The New Times interviewed UN RC for Rwanda Fode Ndiaye to talk about the commemoration of the UN Day
Each year on October 24, the founding of the United Nations (UN) is celebrated to commemorate the UN Charter’s entry into force since 1945.
- Climate action for peace is the theme for this year’s UN Day celebration. Why the theme? What is the UN doing to promote climate action in Rwanda?
First, I would like to say that is the day to celebrate ourselves, “we the people” living in the 193 member states. It marks the entry in force of the United Nations Charter on 24th October 1945. Our organization is 74-year-old. The first celebration happened in 1948. To mark UN Day, Secretary-General António Guterres has announced that next year’s commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations will feature a large and inclusive global conversation on the role of global cooperation in building the future we want.” International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity”.
Our theme “Climate action for peace” is important for all of us.
Climate is considered as the defining issue of our time. It is also interlinked with peace. Many conflicts derive from the negative consequences of the climate on the living conditions of the populations and on the social cohesion. The conflicts also negatively impact on peace. In fact, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said clearly: “Today peace faces a new danger: the climate emergency, which threatens our security, our livelihoods and our lives”. Climate and Peace are not only governmental issues; they are societal issues and require a broad alliance: citizens, decentralised entities, central government, private sector, civil society… Therefore, conscientisation of the general public and the individual and collective commitment are key to tackle this local, national and global issue. That’s why, One UN in Rwanda, celebrated UN Day by engaging in social community activities. We planted hundreds of trees in Kamonyi District, almost 5 hectares. The Mayor and I also had very productive talks on the environment and the importance of planting trees with the local communities. Among the seedlings were avocado trees linked to our fight against stunting and malnutrition and we also interacted with the children of local schools. The populations were very receptive, and they were already engaged in the protection of the environment: “Stand for what you stand on”. The UN wants to thank the Chairperson of the council, the Mayor of the district and the populations for their warm welcome despite the heavy rain. Our UN colleagues also donated blood in partnership with National Center for Blood Transfusion. Gutanga amaraso ni ugutanga ubuzima! “To give blood is to give life”.
The theme remains very relevant not only globally after the General Assembly Summit on Climate Action in September 2019; but also locally given the results achieved by Rwanda. Our strong partnership with the country on the theme is piloting the Sustainable Development Goal 16: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”. In addition, the country is not only building peace for Rwandans but also for other populations. It is very refreshing for humanity to see a country with 13 million inhabitants on 26,000 sq.km demonstrating such high level of solidarity, in a world where exclusion, discrimination, stigmatism and hatred are increasing. Indeed, Rwanda hosts more than 150,000 refugees, has extracted from the darkest hell of Libya to the light of the Gashora transit center (the words of the migrants whom I visited some days ago) some African migrants and ranked number 2 of the troop contributors to the UN Peace keeping operations and number one for the number of UN policewomen.
Climate is a serious issue and the UN recognizes the need to act urgently to reverse the effects of climate change. I am particularly proud of Rwanda because of its numerous initiatives to protect the environment and reduce effects of climate change. The Government has decided to scale up Green Villages under its Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy. The UN is of course supportive of this. The UN cooperates with the Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA), the environment and climate change Fund. This institution was rewarded last year in September for its achievements. Our partnership with the Ministry of Environment has contributed to the organization of the first Africa Green Growth Forum in Kigali in 2018 and currently we are supporting FONERWA in designing green investment vehicles. The Gicumbi Project financed by the Green Climate Fund and launched during the UN Day on Friday is also an important milestone.
- It is now a year since UN Rwanda started implementing the 2nd United Nations Development Assistance Plan (UNDAP II), what is the main focus? and what can Rwandans expect at the end of its implementation?
You are right. Our 5-year Cooperation Framework, the United Nations Development Assistance Plan for Rwanda (UNDAP II) (2018-2023) was signed with the Government on the 31st July 2018 with a total budget of 630 million USD with 270 million USD already available now. It outlines how the UN will support the national development agenda which takes into account the agenda 2030.The UNDAP II is aligned to the same three Strategic Priority Areas of the National Strategy for Transformation (NST1) 2017-2024: economic transformation, social transformation and transformational governance transformation. The plan will be implemented in partnership with the Government, other national stakeholders (Civil society organizations, private sector) and other development partners. UN thanks all our partners and the donors for their support. Key joint programmes are tackling critical issues of the country’s development: youth, gender, data, HIV/AIS; Nutrition, Rural women economic empowerment, climate resilient agriculture and natural resource management, smart cities, productive sectors. Of course, agency specific programmes supplement this joint action.
We therefore believe that the UNDAP I1 is going to deliver the same promise of supporting realization of the government’s goals in the NST. Therefore, people could expect UN contribution towards the objective of the country’s economic transformation for a better life for all, leaving no one behind.
So far, we can highlight some key achievements; even though it is important to highlight that the UN is not a donor. What we bring includes our catalytic finance, our technical expertise, our experience and knowledge sharing through our 193 member networks, the facilitation of south-south cooperation, our work on norms and standards, and our advocacy. Of course, we also support policies and strategies that are people-centered, we help to generate and analyze data, and develop research systems to inform priority policy and programme options; and we help to build resilient institutions that can deliver services to people.
For example, we empower women and promote gender equality. The Gender seal and the private sector is becoming a real movement supported by the biggest private and public sector companies. The RWEE is accelerating rural women economic empowerment representing; while the Isange One Stop Center prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence. Through YouthConnekt, agencies are contributing to securing a brighter future via capacitating young people to have access to greater social, and economic opportunities including jobs (8,300 created by 600 young entrepreneurs trained in bootcamps). This also includes information and innovations on youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health and rights. Millions of young people have been involved in community development.
As of today, 13 other African countries have started implementing Youthconnekt and the projection is that this will reach 20 countries by early next year. YouthConnekt has been officially approved as the implementing partner of the African Union Youth Charter. Our UN joint initiative helped establish the award winning Integrated Electronic Case Management System (which is also supported by USAID). With the IECMS, justice is made faster, more accessible, and cheaper particularly for the poor. The IECMS is now being used in all justice sector organisations in Rwanda. We promote sexual and reproductive health and rights for all without leaving anyone behind. This has included high-level Partners’ Advocacy meeting in Parliament to re-commit focus on family planning, and especially combating Teenage Pregnancy, in preparation of the Nairobi Summit on the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25), next month. We support strengthening the response of the Government and civil society organizations (CSOs) to address human trafficking. Our humanitarian operations provide food and services to the refugees and the host communities. We are also looking for durable solutions through the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework. The IDA 2018 of the World Bank Group has resources for the CRRF countries. The meetings in Entebbe, Marrakech and Kigali also highlighted key elements in that pathway of the nexus humanitarian – development. Other areas of critical support include the preparedness and contingency plan regarding the Ebola threat; contributing to reducing malnutrition in partnership with the National Early Childhood Development (ECD) and social cluster ministries; supporting the Demographic and health survey (DHS) and the preparation of the Census 2022; enhancing climate resilience and integrated agriculture in disaster prone areas and developing agriculture productivity; enhancing regional integration; and access to services: education, health, HIV-AIDS. In December, Rwanda will in fact host the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA) under the theme "AIDS FREE AFRICA - Innovation, Community, and Political Leadership".
Last but not least, UN keeps on supporting the country in the Universal period review (UPR) linked to our work on enhancing human rights. Rwanda will present her report in 2020 before the Human Rights Commission. With the support of UN, under the leadership of the Government and with the involvement of various stakeholders (CSOs, private sector, public entities, Development partners, UN agencies), in July 2019, for the first time, Rwanda successfully presented its Voluntary National Review report (VNR) on the SDGs. Our action with the Government and the CSOs on governance, resilient and accountable institutions is well documented.
UN remains focused on the real problems of real people, bearing in mind their complexity and the paramount and imperative ways of partnership, diversity, inclusion and innovations. Peace, Climate change, human rights, gender equality, inequalities, wealth creation and poverty require that we act now, better, in a more innovative and inclusive with decisive financial means.
With collective efforts, we hope to optimize what we deliver to the people of Rwanda and contribute towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), leaving no one behind.
- Let’s talk about the SDGs, where would you say Rwanda is on the road to achieving its SDG targets?
Our current objective is to continue providing technical and financial contribution to the Government and the country to achieve the SDGs and the agenda 2030. The VNR process was an important moment to take stock of the current results and take the required adjustments to implement the SDGs. Our support on policy gaps, our advocacy including the translation of the SDGs in Kinyarwanda and data readiness, as well as all our programmes, as already mentioned, are important milestones in that trajectory.
As stated by the Hon. Minister of Finance and economic planning, in his foreword of the VNR Report “… the SDGs have been domesticated and integrated in the Vision 2050, the National
Strategy for Transformation, NST1 (2017-2024) and related sectors and districts’ strategies. NST 1 mirrors the three dimensions of sustainable development: Economic, Social and Environment and its transformation and ambitious spirit echoes the ambitious nature of SDGs.” There is a dedicated taskforce on the SDGs involving all the actors and co-chaired by UN and MINECOFIN. It was worth noting that Rwanda has achieved all but one Millenium Development Goals, and I am sure that the country will also make great achievements regarding the SDGs.
According to the Africa SDG Index and Dashboard Report 2018 published by the SDG Center for Africa and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Networks, Rwanda was ranked 11th (out of 51 ranked African countries) with 57.9 per cent. The 7.9% of sustained growth rate from 2000 and the planned 9% growth rate of the NST1, will boost the country’s efforts to achieve the SDGs.
So far, Rwanda has achieved remarkable results in SDG 5 (gender), SDG 8 (Decent work and economic growth) and SDG 13 (Climate action). However, if we look at the indicators of the IECV5, the growth should be more transformational and tackle better wealth creation, poverty eradication and inequalities.
The VNR report included the status of the key SDGs but also mentioned some challenges: human capital, data and financing. The Government has taken major measures in TVET, in innovations and in fighting stunting and implementing the Early Childhood Development. The Government has embarked in various initiatives to tackle them. NISR is one the best statistics institute in Africa. Rwanda has offered to host a hub of the UN Global Platform at the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda’s Training Centre and Data Science Campus. This will help the capacity development work of international and regional agencies in Africa in big data for official statistics and will respond to SDG data needs Rwanda also hosted the very successful 5th Conference on big data for official statistics with UN (organized for the first time in Africa). The Government has taken major initiatives on the financing side: improving taxes and Government revenues; the 10-year capital markets plan; the Long-term savings scheme. UN has partnered with the Government in a study on savings. The partnership with the Government, EU and other Development partners in the Integrated National Financing Framework process will certainly better help connect all the elements already in place, including the objective of setting a blended finance facility (supported by the UN and other Development partners following the initial study supported by DfID). Rwanda is among the first 17 countries globally to embark in that process following the meeting in September in New York on financing for development.
- Africa has the most youthful population in the world. The UN in Rwanda has been a great supporter of youth initiatives and most notably the just concluded youthconnekt. What else is UN Rwanda doing to help the government support youth?
UN is very happy to be strong partner with KOICA and the Government of Rwanda for a resounding success of the YouthConnekt Africa Summit, bringing together 10,000 young boys and girls from 91 countries. Young people have been inspired by HE the President, the First Lady, the UN leaders, stars like Drogba and Fall (NBA), leaders from the private sector and the CSOs and more important by their peers. They have taken the lead and will lead us for a better future with action and not “empty words”.
YouthConnekt is a good example. We already have given critical results achieved by the YCA. Let me add that we reinforce the YouthConnekt Africa Summit which featured a unique networking platform where business leaders in Rwanda and Africa could network with women and men entrepreneurs, providing key advice that they sometimes lack to expand their businesses. During the 2008 Summit the YK Africa hub was launching to expand the activities beyond Rwanda. The AU considers YKA as the implementing partner of the AU Youth Charter. We strongly believe that YouthConnekt is a concrete example and a powerful way to tackle the youth employment by unleashing its huge potential and promoting innovations. Then overall, we have focused on supporting micro, small, and medium enterprises owned and managed by women.
- Gender equity is a sine qua non of sustainable development. Rwanda has undoubtedly made great strides but is there more that can still be done? Tell us about what UN in Rwanda is doing to promote gender equity.
When you look at gender equality, Rwanda leads in Africa and is sixth in in the WEF Gender report and number one for the political sphere. The Government of Rwanda has made gender equality a prerequisite for sustainable development and the President is a global champion for the HeForShe Campaign. This is demonstrated by the strong political will and establishment of the National Gender Machinery (NGM), an institutional body tasked with the implementation of national and international commitments, with the support of the UN. In addition, the success and rising number of women in leadership positions at all levels is hastily transforming mindsets towards women`s rights and empowerment and creates greater incentive for young women to embrace leadership roles and positions, thus creating the pathways to a gender equal future.
Following a first successful programme funded by the Swedish Government, the ONE UN economically and politically reached out to thousands of women while building the capacity of the NGM to deliver on their important mandates of advancing gender equality in Rwanda, thus ensuring the sustainability of the interventions. Through the support of the ONE UN to the National Gender Machinery, gender was mainstreamed in key development strategies of the country, starting from the National Strategy for Transformation, District Development Plans and various Sector Development Strategies.
We focus on young women and girls to be equipped with the requisite knowledge, skills, and ability to fulfil their dreams and be active participants in society. That is one of the many ways the UN is ensuring that the gender equality gains are sustainable and passed on from one generation to another.
In addition to what was already highlighted, our contribution also helped the Government in designing a gender-responsive budgets – even at the district level. The State of Gender Equality in Rwanda was launched this year and the report illustrated the great advances in gender equality and women empowerment that have been achieved in this country thanks to committed leadership and strong political will. One UN contributed to the reinforcement and the scaling up and harnessing the holistic and integrated services delivered through of Isange One Stop Centers in Rwanda. This contributed to preventing Sexual and Gender Based Violence, as well as adequately responding to reported cases. At the same time, this was encouraging and mobilizing people to report all SGBV cases.
Overall, UN is very proud to be a trusted partner of the Government and the people of Rwanda in the remarkable trajectory of transformation in all areas: in governance, in economic transformation, in social transformation and in the improvement to the well-being for the people of Rwanda. With the UN reforms and the implementation of our Cooperation framework 2018-2023, we want to contribute more and better for the people in this country leaving no one behind.