Africa must build a new social contract for sustainable development – Claver Gatete
A new social contract that will boost fair and equal opportunities for citizens is a must to accelerate sustainable development in Africa, the new Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Claver Gatete, has told a meeting of experts and policy makers which opened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this week.
“Governments must increase their commitment to forging new social contracts that ensure equal rights and opportunities for all, while integrating employment, sustainable development, and social protection,” said Mr. Gatete, in remarks delivered by the ECA Deputy Executive Secretary and Chief economist, Hanan Morsy, at the opening of the Fifth Session of the Committee on Social Policy, Poverty and Gender of the ECA being held under the theme, Building New Social Contracts in Africa: Choices to fulfill Developmental Aspirations.
The Committee on Social Policy, Poverty, and Gender is an intergovernmental body consisting of experts and policymakers which provides guidance and advice to the Gender, Poverty, and Social Policy Division of the ECA on its work and engagement with member States.
Building a new social contract
The UN Secretary-General Antoìnio Guterres has proposed a “new social contract for a new era.”
Mr. Gatete said to build a new social contract for Africa’s future, requires a focus on the levers for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. High-quality education and lifelong learning can serve as catalysts in advancing multiple Goals, he said, noting that the effectiveness of education in building new social contracts depends on affordability, accessibility, and applicability which can make education policies more efficient, equitable and inclusive.
“Education can be made more affordable by providing subsidies and cash transfers that can alleviate the financial burden on the poor,” said Mr. Gatete, emphasizing that education programs can be redesigned to improve quality, strengthen institutional credibility, and align education with employable skills.
Underlining that the future of Africa will be significantly influenced by climate change, demographic shifts, rapid urbanization, and digital transformation, the Executive Secretary said how these are managed will determine if these trends are beneficial or detrimental to the continent. In Africa, social spending on health and education has been below the levels recommended by WHO and UNESCO.
A whole-of-society approach will foster a virtuous cycle of trust between the government and the people, resulting in policies that provide equal opportunities, promote intergenerational mobility, and reduce poverty, said Mr. Gatete, calling for the identification of urgent and practical measures that enhance efficiency in public spending and foster more inclusive development, to support the establishment of a new social contract in Africa.
Speaking at the meeting, the Outgoing Chair of the Fourth Bureau, Dhaoui Mohamed from Tunisia, paid tribute to the ECA and the Bureau secretariat in the Gender Poverty and Social Policy Division for supporting the “leaving no one behind” agenda.
He said the theme of our Fourth Session “Building forward better towards an inclusive and resilient future in the context of COVID-19” and the action-oriented conclusions and recommendations of the Committee were a powerful illustration of the individual and collective resolve of the African governments to translate the Agenda 2030 into action and results, irrespective of challenges posed by the convergence of crises.
“Time has come for our continent to address historic inequalities and injustices and build new social contracts geared towards greater inclusion and sustainability,” said Mr. Mohamed.
The incoming Chair of the Fifth Session of the Committee on Social Policy, Poverty and Gender, Florence Ayisi from Ghana said African governments and other stakeholders must mobilize to deliver social contracts, anchored in human rights, to rebuild trust and social cohesion. She noted that great unease in Africa is rooted in persistent poverty, hunger, lack of access to health care and education, income insecurity, growing inequalities and injustices as well as lack of confidence in institutions.
Ms. Ayisi urged that governments “must accelerate actions for rescuing the SDGs and to leave no one behind by adopting resilient, sustainable, inclusive, and climate-resilient development pathways in a transparent and inclusive manner.”