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Reflections on Zimbabwe’s Voluntary National Review Report at the HLPF in July 2017

The Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide another opportunity for the world to work together to ensure that the implementation challenges and bottlenecks faced during the implementation the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) especially in developing countries are addressed. In the context of Zimbabwe the SDGs were launched amidst a deep rooted political, social and economic crisis that has seen the majority of Zimbabweans being pushed below the national poverty datum line and in the extreme poverty levels as reported in the Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper developed in 2016. Of those that are extremely poor and marginalised; the majority (91%) are in the rural areas, the youth (who are largely unemployed), the women and the vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities. Urban poverty is also rising, attributed to high levels of unemployment/underemployment, lack of a policy framework to support the informal sector and lack of social security frameworks for the poor.  The crisis has also left huge dents on infrastructural and institutional development. All these issues pose a challenge to the achievement of the SDGs unless they are addressed using a systemic and sectoral specific approach.

The National Consultative Process on the SDGs

It is plausible that Zimbabwe is one of the few countries that produced a Position Paper on the SDGs and also for volunteering to do a Voluntary Review Report in 2017. However the national processes towards the implementation of the SDGs to some extent lacked the foundational principle of “Leaving No One Behind” which is embedded in the 2030 Agenda. A numebr of sectors made an outcry on the exclusionary nature of the SDGs consultative process especially on the prioritisation of the 10 SDGs that the country will mainly focus on. Critical sectors that raised concerns on the inadequacy of consultations include the youths, women, people with disabilities, labour and CSOs working with livelihoods groups. Most of these sectors only got to know about the prioritised goals during the consultations on the Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (IPRSP) in mid 2016, a process which had its own flaws as well based on the limited time that was allocated to consultations. The concerns raised by these sectors cast doubts on the credibility of the SDGs prioritisation process hence the priorities may not be a true reflection of what the majority of Zimbabweans would want to see as priorities.

Zimbabwe VNR of SDGs for the High Level Political Forum

Zimbabwe should be commended for volunteering to be part of the 44 countries that gave VNRs in 2017 at the HLPF in July 2017. The HLPF was of particular interest to Zimbabwe taking into account that the country was giving a voluntary report on the implementation of the SDGs amidst the aforementioned political, social and economic challenges.

The following key points are important to be aware of Zimbabwe reported on initiatives it has made to revive the social and economic sectors;

Food insecurity remains a major challenge affecting the poor thereby exacerbating poverty levels- despite the government efforts to boost production of maize which is the staple food, households are still faced with hunger as the heavy rains that were received in most parts of the country affected many of the subsistence farmers who are ill prepared to deal with climate change effects. The heavy rains that affected crop yields were also coupled with late disbursement of the farming inputs and an alleged general lack of commitment to the scheme by some farmers who only got inputs based on their proximity to the government.

The so called strategic protectionist policy against imports done through Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 to support local industry which is said to have resulted in capacity utilisation in local industry increasing significantly, from 34.3 percent in 2015 to 47.4 percent in 2016 may have been ill conceived. The Zimbabwean economy is highly dependent on the informal economy (about 94% of the economy is informal). SI64 was lamented by the majority of Zimbabweans who are etching a living from their informal businesses. The government was supposed to consider implementing the protectionist policy sector by sector based on the local production levels to avoid creating shortages due to lack adequate production in certain sectors of the industry. The government should focus on supporting re-industrialisation through availing capital channels to the local industry and systematically protecting the resuscitated industries.

In as much as Zimbabwe is making efforts to lure Foreign Direct Investment, the policy on Ease of Doing Business Reforms being spearheaded by the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) should not be implemented without making efforts to build the local industry and protecting the general populace from the impact of MNCs operations. In order to achieve goal number 8 and 10 Zimbabwe should make consented efforts to build its local industry within the decent work framework and emancipate its people. To date this has not been realised. Tied to this point is the establishment of the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) through an Act promulgated by Government in October 2016 to promote foreign direct investment inflows.  SEZs have their own challenges especially with regards to labour hence should be done within the confines of the supreme law, which is the constitution. FDI without plugging the loop holes that have caused massive Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) that have cost the country billions of dollars is exercising futility and will weigh in heavily on the achievement of all the SDGs as they require mobilisation of resources at the domestic level.

Specific Progress on the Implementation of Goals:

Focus is on SDGs 1 and 2, and the enabling goals (3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 8,7,13 and 17) which Zimbabwe has prioritised and also reported in the VNR according to those that have been prioritised this year for review by the HLPF.

SDG 2: No Hunger- The strong policy environment for achieving food security and improved nutrition, ending hunger is threatened by climate change effects and lack of production at a local level.  The progressive policy framework and gains made to date needs to be supported through inclusive and participatory initiatives that allow citizens to be their own food producers and not only be treated as consumers who should be fed to end their hunger

SDG 3: Good Health- Indeed Zimbabwe has made positive efforts to create an enabling policy environment to improve public health and some positives have been achieved over the years in the health sector especially on HIV/AIDS prevalence, child mortality rates, maternal mortality ratio, and vaccinations for children. However the achievement of this goal heavily relies on donor funding. The government has tried to create other domestic channels of resourcing the health sector though these remain limited. Most public hospitals remain in appalling conditions with limited supply of medicines, dilapidated medical facilities and medical staff threatening job actions due to low remuneration. It is important to address the quality of health care if this goal is to be achieved indeed.

SDG 5: Gender Equality- Government is committed to the achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment and policies and practices are in place or the achievement of this goal. Commendable is the passing of the law against Child Marriages among other key milestones. The good work should continue especially for the rural women. It is now high time to focus on emancipating the rural and poor women who suffer exclusion even from the affluent and privileged fellow women.

SDG 9: Innovation and Infrastructure- Some projects have been commissioned in line with building sustainable infrastructure however the infrastructural challenges are enormous and beyond the current available resources. Roads, water works continue to be in bad state in Zimbabwe.

SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation- Though efforts have been made under the WASH programme challenges to access to clean water and sanitation remain inadequately addressed in order to be confident that this SDG will be achieved. The lack of robust bulk water supplies, people centred water policy, environmental policy to safeguard wetlands infringe on the citizens right to water which is enshrined in the constitution.

SDG 8: Good Jobs and Economic Growth- focus on this goal is paramount as it has a seamless relationship with ending poverty. Efforts to create decent employment are not evident as the government also dices with embracing the labour market flexibility principles. The Zimbabwe economy is highly informal and there are no concrete steps being made to put in place inclusive and enabling policy frameworks that can promote inclusive economic growth through developing this sector.

SDG 7: Clean Energy- The government has committed to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. These are noble commitments; however the implementation of this goal is not predictable. Electricity supplies have reportedly improved for households and some attribute this improvement largely to lack of activity in the manufacturing industry than to government energy projects. Zimbabweans are slowly embracing the use of alternative energy such as solar and gas and efforts should be made to support and encourage citizens to continue in this route.

SDG 13: Protect the Planet- priority is on combating climate change and its impacts. Currently government action on this goal is limited. Knowledge on Climate change and impacts remain at the top level thereby making it almost impossible for the citizens to participate in this discourse. If this challenge remains then this goal is likely to suffer.

SDG 4: Quality Education- Zimbabwe has been ranked one of the top African countries on literacy levels. The government under this goal would seek to ensure that there is inclusive and equitable quality of education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all. It is paramount to focus on building a responsive education system based on the needs of the Zimbabwean economy. Human capital development through skills training should be a priority if quality education is to be achieved. Access to education from primary level to tertiary level should be in terms of both physical accessibility and financial accessibility. Most children in Zimbabwe need government support to go through the national education cycle. Currently there is a general trend that a significant number of children are not going to tertiary level due to lack of resources at the household level as government no longer offers support for these young adults.

SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals- this is about the means to the end. Zimbabwe would seek to strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development.  Admittedly so, this goal is important and it where the potential of achieving or not achieving the SDGs lies. In the Zimbabwean context of economic challenges, limited ODA, both external and domestic debt overhang and the role of private sector this goal has far reaching effects. There is a danger that as partnerships are forged if the processes are not subjected to public scrutiny, the geopolitical relations can have a negative impact on people’s livelihoods as Zimbabwe seeks to revive the economy. The financing of the SDGs and the subsequent implementation and achievement of the SDGs should remain within the holds of the government and should be largely financed using domestic resources. Where external financing or partnerships are considered the conditionalities should be made public and citizen voices on the partnerships should be taken into account. There is need for an accountability mechanism to foster responsible partnerships in the achievement of the SDGs.

Important Goals not Prioritised

SDG 1: Government has not prioritised ending poverty. The government believes the achievement of the prioritised goals will have a trickledown effect on this goal. The I-PRSP process referred to by the government raised concerns amongst CSOs in terms of the nature of consultations which were done hurriedly to meet deadlines which were set by international financial institutions. From the CSO perspective there is no clarity on how the I-PRSP targets in the matrix will be financed from local resources. The majority of the population continues to live in poverty be it structural poverty or transient poverty. There are no tangible efforts to address social security issues of the vulnerable due to the economic challenges. The HLPF should be made aware that having blue prints is not a guarantee that an SDG will be achieved. Resources have to be availed for the achievement of this SDG.

SDG 16: Peace and Justice- This goal is critical for the sustainability of the SDGs themselves. Zimbabwe has not prioritised this goal and it is worrisome. There have been reported episodes of violence and lack of the justice system to deliver justice especially in relation to the electoral processes. In an unpredictable environment there is a likelihood of undoing progress towards the achievement if the SDGs if institutions that can support the peace and justice system are not adequately supported.

Cross Cutting Challenges to the Implementation of the SDGs

Institutional Challenges- weak institutional capacities to deliver on the SDGs this causes insufficient, timely and adequately disaggregated data for indicators therefore difficult for CSOs to effectively monitor progress. The weak institutional capacities has also caused failure to deal with IFFs that continue to bleed the economy and prejudicing the implementation of the SDGs.
Limited fiscal space- the economy is in dire distress and cannot unlock resources for the financing of the SDGs. This is exacerbated by high indebtedness.


There is a potential to mobilise domestic resources from the vast and rich natural resource base- IFFs should be plugged and public revenue allocations should focus on the SDGs.

Move towards the formalisation of the informal economy to harness the potential of this sector in contributing to human development and economic growth.

The constitution as an opportunity and a benchmark for the implementation of the SDGs.

The citizens of Zimbabwe if included from the local levels through to the national levels can be active actors in the achievement of the SDGs.

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