countries out of the depressing ripples of the pandemic.

They identified VNRs as efficient tools to help countries find their way out of the doldrums.

NAN also reports that VNRs aim to facilitate the sharing of experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learned, with a view to accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Giving the opening remarks, Collen Vixen Kelapile, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council of the UN, noted that COVID-19 was hampering Africa’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

He urged African countries to use the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) to discuss their challenges with the pandemic and share experiences.

In sharing his country’s experiences, Obeth Mbuipaha Kandoze, the Director-General of the National Planning Commission of Namibia, said the southern African nation saw the VNRs as a key framework for the SDGS.

Kandoze added that VNR aligned with his country’s developmental goals.

For Egypt, the VNRs are a tool for policy and decision-makers in the implementation of the SDGs.

Sharing his country’s approach, Sherif Dawuod of the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, said in pursuing development goals, “you have to be objective because it gives you a balanced picture of what you are doing.”

In her presentation, Najat Maalla said violence against women and children, especially, children in remote areas, the displaced and disabled had emerged since the outbreak of COVID-19.

Maalla, who is the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, noted the socio-economic impact of the pandemic on families.

She said the development has led to trafficking and sexual exploitation of children.

“However, some initiatives have been put in place to protect children and provide mental healthcare support.

“Isolation during the pandemic, loss of income, bereavement and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones,” Maalla said.

Kofi Kankam, co-Chair at the Africa Regional Mechanism for Major Groups and other Stakeholders (ARMMGoS), urged African governments to engage all stakeholders as they implement the SDGs and respond to the pandemic.

He called for the empowerment of citizens to participate in the implementation of Agenda 2030 and 2063 through capacity building. (NAN)


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