There has been a deliberate effort to ensure synergy between the SDG and National Development Plans since January, 2016 and will continue till December, 2030. The SDGs form a cohesive and integrated package of global aspirations that the world committed to achieve, building on the accomplishments of their predecessors; the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Below are some highlights of Uganda’s progress in SDG implementation as at 2021.
According to the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and SDG Centre for Africa, Uganda is more than 50 percent of the way towards achieving SDGs by 2030. Among the 52 African countries, Uganda ranks the 18th position with an overall score of 54.88 (compared to the regional average of 52.7 in 2020)
In 2019, Uganda’s progress on SDGs was ranked 140 out of 162 countries with a global index score of 52.6 per cent declining from 125th position out of 156 Countries in 2018. According to the SDG Global Index, Uganda’s achievement is average, with moderate performance on SDGs 3, 8, 9, 13 and 15. SDGs 2, 5 and 6 have stagnated and the country is off-track in achieving SDGs 1, 11, and 16. There are also information gaps, with official data available for only 46.3% of SDG indicators applicable to the country context (United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework Uganda: 2021-2025).
More detailed information on the progress made on each SDG can be found in Uganda’s Progress Report 2021. The analysis reveals progress made in poverty reduction amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the rate of poverty reduction remains at a slow pace. There is progress in the health sector where there is noticeable resilience of the health systems to address and close up the gaps. The general economy has proved to be resilient to external shocks and this is reflected in the public resources mobilization and revenues, debt management, climate change, closing gender gaps in all aspects, strengthened security system as well as economic empowerment of the citizens. At coordination level, the number of indicators applicable to Uganda, and with data has increased from 92 to 119; there is increasing forged partnerships and collaborations within the region member states; the localization and population of the SDGs agenda is on-going and effective; the youth are encouraged to innovate to harness the country potential, as well as strengthening technology and information systems in SDG Implementation.
The progress on SDGs is without challenges particularly on timely, quality and disaggregated data and statistics, which is critical in designing, planning and implementation of social, economic transformation programs. It’s time for government to collaborate with the private sector and development partners to invest in data innovation systems that produce granular transactional data, that not only guarantees a risk mitigated business environment for the economy.
In 2020, the Government presented that country’s second Voluntary National Review (VNR) Report to the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. The report recommended six actions for effective implementation of the SDGs in Uganda. In August 2021, the National NGO Forum conducted a survey on the progress of the VNR Report Commitments. Below ate highlights of the progress made to this end:
• Action 1: Stronger Partnerships, Coordination, and Collaboration
Government committed to conduct a Process Evaluation of the Technical Working Groups (TWGs) for lessons and strengthening as part of the Government’s routine monitoring and reporting mechanisms on SDGs that are results-focused. Enhancing partnerships must be nurtured through identification of inter-linkages between goals so as to bring different actors on one front and action. The SDG Coordination Framework is anchored on the existing coordination structures for implementing government business and provides strategic guidance on the roles and responsibilities of key institutions, steered by a multi-stakeholder SDG National Taskforce.
In February 2021, the Government of Uganda conducted a review of the SDG Coordination Frame- work and the SDG Roadmap. The evaluation covered SDGs implementation period of 2016-2020. This evaluation resulted in a new SDGs Roadmap – 2021-2025. The Roadmap outlines key actions and timelines of different TWGs for localizing and reporting on Agenda 2030.
The five TWGs are one of the most important layers of SDGs coordination framework, these include the; Planning and Mainstreaming chaired by National Planning Authority (NPA), Resource Mobilization and Financing chaired by the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (MoFPED), Coordination, Monitoring & Evaluation and Reporting chaired by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), Data chaired by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) and Communication and Popularization chaired by the Ministry of Information and National Guidance (MOING).
The evaluation covered the performance of the TWGs from 2016 to 2019, before the formation of the SDG Secretariat. The review report noted that TWGs are relevant and appropriate and are anchored on the existing coordination structure of government. The review observed that the TWGs created visibility for the SDGs through broader stakeholders’ participation and increased knowledge of the SDG indicators. However, the reviews observed irregularities in the flow of SDGs implementation-related activities from the TWGs into policy and planning due to inactiveness and incoherency of the TWGs from the time of formation 2016 – 2019.
Further, the TWGs have been empowered and strengthened within the Coordination Framework and are active with regular meetings. The establishment of a fully-fledged SDG Secretariat in late 2019 was a result of the recommendations from the Auditor General’s report on SDG readiness in 2018. However, in the period under review, the Resource Mobilization and Financing TWGs chaired by the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, has been inactive largely due to the impact of COVID-19 and its attendant resource demands. Further, the advocacy and communication plan is being revised to fit into the new road- map.
The LGs reported that although the CG has tried to integrate the SDGs in the implementation for the NDPs and the LGDPs, there is limited sensitization on SDGs and inadequate support and super- vision in the SDGs implementation in the LGs. There were also voices of lack of deliberate efforts to foster collaboration among LGs on SDGs, safe for LGs that implementing joint projects.
The LGs reported that there are regular engagements with MDAs on SDGs as implementation partners in line departments. In addition, LG work plan targets and services offered are in tandem and directly contribute to the MDAs. Besides, MDAs offer LGs support supervision and compliance checks. Secondly, Government committed to reflect on collaboration with all partners outside Government to ensure deeper collaboration for both critical and constructive input from a diversity of partners into the SDGs delivery. Weak multi-sectoral implementation planning, coordination gaps, week public-private partnerships have been highlighted as challenges to the achievement of the SDG targets.
Thus, to a large extent, the achievement of sustainable development depends on the ability of the Government to engage meaningfully with partners from all sectors of society. Multi-stakeholder partnerships are recognized under SDG 17, as contributors to the mobilization of resources, sharing of knowledge and expertise, and technology towards the achievement of the SDGs.
Partnership with the Development Partners: In collaboration with UN agencies (UNDP, UN Women, UN Capital Development Fund, UNFPA, etc.), the Government of Uganda led by the Office of the Prime Minister established the SDG Partnership Hub and Converging Centre. The GIZ has also supported building the Knowledge Hub at the SDG Secretariat.
The SDG Secretariat is designed to provide space for sharing knowledge and expertise among different actors that are engaged in multi-stakeholder SDG-related partnerships. However, interviews with the SDG Secretariat revealed that issues around partnerships and coordination have been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, as working from home is the new normal.
Partnership with CSOs: The SDG Secretariat is working together with CSOs through a partnership MoUs with CSOs led by the Uganda National NGO Forum. This is in recognition of CSOs capacity to increase accountability, creating awareness and promoting citizen participation in SDGs. The Uganda National NGO Forum hosts the National CSO Core Reference Group (NCCRG) on SDGs, a consortium of CSOs engage in SDGs work.
The fair collaboration between the CG, LGs and CSOs was attributed to the CSOs’ passionate interest in the implementation of the SDGs. Besides, CSOs supplement Government efforts. Thus, it was observed that the CG and LGs regularly guide the CSOs on service delivery gaps in line with the SDG framework.
It was also reported that some CSOs have working/collaboration MoUs with the CG and LGs. Similarly, sentiments were expressed by the majority of the CSOs who responded to the online survey, adding that the SDG coordination structure provides space for CSOs to have an entry point into involvement in the SDGs implementation.
Partnership with the Private Sector: In May 2021, Government launched a Private Sector SDG Platform for private sector collaboration. The purpose of the Private Sector Platform is to mobilize the private sector in Uganda to provide continuous support toward the implementation of the SDGs and NDP III. The primary objective of the Private Sector Platform is to rally the private sector on the SDGs and leverage the opportunities that exist within the SDGs for the private sector – for example, the growth of enterprises and access to markets.
The platform hopes to benefit the private sector holistically and contribute to the growth of the economy with an SDG lens, by mapping business activities to individual SDGs, and setting priorities that can contribute to the achievement of the SDGs. The platform is chaired by Government (OPM), co-chaired by the UN (Resident Coordinator’s office) and PSFU on behalf of the private sector.
The Private Sector SDG Platform has four pillars; i) Coordination, coordinated by the Office of the Prime Minister/SDG secretariat; ii) the Business Development Services Facility (BDSF); iii) the Knowledge Hub (working with academia to generate data and knowledge available for the private sector on investment opportunities); and iv) the SDG Challenge Fund for capital and mentorship, start-ups support and innovation, especially, for young people to contribute to the SDGs.
Partnership with young people: The Youth Coalition for the SDGs brings together more than 30 youth organizations that focus on SDGs implementation and awareness. The youth coalition was created in 2019 for the youth to share ideas. It is operated under the auspices of the SDG Secretariat with support from UN Coordinator’s Office. Through this platform, ABSA Bank has come on board, to create a youth hub to facilitate the coordination and mobilization of the youth to play their role in achieving the SDGs, and support youth-led SDG awareness activities. The youth hub is intended to provide a space for young people for knowledge and innovation sharing.
• Action 2: Deeper Localization and Popularization of the SDGs Agenda
In the Uganda VNR, 2020 under this thematic area, Government committed to the following actions; Identify SDG focal persons and agencies at all levels; Identify SDG champions at all levels, from community to national level; Build and promote promotion initiatives for each SDG; Government to strengthen collaboration with civil society actors across the country to innovate and popularize activities to implement the SDG agenda; Government to encourage young people to innovate and popularize activities to implement the SDG agenda; and Government adopts a rural development strategy (an inclusive sustainable community model that promotes self-help, community empowerment and participation) for localizing the SDGs.
The localization of the SDGs is the process of taking into account Uganda’s contexts in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. It accounts for domesticating the SDGs into Uganda development goal settings and targets, with clear means of implementation and measurable indicators. Linking the LGs in SDGs localization, the LGs supports through SDGs-related actions from the bottom-up and provide a framework for local development planning.
Thus, in Uganda, the achievement of the SDGs depends on the embarrassment of this agenda into local development planning and investment cycles. The key drivers for SDG localization are the same as those in NDP III, rallying all actors i.e. CSOs, private sector, development partners to align and localize SDGs in their work. For example, the private sector should engage communities with the SDGs beyond SCR.
SDGs Alignment: Uganda reports a significant effort in domesticating the SDGs priority areas of action in the NDP III framework.6 Interviews with the National Planning Authority (NPA) and the SDG Secretariat reported that the NDP III is almost 95% aligned to the SDGs. Thus, whatever is planned in the National Development Plan, is planned for the achievement of the SDGs, which is similarly reflected in the national budget since the budget delivers the NDP.
However, there is no comprehensive study on the alignment of the Local Government Development Plans (LGDPs) to the SDGs. The assumption is that since the SDGs are part and parcel of what LGs do in terms of planning and service delivery i.e. education, water and sanitation, health etc., these contribute to the SDG indicators. On the other hand, NPA and SDG Secretariat observed that since the NDP III is over 90% aligned to the SDGs, it’s a good indicator that even the LGDPs are well aligned to the SDGs. Nevertheless, the online survey as in Figure 9 also indicates that 88% of the LGs reported that the LGDPs are well aligned to the SDGs.
LGs noted that work plans are SDG sensitive and all outputs are linked to the NDP III and SDGs. However, interviews with the SDG Secretariat reported that the interrogation of the SDG indicators at the LG is limited. The monitoring and reporting according to the SDGs indicator framework are the responsibility of the Central Government.
The SDG Secretariat further reported that for deeper engagement with the SDGs, Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) have been conducted in seven districts of Ngora, Nebbi, Bugiri, Sironko, Kitagwenda, Sheema and Kyotera. Further the NPA guidance notes on the LGDP development process, include alignment of the LGDPs to the SDGs.
SDG Focal Persons and Champions: The SDG Secretariat also reported that SDG Focal Persons have been identified in over 80 districts, and plans are underway to cover all districts in Uganda. Ordinarily, the District Planning Unit is the SDG Focal Office, to have a lead person who is responsible for the SDGs integration in planning.
The SDG Secretariat observed that ordinary, the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) is the SDG Champion in the district. Most of the SDG Champions are selected by the virtue of their positions to embrace the SDGs. It’s also a requirement under the new Parish Development Model (PDM), to identify the SDG Champions up to the community level.
It is the Government’s commitment in the PDM to extend SDG Champions to the community level to ensure no one is left behind. The purpose of champions is to have lead persons that can articulate SDGs at LGs and lower levels – have people who have knowledge on SDGs and can support localization and rally people in the implementation of the SDGs.
SDG Promotion, Localization and Popularization: The Secretariat has undertaken various initiatives to enhance knowledge of, and action of the SDGs across the country, guided by a Communication and Advocacy Strategy drafted and agreed upon by the Communication and Popularization Technical Working Group. The process included media engagements in various ways, including through press briefings with support from the Uganda Media Centre, placement of articles and op-eds, and media coverage (including live TV broadcasts) of key events and activities. In November 2020, the Secretariat’s Communication function received a major boost in these activities with funding from UNDP for a robust media campaign which the Vision Group executed. The campaign kicked off with coverage in the New Vision and Bukedde (Print), Wan Luo TV, Rupiny Radio and Arua One FM (Northern Uganda), Etop Radio (Eastern Uganda), Urban TV, Bukedde TV, XFM, and Bukedde FM (Central Uganda), as well as Radio West and TV West (Western Uganda). The campaign included radio and TV spot ads about the SDGs, produced in partnership with Amariatek Life Coaching, a youth-led organization that is part of the Youth Coalition for SDGs, and talk shows and interviews in English and different local languages. Also, the SDG Secretariat launched the national SDG website with support from UNDP. The website at http://sdgs.opm.go.ug was approved by the National SDG Task Force, led by the Permanent Secretary.
Government collaboration on SDG innovations: The government committed to strengthen collaboration with civil society actors across the country to innovate and popularize activities to implement the SDG agenda; and also, to encourage young people to innovate and popularize activities to implement the SDG agenda.
The SDG Secretariat has been largely working with the Uganda National NGO Forum, on several initiatives to promote the SDGs, including consultations on VNR 2020. The SDG Secretariat has also continued to work with individual CSOs to promote SDGs through coordination and information flow.
Further, it was observed that CSOs are good advocates for especially these international agendas such as the SDGs. This is largely because many of the CSOs are rooted in communities through community outreach projects. Thus, by the nature of their work, CSOs can cascade these international agendas up to the community level. As a lesson, the Government views CSOs as strong partners to collaborate with, especially on the SDGs localization, through leveraging on their infrastructure, resources and strength in advocacy.
Collaboration with young people on SDG innovations: In September 2020, the Government of Uganda and the UN in Uganda launched October as the SDG Awareness Month with a webinar themed “The Role of the Youth in Accelerating Achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals”. The youths are involved in SDGs related innovations under individual organizations with support from the Government or donors.
The overall objective of the initiative is to identify and mobilize youth with solutions that are changing lives in order to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs. The initiative hopes to cement partner- ship with young people as development partners at all levels, connect youth innovations to solutions especially with the private sector and provide support and motivation.
• Action 3: Building a Leadership Culture for the SDG Agenda at all Levels
The leadership/political will is critical in achieving any country’s investment and development agenda. The VNR, 2020 is cognizant that SDG ‘war’ may perhaps be won or lost in the arena of leadership.
Under this theme, the Government committed to building strong leadership for the SDGs front runners in all local agencies and stakeholders. The intention is for all technical officers in agencies to have a technical understanding of the SDGs and make sure that monitoring of government projects has an SGD lens.
The SDG Secretariat has had engagements with Parliament and presented the VNR 2020. It has established a partnership with Parliament Forum for the SDGs and plans are underway to sensitize the new MPs on the SDGs – more than 180 MPs have subscribed to the forum. However, it was reported that although the framework on awareness was created in 2016, not much effort and resources were allocated for implementation – keeping in mind that most of the awareness approach requires a lot of financial resources.
It is worth noting that the success of SDGs will require a set of transformative leaders determined to spearhead change at all levels of government planning and programming. This needs to be aligned to the deepening localization agenda where community champions are trained and empowered with leadership skills in fast-tracking SDG implementation.
• Action 4: Promoting SDG-Focused Innovation by All Citizens, Especially Young People
In order to promote SDG-focused innovation across the population, Government committed to; customize and implement in an interconnected manner, SDG creative innovations that have worked elsewhere to our local conditions; and experiment (test, pilot and share) new methods of building partnerships at all levels to drive innovative and integrated approaches to deliver the SDGs.
The promotion of SDG-focused innovations has been advanced through youth innovation initiatives such as the National SDG Challenge Fund under the Ministry of ICT that connect the youth to technology and working with the private sector to spur SDG-related innovations. For high impact on SDG innovations, the Government is looking at modalities on having one funding basket for innovations as opposed to scattered efforts in different government agencies and private sector.
The above results call for a need to decentralize innovation centres that pilot and test innovations within the diverse local contexts and youth orientations. This will lay a good foundation for local economic development, ownership and sustainability. Exchange learning programmes for the youth countrywide with areas that have progressive youth engagement programmes will be critical in empowering youth skilling and innovations. The Parish Development model comes as another opportunity for harnessing youth potentials through enterprise development but with expert guidance
• Action 5: Focusing on Financing for The SDGs – Harnessing Uganda’s Potential
Under this thematic area, Government committed to; prioritize the discussion on mobilizing financing for SDGs in the wake of COVID-19 and the global economic recession; and harness local resources innovatively. The Government has continued to leverage the private sector to mobilize financing of the SDGs. It is anticipated that through the SDG Private Sector Platform, the private sector and development partners will be able to see opportunities around investments linked to the SDGs, and market growth for different players.
The Government is adopting new ways of working in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, through virtually working, social media, online platforms for mobilization, and new technology to shape the engagement with stakeholders. According to the online survey, both CSOs and LGs are fairly involved in resource mobilization towards SDGs implementation. The LGs reported over-dependency on the CG for funding. The LGs also reported limited participation in PPPs as a resource mobilization strategy.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country also needs to address the deepening debt burden that may jeopardize efforts in achieving the SDGs. Local resource mobilization towards the achievement of the SDGs is possible as long as the government addresses the financial leakages through corruption at all levels of government.
• Action 6: Strengthening Technology and Information Systems in SDG Implementation
The Government recognizes that digitalization is increasingly becoming a precondition for growth, poverty reduction and job creation and it’s a driver in the public and private sector. In the area of strengthening technology and information systems, the Government committed to; more timely and relevant data to achieve the SDGs; make the best use of the various forms of data within Government, CSOs, Private Sector, Academia, etc.; and build a strong culture of data consumption and production.
The SDG Secretariat activated the Data Technical Working Group (DTWG) in terms of its functionality and activeness. The DTWG has continued to review the SDG indicator matrix with 93 indicators currently covered. UBOS with technical support from the SDG Secretariat has engaged with and made follow-ups with different MDAs with data on currently covered indicators. UBOS has continued to update the SDG Dashboard.
The SDG Secretariat is partnering with SDG Analytics of Kigali to create analytics SDG scorecards to track progress. This partnership will create a system that will be used to generate reports and visualization for various Agenda 2030 goals. It will also allow easy integration of the SDGs indicators in the National Development Plans.
However, data for SDG indicators is conditioned to official surveys and administrative data, which makes it difficult to utilize data from CSOs, the private sector and academia. UBoS observes that data produced by the CSOs and the academia are largely non-representative and do not fully fit into definitions of the indicators. Furthermore, some SDG indicators have no standard methodologies for data generation, besides some are hard to compile data on.
The following achievements were outlined by the Data Technical Working Group chaired by UBOS; Developed an action plan for the production of more Tier I and II SDG indicators; completed the integration of the 201 national SDG indicators into the NSI framework under review. UBOS in collaboration with UNDP and the SDG Secretariat finalized and launched the Data Gap Analysis Report for SDG 16; updated the Open Data Portal on Africa Information High-Way with seven (7) additional SDG indicators that meet the global metadata requirements raising the number to 52 indicators on the portal. Additionally, a 5-year roadmap with strategies for improving the production of Tier I and II indicators was developed.
2015: UN Member States adopt 17 SDGs, at a time when Uganda holds the presidency of the UN General Assembly
2016: Uganda starts to align the SDGs to the second National Development Plan (NDP II)
2016: Government develops a Coordination Framework to guide coordination of the implementation of the SDGs
2017: Uganda becomes a front runner in localizing the 2030 Agenda and presents the country’s first Voluntary National Review to the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development
2019: Minister of General Duties in the Office of the Prime Minister is appointed Focal Point Minister for SDGs
2019: The SDG Secretariat is established
2020: The third National Development Plan (NDP III) is over 90% aligned to the SDGs
2020: Uganda conducts the second Voluntary National Review
2021: Second National SDG Roadmap is launched