« Sustainable development must not fall victim to the elitist approach », Moussa MBAYE


The transformations expected from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be difficult to achieve without the appropriation of the agenda by the communities, » maintains Moussa Mbaye. The Executive Secretary of Enda Third World is also convinced that in order to fight against poverty, it is imperative to change the modes of production that structurally generate inequalities.

Can you tell us about the project « Strengthening the role and place of civil societies in the South in a transforming 2030 agenda » supported by the European Union and implemented by Enda Third World?

It is an action that takes place in the framework of a strategic partnership signed between the international network Enda Tiers-Monde and the European Union Commission. It is involved with 25 international civil society networks that have been selected for this strategic partnership. The aim is to work towards making the sustainable development agenda an instrument of social transformation. It has been shown that the role and place of civil society are important, if not decisive, insofar as this agenda must not be only the business of States, followed by experts and translated by technical interventions in the country. Rather, the agenda must involve all citizens in order to achieve the expected changes. Civil society must be at the forefront, otherwise we will remain at the stage of a slogan or a project that only concerns experts or technicians. In 2016, we signed a strategic partnership with the EU to accompany and support the Strategic Plan of the Enda Third World International Network. Hence the launch of the project entitled: « Strengthening the role and place of civil societies in the South in a transformative 2030 agenda ». In concrete terms, we have identified the mechanisms for this project to become a reality by drawing lessons from the past. The key word for this agenda is ownership. We have learned from previous commitments, notably the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), whose development and institutional set-up were not very participatory. In reality, these goals are not well known by the grassroots population and the actors responsible for bringing about change in a commune, neighbourhood or sector. One of the key elements that Enda is working on to build the capacity of civil society is to ensure that civil society takes ownership of the philosophy, the criteria of sustainable development and has its own understanding. We work with 20 Enda entities across three continents. Many of these entities are based in Senegal. The notion and approach of sustainable development needs to be domesticated. I must also say that for the MDGs, contractualisation or the social contract was missing.

Change is a necessary step towards sustainable development…?

Sustainable development is a paradigm shift for citizens, industrialists, administrators and local elected officials. We must change the way we produce wealth or develop. This change cannot be made without shaking up existing practices and habits. So there will be winners and losers at some point. For this to be possible, we need to agree within society on what each person needs to do to make these actions possible. For the MDGs, there were defined objectives, programmes and projects where those who implemented them were mostly accountable for the funding that the main beneficiaries and citizens received. Such an approach will significantly restrict or defeat the sustainable development agenda and the development goals. In the implementation of this project, we put forward sustainable development contracts between actors in a territory, in a sector. They should agree on their own definition of sustainable development. The other level is the integration of all this into the development plans at local or international level. In concrete terms, we work with the populations and Enda’s partners to define, in their own life situation, what sustainable development is. We are working on the appropriation of sustainable development so that it does not fall victim to an elitist approach that would be synonymous with failure.

The project started a few years ago. What is your assessment of its implementation?

We are already four years into the Sustainable Development Goals agenda. But transformations are struggling to take place because we are still using a compartmentalised approach, objective by objective. Communities need to feel more concerned. We have to recognise that, compared to the MDGs, there is greater participation by civil society in the development process, and there are many more spaces for participation from an institutional point of view in the countries as well as at the level of the United Nations with their political forum in which we participated this year. To take stock, it is this ingredient that is missing for what is defined as change to happen. There is not yet the desired level of ownership and involvement of the populations. Added to this is the lack of transversality. Their approaches to projects do not correspond to the requirements of sustainable development. This requires a complex approach. Today, we cannot think about the fight against poverty without also thinking about environmental preservation, economic development or industrialisation. To fight poverty, it is not just a question of giving infusions to communities, but of transforming a system, the modes of production that produce structural inequalities. To achieve this, the company must change its paradigm. It must break with the abusive exploitation of natural resources, especially the impact that this exploitation could have on ecosystems, on vulnerable groups, and even on production systems. Citizens must change their behaviour because certain consumption habits aggravate our problems related to pollution and waste. The same applies to states and institutions in terms of governance. So this new paradigm has no chance of flourishing if we only adopt the technical approach. It is in our daily lives that each of us must make the adjustment that will make our planet more liveable, safeguard what we have and ensure peace and security. These changes are indispensable at the individual, collective and institutional levels, otherwise we will face the same problems in 2030.

Is there any chance that African countries will achieve these SDOs?

There is hope insofar as there is this awareness that must be transformed to avoid a dead end. For the countries of the South, the difficult situation must be able to create a trigger. Today, with this awareness, especially among young people, we think we are in a position to make this transformation, even if it is not obvious. There is a need to invest massively in awareness-raising and communication so that everyone understands what is at stake and what adjustments need to be made. The situation is not easy. Every day we see inequalities developing and we see how we get bogged down in populist approaches that threaten peace and security in the world.

However, while remaining optimistic, we say to ourselves that this is also an opportunity for people to realise the need for this reform at an individual and collective level. This is the battle that Enda has been fighting daily for 45 years now.

Don’t African countries face financial constraints in implementing the MDGs?

Before the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, an international meeting was held in Addis Ababa on financing for development. We need to find ways to cope by better mobilising resources in the countries of the South. The paradox is that in these countries, including Senegal, there is the greatest wealth in terms of natural resources. Taking into account the asymmetry of relations at the international level and the hegemony of certain countries, we gain much more autonomy to manage our affairs by putting our resources and acting where we need to. The agenda is not just development goals, but first and foremost principles. One of these principles is ‘Leave no one behind’. But in order to do this, we need resources, which brings us back to an essential dimension of sustainable development, namely governance. How can we have a governance of our resources that ensures that the essential rights of populations and citizens are guaranteed? This will not happen overnight. There is a need to ensure that every year we see progress. The issue of resources is as important as citizenship. Citizens must be demanding of the government. Even if we are not in the most favourable position, we have our cards to play in today’s world so that this citizenship can be awakened, so that there is a democratic governance framework. This would make it possible to close the gap a little.

Can we say that Senegal is on the right track in terms of respecting the MDG agenda?

Senegal is fortunate to have stability, flexible human resources and the ability to adapt. We also have natural resources that mean we can be on the right track. Now it all depends on how this strategic vision will be created, which comes out of politics and to which the economic, cultural and religious actors will adhere so that we can get out of it. We have seen for several years that we remain in a political context where consensus is shattered. And we do not have the environment of a strategic alliance at the national level to allow us to position ourselves beyond partisan aspects. Senegal has real chances. But we are experiencing deadlocks in the political and social dialogue, while time is running out. This will depend on how leaders can create this strategic vision shared by civil society, the private sector and other sections of the population. Enda is one of the oldest civil society organisations in Senegal. Do you have new orientations today in relation to the new challenges? Enda was born in 1972 with the very idea of sustainable development. We used to talk about eco-development. In reality, we can only have prosperity if we take into account both the preservation of the environment and social justice in the development process. Enda has always worked to ensure that people’s participation is not just a slogan, but a reality. As Joseph Ki-Zerbo said: « You don’t develop, you develop ». Enda works to build alternatives that allow the Senegalese population and the most disadvantaged groups to understand the issues and to take their destiny into their own hands in order to find their own path to development. Today we have launched, together with other African institutions, an important initiative called the Alternative Report on Africa. The objective, the diagnosis and the projections on Africa must be made by Africans and not others. We are working in Senegal and 12 other African countries on this report, which will enable us to make a diagnosis of the transformations and which could lead to a common projection. We are also working with the 20 entities in the network on health policies, land security, local content (i.e. how to ensure that extractive industries benefit communities) and, above all, on the resilience of populations to climate change, drawing on their knowledge as well as on scientific knowledge. In this context, we have a partnership with the research structures of the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar. We must put knowledge, the key element of development and transformation, at the service of communities.

We play this role of driving change and alternatives on all the key issues of our society. This is why, on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), you will always find several Enda entities working with the populations, local elected officials and international institutions, to see how we can reform governance and the strategic vision on these areas.

Interview conducted by Idrissa Sané (Journal Le Soleil)

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