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'By 2025 towards 2030': African National Liaison Officers work to realize the Sustainable Development Agenda


“All African countries have committed to meeting their responsibilities to the SDGs, which recognise the key role of science and technology in improving the lives of people worldwide,” said Deputy Director General and the Head of the Department of the Technical Cooperation, Liu Hua. (Photo: O. Yusuf/IAEA)

Close to six years have passed since the September 2015 ratification of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In the intervening years, the IAEA has provided consistent and comprehensive support to help address and alleviate pressing development challenges in  low and middle income countries while contributing directly to 9 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). From 23 to 25 March, National Liaison Officers (NLOs) and Assistants (NLAs) to the IAEA’s technical cooperation (TC) programme met to agree on indicators and targets to be reached by 2025, and to develop an action plan to help countries achieve the SDGs.

“All African countries have committed to meeting their responsibilities to the SDGs, which recognise the key role of science and technology in improving the lives of people worldwide,” said Deputy Director General and the Head of the Department of the Technical Cooperation, Liu Hua.

“The TC programme continues to emphasise achieving results through our assistance to enhance sustainability of development through increasing the skills and capacities of counterpart institutions. Together, we can deliver a high-quality programme that brings impact to several areas of development. This meeting has established realistic and implementable actions to improve the delivery of the TC Programme in Africa,” said Liu Hua.

With 139 virtual participants from 43 African countries in attendance, including representatives of Permanent Missions to the IAEA, the Annual Meeting of NLOs began with a comprehensive review of the programme’s implementation thus far during the 2020-2021 TC cycle. Before the group focused on the ambitious task of planning for the coming years, the participants first assessed the status of gender-mainstreaming efforts in the region.

“The meeting will be an opportunity to review outcomes and to discuss the operational measures that can assist in developing strategic partnerships to support our goals to achieve 2030 Agenda” said Teolinda Rodrigues Coelho, Resident Representative of Angola and Chair of the Vienna-based African Group (VBAG). “The VBAG reiterates its gratitude to the IAEA for appealing to countries to encourage young women to join training courses in different sectors in nuclear sciences for socioeconomic development,” she said.

The meeting also provided an opportunity to discuss the challenges faced by professional women in their engagement with nuclear science and technology, and to design projects which support gender equality and women’s empowerment. (Photo: O. Yusuf/IAEA)

The Road to 2030

More than 200 national and 18 regional project designs were proposed by African Member States for the 2022-2023 TC cycle.

“2025 is just around the corner, and we’re asking ourselves and asking you, what is the current situation?” asked Shaukat Abdulrazak, Director of the TC Division for Africa. “We must know where we stand, so that we may develop strategies that will take us to the next level, towards the 2030 SDGs. Therefore, we’ve been developing baseline data in selected areas, allowing us to better understand what’s available in terms of equipment, facilities and human resources.”

During the three-day meeting, NLOs were asked to review both existing and proposed projects to ensure that their objectives, targets and indicators are SMART—specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. In recognition of the need to consolidate their efforts into fewer, but larger projects, the NLOs were also encouraged to develop proposals and designs using an integrated approach which focuses on relevant, socioeconomic impact.

In addition to applying indicators to deliver results, National Liaison Officers are expected to closely assess the existing baseline data against the 2030 SDGs to design projects which explicitly and effectively close any gaps between the two.

NLOs and National Liaison Assistants from 41 African Member States attended the meeting. (Photo: O. Yusuf/IAEA)

For example, there are currently 15 countries in Africa which do not have access to radiotherapy services. In order to meet Target 3.4.1. of the Sustainable Development Goals—to reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment—the attending NLOs have committed themselves to the target of establishing radiotherapy facilities in six countries by 2025, and 11 countries by 2030.  

Reflecting the untapped potential of new partnerships and novel technologies to accelerate the impact of the regional programme, the concluding sessions of the meeting were devoted to an exploration of global trends in digitization, potential new partnerships in the region, and efforts to enhance cooperation between National Nuclear Institutions and UN Agencies in the continent.

Together with their counterparts in the TC Division for Africa, the NLOs and NLAs developed a list of recommendations and a relevant action plan to achieve the established targets and to satisfy their indicators by 2025. The action plan extends to include activities designed to promote the engagement of women in the TC programme, and to improve outcomes in key thematic areas like food and agriculture, radiation safety, radiotherapy and nuclear medicine.

“We must transform Africa from being a consumer of technologies to a producer,” Abdulrazak concluded. “We must have a vision and, together in modality of shared responsibility, we can change the situation on the ground.”

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