JUBA, South Sudan—To make a difference in the lives of youth, government funding and multi-sectoral action are required to implement the nation’s commitments to sexual and reproductive health, said First Vice President, Riek Machar. He was speaking at a high-level meeting on commitments made by South Sudan at the Nairobi Summit on the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in 2019.
“For us to meet the commitments, we need all ministries to get involved. The government must consider the ICPD commitments in the budget planning for priority programmes. If we fund and implement now, we can truly make a difference in the lives of our young generation and the next to come,” he said.
With the support of UNFPA, Mr. Machar convened the meeting to review progress on the commitments made at the Nairobi Summit to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights in the country. While South Sudan is on track to meet some of its commitments, the First Vice President urged line ministries to implement follow-through actions to ensure that the country does not fall behind its ICPD targets. He pressed the ministries to allocate funding during their annual budget planning for implementation of the commitments.
Three key actions to meet commitments UNFPA Representative for South Sudan Dr. Mary Otieno highlighted three key actions for the government if its commitments are to be met: (1) increasing the budget allocation for the health sector; (2) passing the Youth Development Policy and establishing the Youth Enterprise Development Fund; and (3) passing the Anti-GBV Bill, creating a Family Law and reviewing the 2008 Child Act.
Dr. Otieno emphasized the importance of government ownership of the commitments and pledged the continued support of UNFPA in its pursuit of the realization of the ICPD Programme of Action and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Health Minister Elizabeth Acuei agreed with the importance of national ownership: “We have to come together as a country and commit to meeting our goals. Maternal mortality and violence against women are still high in the country and it is vital that we are all committed for change to happen,” she said.
South Sudan’s youthful population was a focus of the discussion, with Youth Minister Albino Bol advocating for skills building, job creation and entrepreneurship to ensure that the country’s largest population group is able to participate in nation-building. About 74 per cent of the country’s population are below 30 years old. “If we want to see a peaceful South Sudan, we need to invest in young people,” Mr. Bol said.
Budget reforms for greater accountability With the Vice President’s keen focus on funding implementation of the ICPD commitments, Finance Minister Athian Ding Athian assured that the Ministry of Finance is embarking on reforms to address issues of accountability in budget execution. The ministry has accepted its role as the lead government agency to monitor the progress of the ICPD commitments.
The newly-formed national Parliament will have a crucial role in meeting the commitments. Member of Parliament Majur Babur said it is important for the legislators to support not only the passage of proposed laws relevant to the ICPD but also in scrutinizing the annual budget of the national government to ensure budget allocation for the ICPD commitments.
The high-level meeting concluded a series of consultations with key government agencies to review the status of implementation of the national ICPD commitments and propose action points to ensure that the country will be on track to achieve its targets.