The COVID-19 global health pandemic is swiftly changing the ways we live and work. In the era of sustainable development and at a time when the world is working towards achieving the SDGs, COVID is complicating SDG implementation efforts. Uganda’s 2019 National Progress Report on SDGs revealed a mixed picture with significant progress on certain goals while others are still lagging behind. With the COVOID-19 pandemic raging on, this is likely to undermine the sustainable development efforts and gains that have been achieved over the years.
Therefore, it is against this background that CSO Reference Group on SDGs under the auspices of the Uganda National NGO Forum convened a virtual meeting on the implications of COVID-19 on SDGs implementation in Uganda. The meeting attended by 10 participants from Reproductive Health Uganda, African Monitor, Uganda Coalition for Sustainable Development, Youth Equality Centre, CONCENT Uganda and the SDG Secretariat. Participants explored ways how civil society can effectively engage with SDG implementation during these difficult times.
In her remarks, Ms. Sophie Kange, Coordinator Civil Society Strengthening, UNNGOF appreciated participants for sparing time to reflect on SDG implementation in the country amidst the COVID-19 challenge. She informed participants that the VNR reporting process is ongoing and the draft report is expected to be out by next week and this will be availed to members for review. She noted that there are also challenges with the HLPF however there are two options provided thus; a) an in person HLPF limited to NY based participants with video links to other participants from capitals and elsewhere, b) a fully virtual HLPF. Noting that there are uncertainties due to the overall situation as well as to whether the technicians will be able to support a full-fledged official meeting with interpretation. However, she emphasized that it is clear that the VNRs will take place because countries have told the UN that though there is a negative impact of COVID-19 on their preparations, they are ready to go ahead.
Mr. Ruyoka Raymond from RHU shared updates on the VNR process noting that the VNR SDG Key messages had been reviewed and the roadmap for the VNR consultations shared. He urged members of the reference group to review the messages and provide feedback. Mr. Pascal Byarugaba from the SDG Secretariat informed participants of the three phases of submitting the VNR Report thus; key messages, Report and Video clips and called upon CSOs to actively participate in the VNR consultations that will be conducted online.
Participants shared their experiences in regards to their work and the SDGs and these were both positive and negative impacts. These ranged from challenges such as lack of access to health care services, immunization is also a challenge, Limited access to Sexual Reproductive Health services by young girls and women that might result into increase in population, reduced production which will result into increased affluences due to high demand from industries, lack of access to food by vulnerable citizens, increased water levels that have affected housing among others. However, the positive impacts include: increased awareness and advocacy on COVID-19, brought about responsible consumption among consumers.
The SDG VNR Key messages were also presented and reviewed by the participants and shared with the SDG Secretariat. As a way forward, members of the Reference group were requested to develop a one-page write-up on the impact of COVID 19 on the SDGs that will inform the CSO Rejoinder to the HLPF in July.