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Sierra Leone News: Civil Society review of the MDGs in Sierra Leone

This summary presents perspectives from Civil Society in Sierra Leone on progress made and challenges experienced in relation to the national efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the extent to which MDG processes have provided opportunities to enhance participatory governance and civil society relations with government. Based on their reflections, Sierra Leonean civil society organisations (CSOs) made a number of recommendations to accelerate progress on the MDGs and improve future development frameworks.
In the first half of 2012 Fourah Bay College (FBC) Department of Economics and Commerce, University of Sierra Leone produced a draft research report, which formed the basis for a national consultation convened by the Campaign for Good Governance and CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation in December 2012 to verify and enhance the research findings and make additional recommendations.
CSOs consider that the most significant progress has been made on Goals 3, 4 and 5, which they believe could be met by 2015 with increased efforts, and also note progress on Goal 2 and, to a lesser extent, Goal 8.
They view progress on Goal 6 as mixed, and assess Goals 1 and 7 as unlikely to be met.
While CSOs are skeptical about the likelihood of attainment of the MDGs by 2015, they recognize that efforts have been made from a low starting point, given Sierra Leone’s still recent experience of devastating war.
They view the MDGs as having been overly ambitious in the context of Sierra Leone.
While recognizing that advances have been made, CSOs also state that some social service ministries could have done more, but have seen allocations from central government reduced, leading to an erosion of earlier gains. Sierra Leone’s post-war economic performance has been strong, and improved post-war governance enabled some of this growth to result in an increase in standards of living, but CSOs believe there remains a clear need for infrastructural, institutional and human capital development, while Sierra Leone continues to be vulnerable to localized disasters that heighten food insecurity.
The youth unemployment level is considered one of the highest in West Africa. CSOs believe that part of the value of the MDGs is that they have directed attention to key development issues. They consider that the MDGs have led to more collaborations and dialogue opportunities on national development priorities for CSOs, previously rare in Sierra Leone. But they express concern that the MDG framework was not explicitly connected to systems of accountability and resourcing, and did not make links to civil society.
They also assess MDG processes as being less inclusive than those put in place to develop the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs). For these reasons it was suggested that many CSOs are unable to identify with the MDGs, and to a large extent this has not changed over time. Further, limited knowledge, particularly among local level CSOs, means that while many CSOs have played a significant role in addressing the MDGs as a result of overlap with their existing work areas, they have been much less active in monitoring and advocacy.
Other reasons suggested by CSOs for the limited monitoring role they have played include a lack of specialized knowledge and research capacities, an absence of processes to capture good practices and data, and scarce public documentation.
They also draw attention to the lack of freedom of information legislation, which restricts access to essential information.
That the MDGs are assessed as unrealistic and inappropriate for the national context suggests a need for targets to be set locally.
In considering more locally appropriate goals, CSOs suggest that priority should be given to making agriculture a leading source of more sustainable livelihoods, encouraging more local economic development activities, improving social protection and social safety nets, designing programmes that meet the needs of young people and advancing gender equity.
An overarching theme suggested for improving income and reducing poverty, including by tackling youth unemployment, is decent work. It is acknowledged that this implies an understanding of better connections.
Tuesday September 10, 2013

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