Keynote remarks by Ms Ahunna Eziakonwa

UN Assistant-Secretary General and UNDP Regional Director, Regional Bureau for Africa.

Delivered at the launch of UNDP Country Programme

Kingdom of Eswatini

25 March 2021

 

 Minister of Economic Planning and Development, Honourable Dr Tambo Gina,

The Resident Coordinator, Ms Nathalie Ndongo-Seh,

The UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Rose Ssebatindira,

Dear Programme Director,

Dear Principal Secretary,

Development partners,

UN Colleagues,

Esteemed Members of the Press,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good Afternoon.

 

It is a pleasure to join you today to launch the new 2021-25 Country Programme Document for the UNDP Office in the Kingdom of Eswatini, together with the Honourable Minister of Economic Planning and Development. This event also concludes my virtual mission to the Kingdom of Eswatini.

I would like to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for the excellent relationship and facilitation they have extended to make this virtual mission a success.

The purpose of the mission was to discuss UNDP’s development offer to the Kingdom of Eswatini, and identify further opportunities and partnerships that the Government could benefit from.

I had the honor to exchange with His Excellency the Acting Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Eswatini, Senator Themba Nhlangasino Masuku, on the most pressing development questions and his priorities for the country and his people.

Equitable growth remains a key priority for Eswatini and for UNDP. With the Minister of Economic Planning and Development, we looked at practical ways to stem the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and its socio-economic fallout across the country to ensure that no one is left behind in Eswatini. We now have the opportunity to build back better, through a swift and inclusive economic recovery programme that will be crucial for all emaSwati.

Finance and trade, especially the development of intra-African trade, following the start of trading of the AfCFTA, will be crucial to strengthen capacities of Eswatini exporters to utilize the new opportunities presented in under this Agreement, notably for women and youth, working in the informal sector or leading Micro Small and Medium Enterprises. Concrete ways to support them represented the core of the conversation I had with the Minister of Finance, Senator Neal Rijkenberg and the  Minister for Industry, Commerce and Trade, Senator Manqoba Khumalo.

Digitalization and maximizing the remarkable potential of homegrown innovations in Eswatini will be essential for a swift recovery from COVID-19 and our collective response to protect people and the planet. The  Minister for Tourism & Environmental Affairs, Honourable Moses Vilakati, and I, strongly agreed that this is a key pillar of our cooperation and our joint efforts over the next five years.

The new UNDP Country Programme, which we are jointly presenting today, outlines UNDP’s commitment to support the government and the people of Eswatini in their development aspirations over the next five years. UNDP is a long-time partner of Eswatini. Since 1977, UNDP’s actions have helped the Kingdom adapt to challenges and keep on a steady path towards equitable growth and the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals. UNDP has supported the government in its various development initiatives, providing analysis and macro-level policy advice as well as deploying programmatic solutions to contribute to governments’ efforts to fight poverty at all levels.

UNDP has been a solid partner helping the country and its people to adapt to climate change, recover from climate shocks, such as Cyclone Eloise, prevent and respond to disease outbreaks, and improve the well-being of millions of people in the country.  UNDP specifically leveraged home-grown innovative ideas and supported women and youth working in the informal sector and MSMEs.

Over the past five years, during the previous Country Programme cycle, the Kingdom of Eswatini and its people have achieved significant progress and UNDP has been honored to play a support role in this.  Allow me, excellencies, distinguished participants, to highlight just a few examples in the areas of environment, governance, inclusive growth, digitalization and the COVID 19 response.

On the Environment front:

-  UNDP supported the Eswatini National Trust Commission in its efforts to restore wetland ecosystems, resulting in 190 hectares wetlands becoming protected. The government aims to turn 6% of its land into protected areas and we have already reached 5.2%.

- The government has expressed its desire to focus on ecotourism and the livelihoods opportunities it can bring. In 2020 alone, UNDP supported the development of three [3] ecotourism infrastructures and the upgrading of five [5] community tourism enterprises.

- The UNDP/FAO collaboration supported the government in increasing local farmers’ productivity and resilience to climate change, as well improving their access to markets through a strategic partnership with the COMESA.

On Governance:

-        UNDP provided assessments and analyses on key governance issues that strengthen integrity in leadership, accountability and transparency; as well as on human rights and sexual and gender-based violence. These were instrumental to informing policy decisions and reform options. 

-        Our Country Office supported the draft legislations and policy frameworks to improve access to justice for the poor, address gender inequalities and strengthen the efficiency of oversight bodies.

-        Domesticating international treaties continues to be a priority to strengthen the culture of promotion and protection of human rights. Together with OHCHR we established the inter-ministerial committee for the national mechanism on reporting and follow up.

On inclusive growth:

-        UNDP leveraged south-south collaboration and supported the participatory poverty assessment with support from the government of India. UNDP was the lead agency in supporting the government in key planning processes such as the development of the National Development Plan.

And of critical importance, UNDP immediately responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, playing our role as integrator of the UN Development System, to bring actors together and mobilise resources to reduce the spread of the virus, protect health and frontline workers, and unite the COVID 19 response through a unique and swift funding mechanism: the COVID-19 Response Fund. As the pandemic disproportionately affected some remote rural communities, UNDP worked with government to focus on providing safety nets to nearly 9,000 households, alleviating the harsh impact on livelihoods on communities.

As we look ahead, we also recognize that the road ahead will be difficult.  COVID 19 has devastated the economy of Eswatini, and its social impacts continue to transmit through communities. The five-year UNDP Country Programme will accompany recovery efforts supporting the course towards a better and more sustainable future, while ensuring that no one is left behind.

I would like to express my gratitude to the Kingdom of Eswatini, for the support UNDP has received during the preparation process of the Country Programme Document.  This process was consultative, evidence-informed and intensive, including with national authorities.  It was also based on an integrated offer towards reaching the SDGs and the important development aspirations in Eswatini.

Progress towards these development goals requires an integrated approach, which UNDP – given its multi-sectoral mandate, commits to invest in, on three joint aspects: productivity, inclusion and resilience. These three paths, which are interconnected and interdependent, are the three pillars on which our Programme is founded on - as you have seen in the animation.  

The Country programme is also aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF), the UNDP Strategic Plan 2018-21, and the Renewed Strategic Offer in Africa.

UNDP’s Resident Representative – Ms. Rose Ssebatindira, will continue to work closely with the government, in collaboration with other UN agencies under the overall leadership of the Resident Coordinator, in prioritizing the economic recovery agenda; will act as an enabler to access development finance and will continue to tap on the wider resource at regional and global levels, to deliver efficient support to the Kingdom of Eswatini and its people.

We look forward to deepening this collaboration – and to impact-driven results.  Siyabonga.

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