Siaya to New York, wars and poverty hot topic
Two events last week, one on the international stage and the other local, took place 12,000 kilometres apart, but with a strikingly similar goal – curbing poverty to improve livelihoods.
Interestingly, the focus on both events was on development amid a scenario of war. One involved the typical definition of war; an intense armed conflict between states characterised by extreme violence, destruction and mortality using military forces.
The other, in the popular sense, alluded to a conflict between political groups involving hostilities of considerable duration and magnitude, where in social science usage certain qualifications are added.
In New York, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) was dominated by the war between Russia and Ukraine, as world leaders took stock of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), midway through their target of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030.
Back home was the inauguration of the Siaya County Aggregation and Industrial Park amid the simmering political war between Azimio la Umoja and Kenya Kwanza political formations, currently the subject of protracted bipartisan talks.
Ironically, the conclusion at both events was that both types of war cause immense attrition of lives and livelihoods and in the bigger picture considerably hamper development and perpetuate poverty, and food insecurity. At UNGA, Colombia President Gustavo Petro in eloquent oratory, ominously warned that humanity has lost and advanced the times of extinction.
He said mankind had “dedicated itself to war”, distracting attention and resources from development goals and climate change, “the mother of all crises”. He painted a grim picture of what lies ahead if nations fail to swiftly redesign the ways humans live on this planet.
In Siaya, more than 12,000km away from the Big Apple, Governor James Orengo welcomed Trade and Industry Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria’s groundbreaking development initiative among 21 counties in the first phase of the aggregation and industrial parks.
Orengo sagely noted that political wars such as that between Azimio and Kenya Kwanza should not be mixed with development, as they are the overarching cause of divisions among citizens and the biggest threat to nationalism.
Such unnecessary political wars are also the main contributor to extreme poverty that continues to weigh down millions of Kenyans regardless of their political affiliation.
The correlation between the military war debated in New York and the political wars now the topic of national dialogue at Bomas of Kenya cannot be gainsaid. Kenya’s political adversaries must emulate the example demonstrated by Orengo and Kuria and abide by harsh lessons from UNGA 2023.
World leaders, including President William Ruto, agreed to adopt a decisive, implementation and action-oriented political declaration to deliver the SDGs, the global roadmap out of crises, by 2030. Midpoint of implementation, the SDGs are in peril.
Tens of millions have fallen into poverty since 2020. Over 110 million people are forcibly displaced (due to wars and conflict), and inequalities have worsened, mostly for women and girls.
Many governments are forced to choose between debt payments and investing in healthcare and education. The climate emergency is wreaking havoc on lives and livelihoods. Developing countries and the world’s most vulnerable people continue to bear the brunt of these crises.
Without a quantum leap in financing for development and investments to enable just and equitable energy, food, digital transitions, and a transformation in education and robust social protection in developing countries, the SDGs simply will not be met.
— The writer comments on governance and development matters—[email protected]