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SDGs Financing: West African CSOs decry Governments' Reliance on Foreign Aid

Globally, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to better the lives of people everywhere, without ‘leaving anybody behind’. Although the SDGs are a noble agenda, the United Nations estimates it will cost $1.5 trillion more than the preceding Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), in order to meet the set targets. Yet, resource mobilisation remains an evident challenge for those seeking to move the agenda from rhetoric to reality. Recognizing the unclear role for civil society in tackling this challenge, the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) convened the second of its 2016 West Africa Civil Society Policy Dialogue Series (WAC-PODiS) under the theme: Financing Our Development: Strategies for Domestic Resource Mobilisation for Agenda 2030 in West Africa and the role of civil society. 

The policy dialogue brought together over fifty-five (55) civil society practitioners from across the fifteen (15) countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) including Cameroon, to discuss and debate on the best strategies for domestic resourcing to fund the newly adopted global development agenda in West Africa.

Contextualising the issues, Nana Asantewa Afadzinu, the Executive Director of WACSI who chaired the session noted in her opening remarks that the current dependency of civil society organisations on donor funding constitutes a threat to sustainable development in West Africa. This phenomenon has an adverse effect on civil society’s sustainability and contributions to the development of the region. This level of dependence on donor funding equally poses a threat to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the region.

In his presentation, Udo Jude Ilo, Country Officer and Head of Nigeria Office of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) added that “it will be a fundamental mistake to depend on international donors for the necessary resources to implement the SDGs. Instead, West Africans should look within the region for a solution”. Udo Jude Ilo further explained that acquiring resources from external donors often leads to a reprioritization of one’s goals to align with that of the donor. This may in effect, defer the development priorities within the region between 2016 and 2030.

In order to prevent this setback and put in place a sustainable mechanism in which West Africans can significantly contribute towards the financing of the SDGs, Oladayo Olaide, Deputy Director of the McArthur Foundation in Nigeria, indicates, “government spending will be the most important source of domestic resource for the sustainable development goals in many parts of West Africa”. Experience from the MDGs shows that government spending was more reliable than aid; tended to be more aligned with governmental sectoral priorities; and was more stable. Therefore, there is an urgent need to put in place mechanisms that will effectively generate and manage government revenue, while blocking any illicit flows that occur as a result of corruption and mismanagement of funds. In terms of the strategies to mobilise domestic funding, Oladayo added that civil society organisations should focus on partnering and collaborating with affluent African philanthropists and local foundations such as Dangote Foundation, TY Danjuma Foundation, Kofi Annan Foundation, Mo Ibrahim Foundation, among others, to attend to development priorities in the region. In addition, governments should develop frameworks that encourage wealthy Africans to contribute more to local development and to the SDGs.

Speaking from a civil society perspective, Oluseyi Babatunde Oyebisi, Executive Director of Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNNGO), stated that civil society organisations need to complement the efforts of governments by finding innovative ways of delivering the SDGs as one entity rather than working in silos. Collective efforts in mobilizing domestic resources on the thematic areas of the SDGs will be integral in ensuring that the region meets the goals. He urged CSOs to work in partnership with governments to institute an inclusive and participatory implementation framework at national levels while offering technical expertise and assistance to relevant government ministries and agencies in realising each of the 17 goals. Oyebisi also reiterated that both sectors — government and civil society — must leverage on the strength of academic institutions and relevant think-tanks to conduct in-depth research with the aim of generating indigenous information and evidence to help governments design and deliver effective policies that align with national development priorities.

The success of the dialogue was evident in the strong strategies that were formulated. Through the dialogue, WACSI is hopeful that these strategies will influence both national and regional mobilisation of resources to finance sustainable development in West Africa.

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