NEW YORK – World leaders have adopted the much-talked about ambitious, bold and universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is a migration from the much publicized Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and as expected, President Lt Gen Ian Khama chose not to attend.
In an interview with South African financial publication, Business Day, in 2013 Khama dismissed the Union General Assembly (UNGA) meetings as nothing but wasteful and worthless ‘talk shops’.
The resolutions of the UN are not legally binding and implementation is left to individual countries. Although it has been hailed as the great hope for the future of mankind – the UN has also been dismissed as a shameful den of dictatorships owing to the undemocratic politics of the Security Council. This view is held particularly by the developing world.
Nonetheless, many had expected President Khama to attend this year’s historic and epic United Nations 70th anniversary General Assembly, which even attracted the Russian President, Vladimir Putin who has a decade of absenteeism with the UNGA. This year’s GA was special because of its uniqueness and extraordinarily rich agenda, but Khama remained unmoved.
The General Assembly is the main deliberative body of the UN. As opposed to the controversial Security Council, which is exclusive and grants unique veto rights to five nations, all 193 UN member nations have membership and equal voting rights in the General Assembly.
The General Assembly approves the admission of new UN members and elects members to other UN organs. Over the years, it has become the primary platform for the dialogue between developed and developing states. This week, Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe endeared himself to as he launched a scathing attack on the West in relation to several issues that many agree with him but shy away from discussing for fear of offending their economic masters.
Opposition parties in Botswana and other stakeholders continue to urge Khama to revisit his position and view on the UNGA but the President won’t relent. Khama, his detractors say, unlike Mugabe, prefers to snipe at a distance, an attitude associated with cowardly man – they say. His detractors further argue that the President needs to give the organization support by way of presence and contribution in debates if indeed he shares its objectives and believes in its significance.
The new UN agenda entitled ‘Transforming our world: 2030 agenda for sustainable development’, will serve as the launch pad for action by the international community and by national governments to promote shared prosperity and well-being for all over the next 15 years.
The agenda which has 17 SGDs and 169 targets is unique in that it calls for action by all countries- poor, rich and middle –income, unlike the now defunct MGDs which the developing world heard of towards the end of the 15-year period during which they were to be achieved. SDGs have seen much more effective consultation. The co-chair of the Open Working Group, Macharia Kamau said, “no one can say they were not consulted. There was wide consultation and therefore there is accountability.”
To show their support, countries have sent their representatives. The programme shows that out of 53 African states, 60 percent of the heads of states are in attendance, 25 percent sent Ministers while the remaining 15 percent sent Vice Presidents. Botswana is represented by both the Vice President and a Minister.
This publication sought opinions from various UN senior officials on the attendance and non-attendance of heads of states and if at all that has any significance.
Many were of the view that ‘agendas are not for Presidents but countries at the end of the day’. They further said while a head of state’s attendance is always encouraging, the monitoring and assessment of the goals looks largely on the country leadership’s commitment to the goals. Botswana’s anti-poverty strategy and commitment to UN agreed objectives is said to be one of the most robust and successful when compared to her regional counterparts.
The UN Resident Coordinator, Mr Anders Pederson is of the view that Botswana has done very well by dramatically reducing poverty levels and achieving universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment, and to social services such as education and health. Botswana has also shown true leadership in the sub-region during the MDGs era.
“Although inequality is still a challenge, Government’s commitment towards addressing this gives us hope and assurance that by 2030, this will be a thing of the past,” he points out.
Does Khama’s presence really matter that much?
UN senior officials say yes and no. “Yes because it is a head of states assembly but also an issue to do with the highest political representation. As for a Vice-President or a minister, many might argue that it is still a high political representation, and the president may as well tell them what to say, where and how,” they advised.
The presidents however, the officials said, need to show up regularly or occasionally “because a UN Assembly is the highest political event in the UN calendar and the opportunity provides presidents with a rare opportunity to talk to the world”.
They further observed that through the addresses, presidents are also provided with a rare opportunity to raise problems within their respective countries for the world to offer advice or assistance. These, they said, may be through formal dialogue or informal ‘chats’ with counterparts during adjournments.
According to the UN officials, presidents hardly find themselves in one place at the same time and the UN assembly provides that rare opportunity for them to connect, interact and iron out issues that may have been pending because of insufficient time or resources.
“Attendance at the highest level also shows respect to the organization you say you support and the organization that you sustain annually through your budget,” they further advised.
When addressing the ongoing GA the Botswana’s Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi who made it clear at the onset of his statement that he is standing in for President Khama said Botswana’s progress has been very encouraging.
“We have reached universal access to education and almost closed the disparity between girls and boys in schools; health services are practically free and have been brought within an 8km radius of each community across the country; HIV anti-retroviral drugs are provided freely for all Batswana and transmission of the virus from mother to child is almost at zero; focused interventions for youth employment and income-generating opportunities have resulted in the improved quality of life of our citizens,” he said.
He further said one notable area of success worthy of singular mention has been the national flagship programme for the complete eradication of poverty.
“Through the deliberate actions of this strategy, evidence is beginning to show that steady progress is being made. Interestingly, the evidence also shows that women are greater beneficiaries of the programme and achieve significantly better results that actually transform their livelihood and that of their families. This has been a patent reminder of the role women can play in national development, when given the opportunity,” he said to a half-empty assembly.
The style and culture at the Assembly is that when one is done with his address they leave and those that are not presenting on that day do not care to show up, and worse still, the world major media outlets are only interested in the United States of America President’s speeches as well as a few of the world’s major economies like China and Russia to feed on tensions between these governments, which often see the UN as bloated and inefficient.
Khama is a fierce and fearless critic of some regional and international leaders and is revered and disliked by many in the region for his unpopular views on emerging issues. His government’s foreign policy has however come under heavy criticism for lack of consistency.
In Botswana because of his non-attendance critics argue that his assistant, Masisi cannot express himself with the same confidence and authority because being a messenger usually comes with boundaries but Khama is of the view that it is not about who attends but the country position.
Achievability of SDGs and Botswana With the world moving from the 8 MDGs to 17 SDGs questions have now shifted to achievability of the SDGs given their number. Botswana’s latest report of the MDGs depicted a country on the right path despite a few areas of concern like the quality of education, high and widening inequalities, the high HIV/AIDs prevalence rates and a few minor cases.
Globally there are concerns that the new SDGs lack clarity on evaluation, accountability and transparency. Leaders however say these will be looked into. Others worry that 17 being the number of SDGs seems too many, and 169 target indicators might be difficult to monitor even for countries with good data collection mechanisms, the biggest worry however remains resources.
“In Botswana, we’re looking forward to align our work on poverty eradication; environment and climate change; governance, human rights and gender equality and their outcomes even closer to the Botswana Vision Post 2016 and the National Development Plan 11. These new Global Goals will guide and help us achieve that. The Goals spell out how we work together to promote dignity, equality, justice, shared prosperity and well-being for all, while protecting the environment. We are the first generation that can end poverty and the last one that can avoid the worst effects of climate change,” Pederson said.
Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Kabo Morwaeng together with Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Elias Magosi, this week refused to name and shame the worst performing Ministries and to disclose the best performing Ministries since beginning of 12th parliament including the main reasons for underperformance.
Of late there have been a litany of complaints from both ends of the aisle with cabinet members accused of providing parliament with unsatisfactory responses to the questions posed. In fact for some Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) backbenchers a meeting with the ministers and party leadership is overdue to address their complaints. Jwaneng-Mabutsane MP, Mephato Reatile is also not happy with ministers’ performance.
Bokamoso Private Hospital is battling a P10 million legal suit for a botched fibroids operation which resulted in a woman losing an entire womb and her prospects of bearing children left at zero.
The same suit has also befallen the Attorney General of Botswana who is representing the Ministry of Health and Wellness for their contributory negligence of having the unlawful removal of a patient, Goitsemang Magetse’s womb.
According to the court papers, Magetse says that sometimes in November 2019, she was diagnosed with fibroids at Marina Hospital where upon she was referred to Bokamoso Private Hospital to schedule an appointment for an operation to remove the fibroids, which she did.
Magetse continues that at the instance of one Dr Li Wang, the surgeon who performed the operation, and unknown to her, an operation to remove her whole womb was conducted instead. According to Magetse, it was only through a Marina Hospital regular check-up that she got to learn that her whole womb has been removed.
“At the while she was under the belief that only her fibroids have been removed. By doing so, the hospital has subjected itself to some serious delictual liability in that it performed a serious and life changing operation on patient who was under the belief that she was doing a completely different operation altogether. It thus came as a shock when our client learnt that her womb had been removed, without her consent,” said Magetse’s legal representatives, Kanjabanga and Associates in their summons.
The letter further says, “this is an infringement of our client‘s rights and this infringement has dire consequences on her to the extent that she can never bear children again”. ‘It is our instruction therefore, to claim as we hereby do, damages in the sum of BWP 10,000,000 (ten million Pula) for unlawful removal of client’s womb,” reads Kanjabanga Attorneys’ papers. The defendants are yet to respond to the plaintiff’s papers.
What are fibroids?
Fibroids are tumors made of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue. They develop in the uterus. It is estimated that 70 to 80 percent of women will develop fibroids in their lifetime — however, not everyone will develop symptoms or require treatment.
The most important characteristic of fibroids is that they’re almost always benign, or noncancerous. That said, some fibroids begin as cancer — but benign fibroids can’t become cancer. Cancerous fibroids are very rare. Because of this fact, it’s reasonable for women without symptoms to opt for observation rather than treatment.
Studies show that fibroids grow at different rates, even when a woman has more than one. They can range from the size of a pea to (occasionally) the size of a watermelon. Even if fibroids grow that large, we offer timely and effective treatment to provide relief.
The Alliance for Progressives (AP) President Ndaba Gaolathe has said that despite major accolades that Botswana continues to receive internationally with regard to the state of economy, the prospects for the future are imperilled.
Delivering his party Annual Policy Statement on Thursday, Gaolathe indicated that Botswana is in a state of do or die, and that the country’s economy is on a sick bed. With a major concern for poverty, Gaolathe pointed out that almost half of Botswana’s people are ravaged by or are about to sink into poverty. “Our young people have lost the fire to dream about what they could become,” he said.