By Mohamed Massaquoi
The Government of Sierra Leone, through the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development and as facilitated by Sierra Leone’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, presented the 2021 report on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on sustainable development, under the auspices of the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in New York.
This well-received third report from Sierra Leone is part of its follow-up and review mechanisms on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is significant to note that member States of the UN are encouraged to conduct regular and inclusive reviews of progress made at the national and sub-national levels, which are country-led and country-driven.
The Ministerial segment of the HLPF, held virtually owing to the COVID19 pandemic, received reports from 42 States, including Sierra Leone. This annual voluntary, state-led reporting, undertaken by both developed and developing countries, provides the opportunity for peer-review and participation of civil society through a question-and-answer session that follows the introduction of the national reports.
As part of this year’s submission, a pre-recorded video documentary was presented to members of the forum followed by a livestream PowerPoint presentation by the Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Dr. Francis Kai-Kai. In his presentation, Minister Kai-Kai noted that the 2021 report is focused on Sierra Leone’s accelerator goals 4 that deals with Education and 16 on Peace, Justice, and Inclusive Societies, emphasizing on building strong institutions.
The Minister reminded the panel of Sierra Leone’s commitment to integrating the three dimensions of Sustainable Development including social, economic, and environmental aspects, adding that the Medium-Term National Development Plan (MTNDP) 2019-2023 continue to be the operational framework for implementing the SDGs in the country.
He said that the Government of President Julius Maada Bio has ensured that all key SDG-related regional and global frameworks, such as the peacebuilding and state-building goals of the g7+ and AU Agenda 2063 were also integrated into the MTNDP (2019-2023).
Presenting on SDG 4: Inclusive Education, the Minister, recalled the Rapid Impact Assessment of the Government’s Free Quality School Education Program (FQE), focusing on government assistance provided at the primary level (the pilot primary school feeding program, provision of tuition fee grant and provision of teaching and learning materials) and its welfare effects on school pupils, parents and educational outcomes.
“Our findings show that more than 90 percent of respondents were generally satisfied with the government FQE program. It suggests that; at primary school level a parent can directly save close to US$100 per pupil per year from school feeding, tuition fee grant, and provision of teaching and learning materials”, said Dr. Kai-Kai.
On SDG 16 (Access to Justice), Minister Kai-Kai, also referred to the Rapid Impact Assessment of Government Legal Aid Intervention introduced in 2015. He said the assessment focused on the welfare effects these interventions have had on the less privileged and very poor persons with regards to benefits received from legal representation for the poor; and general legal advice, including alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.
“More than 70 percent of respondents were satisfied with the legal assistance provided by the government, covering issues such as child protection and land disputes, criminal cases, domestic violence, rape, and juvenile offenses”, said Minister Kai-Kai.
He noted that despite the progress made in the implementation, the COVID-19 pandemic has become a major bottleneck to resource mobilization, private sector growth, and investments in critical enabling infrastructure such as energy, water, and science and technology, among others.
In concluding, Minister Kai-Kai emphasized the need to organize post-VNR stakeholder engagements on planned actions and lessons learned from the 2021 HLPF and to also implement voluntary local reviews towards the next VNR for the country.
He then called for more stakeholder engagement on the Integrated National Financing Framework for national development and more support to technical working groups on the SDGs to ensure constant follow-ups and reporting.