Africa’s priorities on SDGs and climate change discussed

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The adaptation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in New York  in September and Climate Change Conference in Paris in December were the main focus at the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development conference that was held from June 16 to 18, 2015 at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

The conference brought together different stakeholders to discuss on what Africa’s sustainable development priorities should be.
“The purpose of the meeting is to give African stakeholders the opportunity to define Africa’s priorities with regards to sustainable development, and to identify the things that should be considered in the definition of the post 2015 development agenda as well as the definition of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which will succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” said Fatima Denton, Director of Special Initiatives Division at the UNECA.  The event was a space for different African voices to come together to make sure that there are commonalities of interest, a unity of purpose, and to streamline endeavors that are gearing  towards Africa’s structural transformation.
“I think there are voices that are sometimes muted in some ways and are not heard, but I think this is the space where these voices could come out,” Denton said. According to her, many countries  give priority  to growth sectors such as energy and agriculture and these sectors are highly considered as potential ways to lift people out of poverty.
“The most important challenge we have is that we are growing at a very fast rate, beyond 5 percent, but the growth we are witnessing is not as inclusive as we would expect,” Denton said.
The need for a climate resilient economy  as well as the need for Africa to have a strong stand at the upcoming climate meeting in Paris were also underlined at the conference. 
“As we move to Paris, we really have to think very strategically about how Africa ensures that it comes with a strong treaty; a treaty that takes into account its limited capacity in terms of adapting to the effects of climate change. A strong treaty means we have to ensure that we have a very strong agreement on climate finance. This has been a very difficult area; how African countries can have access to the money that would support many of the adaptation and mitigation goals and policies,” Denton said. The director stated, a strong treaty will ensure Africa does not come out as a loser from the negotiations, and the continent is able to tap into all of the resources to support its energy and  agriculture sectors.
In previous meetings where the issue of climate change and the move forward was discussed, different criticisms have been thrown at developing nations  for not coming up with projects that would enable them to use green finances that are set up to help with climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.
“There have been issues around this. It is not so much about the money but what the money will do. Give us the bankable projects that you have and let us see how we can fund them. There have  been some weakness when it comes to African countries as they were not able to come up with a good number of bankable projects. But this is something we are beginning to see happening,” Denton said.
Currently, the UNECA has a program entitled Climate for Development with two partners — African Development Bank and the African Union Commission.
“We have got what we call an African Green Fund and part of what the fund is trying to do is to support African countries in building their capacities in a way they would be able to put together bankable projects, especially in the areas of disaster risk reduction but also in the area of climate change, climate science, and climate information services,” Denton said.
The issue of climate financing has been one of the major points of disagreement among developed and developing nations at previous conferences on climate change. There is hope that this year a fair and just agreement will be reached in Paris.