The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN Uganda Network) has been formally launched at Makerere University on Wednesday 21st April 2021 through a virtual conference. The major aim of the network is to mobilize state and non-state actors to identify and implement transformative solutions to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The launch was organized by the Global SDSN and SDSN Uganda in collaboration with College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) and the Makerere University Centre for Climate Change Research and Innovations (MUCCRI).
The network, hosted by MUCCRI is led by Dr. Revocatus Twinomuhangi who is the Network Manager and also the Coordinator MUCCRI, was launched virtually under the theme, “Unlocking the potential of Universities and other non-state actors to foster achievement of SDGs”.
The e-conference attracted over 60 participants comprising representatives of government sectors, members of the academia, the private sector, civil society organizations and international development partners among others.
The launch event was graced by the President UN SDSN Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, the Vice President SDSN Networks Maria Cortes Puch, the SDSN Senior Manager, Eve de la Mothe Karoubi, the Senior Technical Advisor SDGs Secretariat Office of the Prime Minister -Uganda Dr. Albert Byamugisha and the Country Urban Advisor, Cities Alliance Uganda – Samuel Mabala.
The conference was also attended by Makerere University’s Vice Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, the Principal CAES and representatives from Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Gulu University, Ndejje University, Kyambogo University and the youth wing of the SDSN.
In his keynote address, Prof. Jeffrey Sachs lauded Makerere University leadership for hosting the network and the Government of Uganda through the Office of the Prime Minister for integrating SDGs in the country’s development and vision process.
Prof. Jeffrey said universal access to education, electrification and digital services including appliances and tools are Uganda’s major development challenges. He pledged the SDSN readiness to help government to work on these challenges to accelerate progress in achieving the SDGs.
He observed that the use of broadband is limited by internet levels while many people in Uganda do not have access to digital tools or internet connectivity. In addition he said, there is dire need for electricity in the villages and in cities to power the digital networks and appliances.
“The digital technologies are the most important tool that a country like Uganda has to accelerate achievement of the SDGs. If every person had access to quality internet then, we could expand online education, telemedicine, government services, technical training, e-payment services and we could expand environmental management and supervision”
If we could achieve universal access to Digital services, it will be easier to achieve SDG3 which is universal health coverage because there is twenty years of experience of using telemedicine as a powerful way to expand access to health care.
Now, it is possible to dial patients from a distance, to read x-rays from a distance, to manage symptoms from a distance and if we use the digital platform, we can tremendously expend medicine and health care as well”, The SDSN President said.
Prof. Jeffrey decried the few number of households and villages that have access to electricity services despite the tremendous potential for solar power as an instrument of mass electrification through micro grids, mini grids and even national grid approaches.
He advocated for a financing mechanism where households can pay for energy services but not the upfront investment costs for solar panels and wiring system but payments overtime to cover the cost of electricity services. He reported that SDSN has developed such micro-grid approaches in some parts of Uganda to show that it is possible to have commercial enterprises using a micro-grid approach which should be tremendously expanded.
Prof. Jeff described Uganda as a beautiful country with wonderful ecosystems and biodiversity saying, and SDSN treasures the beauty of Uganda, the entire ecosystem and the rich biodiversity which is a good resource for the country and a great resource for tourism. He however said, this natural endowment need to be taken with very good and great care. He said that all the ecosystem of Uganda is under a lot of pressure and this is the major focus of SDG 14 and 15- The stewardship and protection of the ecosystem.
Prof. Jeffrey stated that the rapid growing population is mounting pressure on ecosystem hence the need to redouble the protection and support of Uganda’s ecosystem and to focus on the kinds of projects that preserve the beauty of the country to avoid ecological dangers. Demographically, Prof. Jeffrey noted that there will be a shift from the rural areas increasingly to the urban areas that poses more challenges because of the costs involved in the provision of infrastructure, sanitation, transport, power system, the health care system and education meaning, the whole transformation embedded in SDG 11 is also a huge challenge.
He urged government and partners to hold strong to the goals and work together with SDSN to identify how to close the financing gaps to help solve these problems with the speed and urgency they deserve to give Ugandans the future they need and deserve.
The Vice President for SDSN Networks Maria Cortes Puch commended Makerere University for hosting the SDSN Uganda network and the great work the university has done in the past years especially setting up a number of priorities to work on.
“SDNS Uganda has already established a collaborative relationship with government through the OPM and has advised the UN resident coordinator office and UNDP on defining the UN sustainable development cooperation framework in Uganda for the next four years. We can’t call this network a baby anymore, it is already a standing up child and we are really eager to see what comes next”, Maria Cortes said.
She said SDNS was launched in 2012 under the auspices of the UN Secretary General to mobilize scientific and technical expertise from academia, civil society, and the private sector to be part of the debate to diagnose development challenges in the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to come up with complex solutions that would incorporate different sections of society.
The Senior Technical Advisor SDGs Secretariat, Office of the Prime Minister Uganda Dr. Albert Byamugisha said Uganda was has made progress on all SDGs.
“Tracking SDGs through Uganda national voluntary report was done in 2020 where Uganda participated in a high level UN political forum in July 2020 and this was the Minister delivering Uganda’s report to the UN and, overall, Uganda’s SDG progress according to SDSN, is more than 50% of the way towards achieving SDGs by 2030.
In the 52 African countries Uganda ranked 18th position with overall score of 58.8 and based on the voluntary national report 2020, Uganda had made good progress on all SDGs with several policies and strategies to facilitate the SDG implementation and key of them are social protection programmes for women,, youth and elderly, youth and job creation and empowerment, the establishment of Universal Primary Education and secondary education, gender equality and women empowerment among others”, Dr. Byamugisha reported.
Dr. Byamugisah said the SDGs were endorsed in 2015 and adopted in 2016 and during that time, Uganda was the front runner because it helped the Presidency of the General Assembly and prepared the first national voluntary report 2016 which indicated that out of the 169 targets, Uganda had covered 70% in the National Development Plan II (NDPII)
He said, Uganda has a dedicated Minister in charge of SDGs and recently last year, prepared the second voluntary national report. Organizationally, he said government has developed a coordination framework to implement SDGs and a roadmap to operationalize SDGS developed in 2018 in cooperating with different stakeholders to make sure that no one is left behind.
“In 2016 we developed a framework which is fully functional in the office of the Prime Minister which was sent to the Minister of General Duties who is in charge of SDGs.
The SDG secretariat has been established with full support of development partners especially the Subsystem to support the coordination function and all level technical groups functioning progressively to address different aspects of the SDGs.
The framework has been operationalizing through the roadmap which was established in 2018 and aligned with NDP II and now that of NDP III and a national coordination framework which is used in the implementation of SDGs”, Dr. Byamugisha explained. He further explained that the national planning frameworks are very accommodative of the 2030 agenda and the Government of Uganda well positioned to achieve its ambition to achieve the 2040 vision and establish a planning framework which is also to deliver national development plans.
He explained that Uganda has a National Development Plan III for five years which promises to increase the average household incomes and improve quality of life and effectively deliver the national vision. The plan in part also emphasizes the need to identify, utilize and integrate innovative financing options with the public and private sector and also identify development opportunities which include advancing mechanisms for fully aligning a planned budget, reporting frameworks and strengthen public investment management.
He also said, Government of Uganda has demonstrated commitment to align financing to development citing that government issued the certificate of compliance gauging the level of alignment to the level of the budget of the Sustainable plans and so far, there has been an improvement from 54%, 60% in 2017/2018 while in 2018/19 government had issued the gender and equity compliance certificate to mainstream as a pre-condition for budget appropriation.
Dr. Byamugisha reported that besides the commencement of implementation of a program based budgeting and a comprehensive public management reform strategy from 2018-2023 government was able to seal partnerships with the UN system to develop and implement integrated financing framework for strengthening a complementary, independent and a mutually financing mechanism.
He said, Government continues to build evidence to guide planning and, with support from UNDP, undertook an assessment of institutional gaps in SDG implementation and also took analytical work on specific SDGs on zero hunger, peace and justice on SDG16 and 11 to resume planning and review SDG 2.
Other government efforts include the development of an integrated SDG Model for Uganda, integration of the SDGs into the national scientific and statistical framework and in the M and E Strategy; founding a coalition of a youth initiative, the localization of SDGs into district and local government plans, conducting local reviews in local governments and establishment of the private sector platform.
The Vice Chancellor Makerere University Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe thanked the CAES team particularly MUCCRI leadership for organizing the conference. He also appreciated Prof. Jeff Sash for gracing the occasion.
Prof. Nawangwe congratulated the SDSN group at Makerere University, the Uganda chapter, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and other partners for working with Makerere University on issues of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Vice chancellor said Makerere University has a new strategic Plan (2020-2030) and everything being done under this strategic plan is supposed to practically address the SDGs with a core effort of providing quality education and research and therefore addressing SDG4.
“As a country and university we have a big task. We must find out why we have such a huge exodus of children both at primary and secondary level and yet the number of children qualifying to join the university has been declining in the last three years. That is contradictory because our population is just skyrocketing and at the same time the number of children who qualify to join the university is decreasing. It is a big challenge and as Makerere University, we must take every necessary effort to address this issue.” The Vice Chancellor decried.
Prof. Nawangwe said with the increasing population, the country has two major issues to deal with namely; food security with the question of how the increasing population is going to be fed and the second issue as the high rate of urbanization.
He explained that urbanization rate is putting pressure on soils that will affect the country’s capacity to produce food and the provision of good facilities for good life in the cities noting that the country will end up with huge slums with no resources and poor services which must be addressed by all.
He reported that the university has many different fields of knowledge addressing different SDGs and that everybody has a role to play. The Vice Chancellor pledged that the university will rise up to the challenge and take the leadership in ensuring the attainment of the SDGs.
The Deputy Principal CAES Assoc. Prof. Gorettie Nabanoga represented the Principal -Prof Bernarad Bashaasha at the event. She thanked the global UN SDSN for choosing Makerere University to host the SDSN Uganda National network and for collaborating with the national network to organize this launch.
Dr. Nabanoga saluted the CAES staff who championed the crusade for the university to join the SDSN network following the UN call in July 2017 and conveyed special gratitude to Makerere University Management for the buy-in and support to this initiative.
She reported that SDSN Uganda’s secretariat is hosted at the Makerere University Centre for Climate Change Research and Innovations (MUCCRI), a semi-autonomous unit in the CAES that was launched in 2013 to enhance climate change knowledge generation and dissemination. The Centre engages in Training, Research and Policy Interventions.
Through MUCCRI, Dr. Nabanoga said, the University brings together researchers and scientists from within and outside Makerere University, government officials, civil society, and private sector actors to collaboratively and locally address climate change, share information, and problem solve on adaptation technologies and research.
“We are also using MUCCRI as a vehicle to improve and support undergraduate, graduate, diploma, and postgraduate education in climate science, meteorology, climate change adaptation and mitigation. The Centre therefore contributes greatly to the achievement of SDG 13 on climate action”, the deputy principal said.
She reported that SDSN Uganda will focus on six themes: agriculture and food security, improve health, natural resources and ecosystems, renewable energy and efficiency, sustainable cities, and climate change, with gender equality as a cross cutting theme.
She said the university has a fully-fledged College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, a College of Health Sciences, a College of Engineering and Technology, a School of Economics, a School of Women and Gender Studies, and will be looking forward to partnering with institutions of the same agenda to promote gender-responsiveness achievement of SDG targets under these themes through training, research and innovations, community engagement, capacity building and working with Government on SDGs.
Dr. Nabanoga expressed hope that through the SDSN forum, participant will explore how to unlock sustainable agro-industrialization to respond to the pressing socio-economic development priorities of food security, wealth and job creation and expansion of macro-economic growth through country owned processes.
The Coordinator Makerere University Centre for Climate Change Research and Innovations (MUCCRI) and also also Manager, SDSN Uganda network Dr. Revocatus Twinomuhangi said, the network was approved by the Networks Strategy Council of the UN SDSN in November 2019 which also appointed Makerere University to host the national network. Dr. Twinomuhangi said the Vision of the network is to mobilize universities, research and knowledge centers, civil society, private sector, communities and special interest groups to identify and implement transformative solutions to achieve the 2030 sustainable development agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change in Uganda and the East African region.
“The objectives of the network include to build awareness and knowledge on SDGs, create platforms for building partnerships and dialogues to mobilize action, conduct research on sustainable solutions by promoting multi-disciplinary research that will generate evidence-based solutions for enhancing the achievement of SDGs at the national and local levels and also, support a vibrant SDSN Youth Network in Uganda and the region to create sustainable solutions that address development challenges”, Dr. Twinomuhangi said.
Dr. Twinomuhangi underscored the role of Universities in the network in providing SDG policy support, SDG-oriented research and development (R&D), incubation of new sustainable development businesses and SDG-based education and Multi-stakeholder convening.
He reported that SDSN Uganda network has established a fully functional secretariat in place at MUCCRI with skeleton staff; designed and launched the SDSN Uganda website live and functional at https://sdsn-uganda.org and was engaging with members and recruiting potential members.
The network he said, started dialogue on SDGs with the Government – SDGs Secretariat in Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), participates in SDGs coordination meetings organized by Government and UN Resident Coordinator’s Office (and UNDP) was progressing on formation of Leadership and Governance Councils.
He said the next plan for the SDSN Uganda Network is to move on to approach proposed members for the National Leadership Council, identifying first priorities and activities, recruiting members and partners and organize a solutions conference and mobilizing resources.