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Ghana's track record on sustainable development is a mix achievement-UN

By GNA

Accra, May 11, GNA – Ghana's track record in achieving sustainable development shows some mixed accomplishment, Ms Ruby Sandhu-Rojon, United Nations Resident Coordinator, said on Thursday in Accra.

She said while the country had managed to graduate from a low income to a middle-income economy, leading to overall increase in GDP per capita, the “tragedy” of averages in the accomplishment was masking the deepening inequalities amongst different people and also between northern and southern parts of the country.

Ms Sandhu-Rojon made the comments at the opening of an orientation programme organised in Accra on Thursday for Ghana's delegates to the Rio+20 Conference to be held in Brazil in June 2012.

She said the structural fundamentals of the economy were skewed, particularly when viewed from the perspective of job creation and inclusive growth.

Ms Sandhu-Rojon said “manufacturing, the sector with high potential to create employment, had decreased, while agriculture that had the potential to engage the majority of the poor had been overtaken by the service sector.”

“Sixty percent of foreign direct investment goes to extractive industries, notably oil and mining, an economic activity where value addition is almost non-existent and the environmental impacts are enormous.”

Ms Sandhu-Rojon expressed worry that the negative impacts of resource extraction on women and communities were rarely measured and articulated.

On Ghana's social performance, she said while “we celebrate the success in reducing the overall levels of poverty in Ghana especially in the South, the tragedy of averages is again overlooking the fact that poverty in northern Ghana has in fact increased.”

Ms Sandhu-Rojon said “While primary school enrollment rate has increased, the disaggregated figure by gender shows that the enrollment rate for females is still lower than those for males,” she added.

She said as primary providers of fuel and water for most households, women were more likely to bear the brunt of energy poverty and water scarcity.

She described the environment pillar as the weakest link adding that estimates showed that the annual cost of natural resource and environmental degradation in Ghana was equivalent to about 9.6% of GDP due to unsustainable exploitation of the country's forests, land resources, wildlife, and fisheries, and the health impacts of environmental factors (water supply and sanitation, indoor and outdoor pollution).

Ms Sandhu-Rojon said the country had experienced rapid deforestation in recent years with damaging consequences for biodiversity and populations who were culturally and economically dependent on forest resources and ecosystem services.

Speaking on the Rio conference, she said the persistence of challenges confronting sustainable development was one of the reasons that had necessitated a renewed commitment to sustainable development.

Ms Sandhu-Rojon said, “We need to think big. The moment is ripe to advance the agenda of sustainable development from theory and uneven progress to decisive implementation.”

“ Rio+20's two themes — a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and the institutional framework for sustainable development, are a call to scale up what has been incubating for 40 years. We need to take stock of what has worked and what hasn't, and share, tailor and apply the working solutions,” she added.

Ms Sandhu-Rojon said though Rio+20 Conference should reinforce political commitments, she stressed that the most critical action needed to begin at “home” after the conference.

“No matter how lofty and well-crafted the treaties are, their implementation at the national and local level is what makes all the difference,” she stressed.

She said beyond the conference, all stakeholders had to work together to find a better way of achieving triple wins; of growing economically but equitably and without compromising the environment.

Ms Sandhu-Rojon called for joint mobilization efforts to source funds from various sources to kick start Ghana's transition to sustainable development.

She said Ghana needed to reset her development discourse and to inject long-term perspective into policy making and development planning.

Ms Sandhu-Rojon said “We have lost the ability to think long term – instead we focus only on immediate, short-term solutions. Rio+20 can give us guidance on where we need to be in 2030 and how we get there.”

She gave the assurance that the United Nations Country Team would continue to work closely with government, civil society, and other development actors to mobilize whatever was needed to achieve sustainable development in Ghana.

Ms Sandhu-Rojon urged the participants to prepare for the conference and to swiftly follow up on implementation actions.

Ghana's delegation is made of 18 technocrats, drawn from the various Ministries, Department and Agencies, and they would also lead the bloc of developing countries known as the Group of 77 to discuss issues bordering on desertification, forestry and energy at the conference.

The ongoing orientation programme, which was sponsored by the United Nations with Government's support, is being facilitated by the Institute of Diplomatic Practice and Development Policies (I-2DP) and it is aimed at upgrading the knowledge of Ghana's delegation to the conference.

Dr Mary Chinery-Hesse, Acting Chairman of the Governing Board of I-2DP charged participants to come back from the conference with a good package for the country.

She urged them to engage the dispassionately but strongly on the discussions at the conference and to demand accountability and commitments from those who made pledges at previous conferences.

The board aims to emphasise the need for a gradual but steady march towards sustainable self development and to progressively reduce dependence on foreign development assistance.

The Institute, which is led by its Director, Mrs Nana Bema Kumi, (Editor, correct) an accomplished diplomat with 35e years exposure to the international arena in political, economic as well as legal spheres, seeks to enhance the coordination and knowledge of Ghana's delegates to the Conference, especially on issues which are pertinent to Ghana's own sustainable development agenda; emerging challenges and implementation strategies.

It also focused on training future generations of both African and non-African officials, especially diplomats.

GNA