Without Citizen engagement, the world may never achieve the lasting change it desires

“When they want to be elected leaders, they are beggars and when we give them the power it is sad that we the citizens become beggars. It is like they are doing us a favour to deliver services that they had committed to deliver” says Philomena a citizen from Uganda. The biggest cry the citizens have is that they want to see their respective leaders and other stakeholders commit to deliver. If the citizens are becoming beggars for services they need, then their rights are being abused, so how do the citizens hold different stake holders accountable? How do they get involved?
Dingaan Mithi, a citizen from Malawi, believes that the citizens are able to hold stakeholders accountable but they need to be empowered. Citizens can be empowered in different ways but the best is empowering with information. Most don’t have the information, not aware of their rights and don’t even know they have a say. It is time citizens are informed that provision of health care, education and other services is not a favor their governments is doing them but have a right to these services that should be to an accepted standard. Citizen participation is not only democratic but the most practical way to achieve lasting change the world desires to have by 2030.
From the citizen hearings in India organized by White Ribbon Alliance, Santana Murmu and Sujoy Roy appreciate in citizen engagement is productive and wise investment. It is the best way to listen and understand the citizens’ needs and how to get the solutions from them. Citizen engagement not only in in planning and implementing but also accountability will surely lead as to achieving the sustainable development goals. This is because it creates a good feedback mechanism between government, leaders and the citizens. Leaders hear from citizens, they get to know what they want and how they are able to achieve it.
Citizens are not asking for much, they want transparency, inclusiveness, deliberation and responsiveness. Nothing about them without them.

Philomena Okello stressing the need for citizen led accountability in the Sustainable development goals.

Philomena Okello stressing the need for citizen led accountability in the Sustainable development goals.

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Investing in the well being of people should be a priority for private businesses

The government of Uganda feels it has tried it best to improve the health services and delivery for everyone but it is not easy. Besides funding being a problem, implementation is a challenge too. Donors and other civil society organisations are also trying but there is one area Uganda has not exploited, having public private partnerships. This means government and private businesses working together to provide services to everyone.

Private business play a direct and indeed often dominant role in delivery and implementation of programmes. They deliver most investments in infrastructure and can sometimes play an important role in improving social service delivery and can leverage public financing. Most times, private investments do not effectively respond to the needs of the poor as the poor have poor purchasing power and are unable to pay those for costs thus being excluded from basic goods and services. The marginalized need public financing rather than private financing to meet their basic needs, but if public-private partnerships are used, a mechanism would be developed by both to make sure everyone has access to equal and quality health services.

UNICEF Uganda recently launched a report with the situation analysis of the children in Uganda, some improvements but we still have children who are no covered. Children who can not complete primary education, no access to water, no access to quality health care and lots of out of pocket expenditures by parents yet they can not afford. If private business worked together with government to provide these services, then lots of lives would be improved.

Photo Credit: UNICEF Uganda

Photo Credit: UNICEF Uganda

Young children and pregnant women in Uganda at a risk of injuries as they search for safe water

“We at times get punished at school because we arrive late”, says Akello Milly a 10 year old primary three girl in Lira district. Milly and other children in her village have to walk more than 10km to access safe water. They have to do this every morning before they go to school. Children often share the burden of water collection because it is always the role of the mother to fetch water but children have to help because their mothers are busy in the farm and other house chores. Besides getting late or missing school, these children are exposed to injustices as they move long distances carrying heavy jerrycans, at times they are also bitten by snakes.
One of Milly’s friends said at times she is forced to collect water from a stream that does not have clean water but is near by home so she does not have to walk the long distance. As she is trying to reduce her work load, she is putting her family at the risk of getting infections through the unsafe water.
In cases were a woman has no children yet, she is primarily responsible for collecting water for the household. This also includes the pregnant woman but that would really be too much for her even though pregnant mothers are encouraged to have moderate physical activity. Carrying heavy containers of water for long distances may cause severe discomfort, breathlessness or exhaustion which is not good for both the pregnant woman and unborn baby.
Without sustainable access to an improved water source, good sanitation and hygiene may be practiced and this will expose very many people in the community to infections.
Water is vital, it is the reason as to why these children have to walk those kilometers to access water. I tried carrying it on my head and riding it on a bicycle but none was easy, reason as to why one of Milly’s friends is forced to collect it from an unsafe water source. When water is safe and accessible, it transforms lives: more children attending school on time, reducing the risk to getting infections, pregnant women being saved from the discomfort of having to move long distances and other women having time to participate in an economic activity that will make life easier and more comfortable.
Even though sustainable development goal 6 has been dedicated to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, these essential services must be prioritised in health policies and practices too.
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Countries like Uganda may never achieve the SDGs without Sufficient financing packages

Third day of September, the talk everywhere is on the Sustainable Development Goals. How we need to achieve them, implementation and other programmes but without financing there may be no achievement on the SDGs. Where are these finances coming from? Who is responsible to make sure there are adequate finances to support different programmes in achieving the SDGs. Most countries failed to achieve some of the MDGS due to lack of financial resources available to them. The Abuja Declaration recognized this problem long time and highlighted the importance for governments to carry out domestic resource mobilization while at the same time urging donor countries to increase their funding levels.

Governments need to take full responsibility in financing programmes that will lead to sustainable development. They need to plan and package how the finances will be got because no single financing approach will support the change required to achieve ambitious targets of the SDGs. Governments need to find financing packages that draw from a wide array of resources, instead of getting stuck on a single funding stream or financing approach. Some of the financing packages may come from income from tax, grants, loans, public-private partnerships, philanthrophy and others that have not been listed.

Governments have tried to finance different programmes in their countries but it seems they have failed to priotise which needs urgent and an adequate share of the budget. For example, In Uganda, the Government has put more emphasis on economic development compared to health, but fact is that these economic developments will not be realized without a healthy workforce. Most countries have left financing of health programmes to donors and philanthropists. It is time our governments start to use existing resources effectively most of which has been through tax collection, but public-private partnerships is one that I has not been fully tapped.

Public-private partnerships are very important for sustainable development even though there is limited sustainability between private and public finance for core SDG investment needs in most market economies. Private business will play a direct and indeed often dominant role in delivery and implementation of programmes. They deliver most investments in infrastructure and can sometimes play an important role in improving social service delivery and can leverage public financing. Most times, private investments do not effectively respond to the needs of the poor. Since the poor have poor purchasing power, they may be unable to pay for these costs, and end up being excluded from basic goods and services. The poor very often need public financing rather than private financing to meet their basic needs, but if public-private partnerships are used, a mechanism would be developed by both to make sure everyone is reached that way leading us to Sustainable development.
Success of the SDGs will require effective multi-stakeholder relationship so as to fund the different programmes.
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