UN in Uganda 'drums up' support for SDGs to mark 70th anniversary

Oct 26, 2015

Ms Ahunna Eziakonwa-Onochie (Left) presents a banner in support of Sustainable Development Goal 16, to H.E. President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda, shortly after their meeting at State House in Entebbe. On the right, is Ms Lucy Ndungu, the UN Country Team's Peace and Development Advisor, displaying a #UNBlue T-shirt which was also presented to the President in commemoration of the UN's 70th Annivesary (Photo by Presidential Press Unit 2015)

26 October, Kampala – The United Nations in Uganda, celebrated its 70th anniversary today, with music, dance and an exhibition themed on the new 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The event, which showcased the strength and richness of the UN's diversity, also highlighted some of its most important and enduring global and national achievements in development, human rights, peace and security. Dignitaries included heads of UN agencies, heads of diplomatic missions, private sector and civil society representatives, primary and high school students, and Staff of the UN Family.

Ndere Troupe, a popular cultural dance group, led over 200 guests on a musical journey of rhythmic performance punctuated by energetic drumming, to symbolically “drum up” support for the Sustainable Development Goals. Like much of Africa, drums are an intrinsic part of Ugandan culture and hold very powerful imagery – as symbols of leadership, authority, coming of age, life and death.  Drums are played to communicate, celebrate, mourn, mobilise, and to inspire.

For UN Day, the “Beat the Drums” theme was symbolic of the dawn of a new era of the Global Goals, adopted by countries at the UN General Assembly in September  to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) whose Final Report Card for Uganda was also launched at the event.

Speaking on behalf of Ms Ahunna Eziakonwa-Onochie, the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Uganda, Ms Neimar Warsame, welcomed guests to the festivities and highlighted some of the notable successes achieved in Uganda under the  MDG cycle. These include halving poverty by more than 50 percent, five years ahead of deadline; increased access to HIV treatment; reduction in incidence of Malaria and other major diseases; and strengthening global partnerships for development.

“But we shall not forget to interrogate areas of marginal performance indicated in the report, so that we can close the gap towards a life of dignity for all people in Uganda,” cautioned Ms Warsame, who is also the Country Representative of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

She said the SDGs build on the timeless values of the UN Charter to “unite our strength” and “people” to drive development and policy for the next 15 years, while ensuring that the planet remains healthy and is able to meet the needs of present and future generations. She also applauded the leadership of the Government of Uganda for integrating the SDGs in to the new National Development Plan (NDPII) – a process that UNDP spearheaded in offering both financial and technical support on behalf of the UN Country Team.

“At the very beginning of this journey, stands the acknowledgement that this new agenda is much closer to core national values than you might think. But to make this agenda work, we need to make sure that all people in Uganda know about it, and that they are equipped to support its implementation within their capabilities,” she emphasised.

Addressing the gathering, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador James Mugume, said Government was committed to realising the development aspirations of the people of Uganda by transforming the country to a middle income status in line with Vision2040, and to mobilise the necessary financing for it.

A panel discussion moderated by NTV News Anchor, Maurice Mugisha made several suggestions on how the new agenda could be localized further and translated in to real action by people, and for the people. The discussion featured Kampala City Council Authority Executive Director, Ms Jennifer Musisi; Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and SDG16 Global Goals Ambassador Victor Ochen; and Entrepreneur, Ms. Rehema Kasule. Ms Musisi is also the UN in Uganda champion and Goodwill ambassador for Goal 11 on Sustainable Cities and Communities.  

In closing, Ms Eziakonwa – Onochie emphasized the importance of partnering with Government to support the transformation of Uganda and added that the SDGs are at the core of national values, including its constitution and anthem. She had earlier met with President Yoweri Museveni at State House in Entebbe to officially bid him and the country farewell.

During the meeting, Ms Eziakonwa-Onochie presented some of the major milestones that had been achieved by the UN in Uganda during her three and half year tenure –describing the experience as fulfilling, challenging and full of learning. The UN, she said, had been proud to support the national planning process that had culminated in a new NDPII that is currently well aligned to the SDGs; as well as undertaking the National Population Census and providing policy guidance on how to harness the demographic dividends of an increasingly young and restless population.

Working with partners, including Government, the UN had also supported renewed action to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS especially mother-to-child transmission;and had worked also to promote peace and security in the country through the National Peace Architecture and Conflict Resolution programme, with a special focus on stabilising Northern Uganda. Others include gender and women empowerment, and putting climate change on to the national agenda and ensuring government is able to plan, predict and respond effectively and timely to disasters.

“I leave behind a UN country team that is a lot closer, and is working more closely with Government now. We are more aware now that we are not here to simply promote a UN programme, but a government of Uganda programme supported by the UN. In otherwords, whatever we do here, is in partnership, and under the direction of Government”, she assured the President, a commitment she later reiterated at the closing of the UN Day event where she also took time to thank staff for their commitment, hard work and dedication to the work of the UN in Uganda, even as she bid them farewell.

On display at the public exhibition, were video demonstration of mobile applications that transmit labour market information to farmers in real-time to enable them sell their commodities at competitive prices (SDG 1 – No Poverty); fresh and dried food (SDG2-No Hunger); value-addition of the banana plant (SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption); 3D visuals of the proposed cycling lanes and recycling of waste for Kampala Capital City Authority (SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities); traditional birth cushion (SDG 3 – Good Health); Artist and crafts made from recycled plastic (SDG 13 – Protect the Planet) among others.

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