Thursday, September 21, 2017

President Adama Barrow's Statement at the Sustainable Development Goals Meeting

President Adama Barrow at the UN



Mrs. Amina J. Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General;
Mr. Achim Steiner, UN Development Group Chair;
Colleague, President of the Kyrgyz Republic;
Your Excellencies 
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea and Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission;
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mexico;
Minister of Planning of Colombia;

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my privilege to join you on this distinguished panel and I thank you for allowing me to bring The Gambia’s journey into this global conversation.

Ours is a story that is still developing. It was just nine months ago, when we emerged from 22 years of dictatorship. Together, we navigated beyond the brink of conflict and stepped onto a new path of democracy – with the efforts of our people and the support of our partners in Africa and from around the world. Today, my government carries with it the hopes and trust of all Gambians: young and old, women and men, rich and poor, rural and urban. Gambians gave peace a chance and we are  determined to use this chance wisely.

We must prove that—in the fight for freedom, justice and sustainable development —peace is the best path to take. And to sustain peace, we must have a development path that works for all Gambians.

Our people, and indeed the whole world, put faith in our peaceful transition to democracy. We shall live up to that promise, and not to shy away from the weight of high expectations. We are committed and my government has taken steps to reinstate The Gambia  into the global and regional organizations and rejoin the Community of Nations.

Our four year National Development Plan (2018-2021) will be presented to a donor roundtable planned for early next year which will offer us a good opportunity to coordinate critical support for the implementation of this Plan.

We have proudly reaffirmed our commitment to regional and global agendas, including the African Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

My government is providing strong leadership for the achievement of the SDGs linked to our national priorities by ensuring the full participation of all stakeholders and setting up effective coordination and accountability structures.

We want to restore a firm foundation for democratic governance, from the very center, out to every part of our country, especially our local communities. We are restoring confidence in our institutions, investing in our people and upholding human rights and justice. 

The Gambia was once a shining example for democracy and we are resolved to once again hold ourselves up to those high standards and regain our former glory.

But this is not easy, as the challenges that we face are broad and deep-rooted. We need new ways of thinking, rebuilding international partnerships that we had lost along the way, and adopting a coherent framework to guide our social, economic and environmental development. This is what the 2030 Agenda offers The Gambia.

Every public servant in The Gambia, from Cabinet Ministers to front-line healthcare providers, will connect their work to the fulfillment of our National Development Plan for 2021 and our SDG Roadmap to 2030.

My government inherited a state that had failed its people, and its youth most of all. We have a legacy of massive human rights abuses, weak institutions, and a breakdown of public trust in security and public services – and worst of all, a great exodus of young Gambians risking everything to cross the high seas in search of the hope and dignity they could not find at home.

Today, I want to show those young people, and the world, that the New Gambia can offer a new, bright and secure future,  through education, job creation and empowering them to make informed decisions.  Our people will see the steps that we take today, and the full road ahead.

In terms of basic health services, we made gains.  We achieved the target of MDG 4 by significantly reducing child mortality. Although still high, The Gambia has registered a considerable decline of maternal mortality by around 40% over 20 years.

Despite these gains, there is still a lot of room for improvement. Too many mothers still die while bringing life. We will work to tackle maternal mortality, and in line with SDG 3, lead The Gambia to attain maternal mortality ratio of less than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030 or sooner

Our goal is universal health coverage. We need to ensure sustainable financing to enable all Gambians, especially our women and young people to get access to quality health services. 

We are tackling hunger. SDG 2 shaped my government’s National Zero Hunger Strategic Review, as well as our path ahead to consolidate gains from the Millennium Development Goals on water and sanitation, and to reach 100 percent access.  We shall address the quality of our education system, and expand opportunities for employment and private enterprise.

Regarding the environment and climate change, The Gambia is among the most vulnerable countries as climate change is affecting our infrastructure, water and arable land.

We need partnerships and technical know-how to improve environmental management, protect our natural resources, and enhance the ability of our coastal and vulnerable communities to recover from natural disasters.
As a champion of gender equality, I am proud of the steps taken to ban such practices as female genital mutilation and child marriage in The Gambia.
Women have taken leadership role in the socio-economic and political development of our country. We are committed to fully realizing the rights of all women and girls and promote gender equality on the journey to 2030.   We have constitutional provisions and appropriate legislation to protect women’s rights, protect against gender-based violence, and empower women in our society. My government is committed to the implementation of the laws protecting those rights.   

My government is ready to lead, but we cannot do this alone. I am delighted that the UN Development System is supporting us to develop a SDG Roadmap for The Gambia, mapping our priorities to the 2030 Agenda, as well as the Africa Agenda 2063.

We need our private sector to grow and take a bigger stake in developing The Gambia. We need a vibrant and strong civil society, as well as a free and independent press.

We also want to harness the potential of the Gambian Diaspora to join competent and abled Gambians at home in developing our skills base as well as investing in The Gambia.

We are just getting started. Now we must scale up. We need to ensure that what we put in motion, retain traction and gain momentum.

In closing, let me reiterate that what The Gambia sees in the SDGs is the best opportunity in our history for Gambians to truly own this vision for a better future.

It is our best chance to consolidate the hard work, resources and government leadership that will make this vision a reality for our own future and for generations to come.

Thank you.