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Eritrea’s Participation at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (Part V)

By: Dr. Fikrejesus Amahazion

Note: This is the final article in a multi-part series reviewing Eritrea’s participation at the 2022 High-Level Political Forum and the country’s presentation of its first Voluntary National Review report. The article below provides a brief review of the final section of the report and highlights a few of the various challenges raised.

Eritrea’s inaugural Voluntary National Review (VNR) report finishes with a concluding section. The section summarizes the entire report, discusses several challenges, and points the way forward. (Following the concluding section, there is also a detailed statistical annex with coverage development indicators.)

Overall, Eritrea has achieved significant and notable progress in a number of different areas. Furthermore, taking into account the high-level commitment of the government, strong technical leadership, policy and strategic guidance, robust local governing structure which reaches to the grassroots level, dedicated workforce, improved economic and social infrastructure, and high willingness and active participation of communities in development projects and other activities, there is much room for additional progress and more improvement moving forward.
At the same time, however, the government readily recognizes and acknowledges that considerable challenges remain in many areas. Eritrea must continue to work, expend resources, foster cooperation, and cultivate partnerships to fully realize its developmental aspirations and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Although child and maternal mortality have been drastically reduced in Eritrea, with the country encouragingly remaining on track to achieve the associated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets, overall levels of child and maternal mortality are still unacceptably high. Locally, the death of even one child or mother is regarded as too many and considerable efforts are being made to ensure further reductions in morbidity and mortality. As well, there must be continuous focus on communicable diseases and reproductive, maternal, and child health issues, including nutritional deficiencies, diarrheal diseases, and acute respiratory infections. Additionally, the recent shift in the national disease burden from communicable diseases to non-communicable diseases, which is closely associated with a variety of different factors, such as urbanization and changing diets, lifestyles, and behaviors, calls for renewed efforts and further work to reduce major modifiable risk factors, develop and implement effective legal frameworks, and orient the health system through people-centered health care.

Over the years, external aggression, conflict, and illegal sanctions have posed a considerable obstacle to Eritrea’s general development aspirations and the country’s achievement of the 2030 Agenda. Long running conflict and external aggression have led to severe destruction and a range of profound consequences, required the diversion of critical human and fiscal resources to national defense and security, and greatly delayed peace and the normalization of relationships among countries of the region.

Furthermore, Eritrea has been saddled with illegal, unjust sanctions, as well as a spate of additional hostile restrictions and coercive measures. Around the world, it has increasingly been recognized that unilateral sanctions are illegal, immoral, and counterproductive to their stated aims. Many studies and reports demonstrate that they hurt the general population and are particularly harmful to the human rights of women, children, and other vulnerable groups within the countries targeted by the sanctions. In Eritrea, illegal, unjust sanctions collectively have: severely inhibited trade, credit and loans, and investment; considerably complicated or even prevented attempts to obtain critical materials and much-needed resources, thus hampering reconstruction and efforts to promote sustainable development; caused substantial economic, commercial, and financial damages; and resulted in innumerable lost or forfeited opportunities.

Partnerships and cooperation offer great potential for further development gains. In particular, Eritrea’s achievement of its general development aspirations and the SDGs can be realized through effective local and global partnerships, strong cooperation, and efficient coordination between the government and different stakeholders across a broad range of areas. The country has forged strategic partnerships that create value for all actors and that leverage and reinforce the interconnectedness of all societal actors. In this context, revitalising and further expanding technical, financial, and other cooperation with bilateral and multilateral partners will help to accelerate progress, drive positive momentum, and scale up successful interventions. In addition, it will play a positive pivotal role in supporting a sustainable, resilient, and equitable COVID-19 recovery, as the country seeks to build forward stronger and to secure a better future for its people, as well as advance the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
Since the beginning of the SDGs nearly a decade ago, challenges related to data have been a constant, recurring theme within the VNR reports presented by numerous countries (especially those within the developing world). In general, data gaps threaten to hinder the achievement of the SDGs. For many countries, the main challenge in the production of quality, timely data, is a lack of funding and technical capacity.

In Eritrea, too, there is a great need to strengthen the national statistical system and build capacity with regard to domestic data generation, processing and analysis, and dissemination through enhancing collaboration and coordination between data producers in the country. The production of timely, robust, and disaggregated data remains an important national aim. Significantly, it will help to promote transparency and significantly enhance the monitoring infrastructure for tracking progress in various core developmental areas, including but not limited to, education, the economy and employment, housing, health services, energy. Additionally, the establishment of a strong and efficient national statistical system, as well as provision of adequate and high-quality data will play an important role in guiding and supporting evidence-based planning, decision-making, policy formulation, and resource allocation toward achievement of Eritrea’s broad development aspirations and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Another pressing issue raised in the VNR relates to the environment and climate change-induced challenges. Historically, the vast majority of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) have come from wealthy, developed countries. Yet, the far-reaching impacts of climate change have been most acutely felt by low-income countries, especially those in Africa. (Although estimates slightly vary, African nations are responsible for around 4 percent of global GHG.) Climate change is increasingly devastating parts of the continent, contributing to food insecurity, land degradation, land or resource conflicts, population displacement and migration, and stress on water resources, among other impacts.

Eritrea is especially vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change, despite the fact that the country continues to be responsible for only a negligible amount of total global GHG emissions. Moving forward, significant technical and financial cooperation will be required to strengthen capacity to address climate change, introduce clean technologies, pursue research and innovation, and promote a just energy transition. With Eritrea blessed with an abundance of natural resources, appropriate and sustainable management must also continue to be a guiding principle and priority. Additionally, public awareness and sensitization to mitigate unsustainable exploitation of natural resources must be expanded.

Overall, Eritrea’s participation at the High-Level Political Forum and the general VNR process has been a productive exercise and worthwhile endeavour. Not only has it offered an important, insightful overview of general developmental progress to date, it has also established a strong foundation for further improvement and gains in the years ahead.

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