People share priorities in first review of Guinea-Bissau’s Sustainable Development Goal

Local official explains the SDGs, in Creole, during a consultation. © NL da Luz

Sambu, now 43, attended school until the fifth grade and was married according to the customs of her Mansoancas ethnic group. She currently has her own small business, making clothes to support her family, but she wants to make it clear that schooling matters.

“The best thing in the world is to have health to grow well, then enroll in school and finish your education,” she said.

Sambu’s story was gathered during a wide-ranging consultative review of Guinea-Bissau’s progress on the SDGs. For the first time since their 2015 adoption, Guinea-Bissau undertook a review of its efforts to achieve them.

To do so, the country enlisted the support of the UN Resident Coordinator (RC) and UN Human Rights through its Surge Initiative. The Surge Initiative accelerates the realization of economic and social rights by helping to create conditions to rebuild economies, with people at the centre, and reduce inequalities.

A groundbreaking, inclusive and participatory SDGs review process

Ranking 177 out of 189 countries on the 2021 Human Development Index, Guinea-Bissau is one of the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Of its 1.8 million inhabitants, 60 per cent are estimated to be younger than 25 years of age and more than half are women. Over 70 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line and in rural areas, resulting in significant inequalities. Data indicates that the wealthiest 10 per cent of the population earns 42 per cent of the national income.

Over the course of a month, a team composed of UN agencies, the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Integration and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized consultations in all nine regions of Guinea-Bissau. The consultations facilitated a dialogue between local and national government representatives and citizens from across the country, including professional associations, traditional and religious leaders and representatives of those who are at risk of being left behind, such as women, children, persons with disabilities and those living in remote areas.

More than 300 people participated in the consultations and expressed their concerns and visions for the development of Guinea-Bissau. Through the consultations, officials assessed the degree of implementation of some of the SDGs and those of greater concern, such as access to clean water, health services and education and combating inequality and poverty.

The consultations also raised awareness about the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including its links to human rights. To that end, the SDGs were translated into Guinea-Bissau creole (Kiriol) and widely distributed.

“The Voluntary National Review (VNR) is a process that should involve all stakeholders,” said Elisabeth da Costa, Senior Human Rights Adviser, who helped lead the Surge Initiative team on the project. “Thanks to the Surge Initiative, we supported the Government in ensuring an open, participatory and inclusive VNR. The voices of representatives of those most left behind were heard.”

Women community members and OHCHR Human Rights Adviser are sitting in a circle during a consultation on Guinea-Bissau’s progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.
Elisabeth da Costa, Senior Human Rights Adviser, listens during a consultation. © NL da Luz
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