“The long term resilience of people and the planet must be at the heart of all economic and political decisions,” says a report from the United Nations (UN). For too long, economists, social activists, and environmental scientists have simply talked past each other- probably speaking ‘different languages’.
It is weird how one can be given power but still has the inertia to wield it. Political will remains a particular challenge for developing countries today. Though often invoked as a concept, it refers to the desire and determination of political actors to introduce as well as embark on reforms that will bring significant and persistent changes in society. It is difficult if not impossible to divorce political will from sustainable development.
Political will is the steering that will turn the wheels of development reforms to sustainable capacities. In Africa, political will rests in the hands of the government and the ruling political parties. Their political mantra is focused on exploiting the little they have today for the brief time to feed themselves and their families while neglecting their citizens and the future generation.
Sustainable development, however, cannot survive on this concept. Political actors need to shift their mantra and focus on creating a development that can sustain both the present and the future, only then are we going to attain sustainability.
Most leaders in Africa treat development as a favor for the common citizen yet it is their rightful duty to do so. For instance, construction of projects such as hospitals, schools, and roads are perceived as favors to citizens and even when complete, their durability is only short-lived. These leaders do not bear in mind that the people concerned pay their taxes and other revenue owed to the government for it to be able to carry out meaningful and sustainable projects in the country.
The development of societies by political leaders should not be perceived as a favor. It is an obligation which political wielders should embrace lest it is a contribution to the slow development in their countries. Political will is critical for good governance. It provides a responsive governmental and state administrative framework that facilitates meaningful development. It incorporates not only the integrity, efficiency, and transparency of government but also its effectiveness as measured by the ends to which government organization and activity are directed.
Therefore, investing in a political will should be a major concern for developing countries –Africa. Every decision made by politicians and policymakers has an impact on the outlook of the country. A change in the attitudes of our leaders is the hope for the continent, not the loans and debt cancellation schemes of Advanced Nations that the leaders are scrambling for.
The missing ingredient in development policies in developing countries is sustainability. And who is responsible? The answer is and will remain-our leaders. When leaders are self-centered and narrow –minded, policies will be poorly made and loans will be defectively managed, as was the case of Zaire under the dictatorship of Mobutu. When leaders have no genuine political desires to equally distribute social-economic and political advantages, they create artificial difficulties in the lives of the population.
The political will that is egocentric, myopic, and careless of the feelings and future of others is a serious threat to any fundamental initiative towards sustainable development. On the contrary, when political desire looks at the future and shows no bias in the redistribution of national benefits, it becomes a sufficient condition for sustainable development.
The acid test for the government’s contribution towards sustainable development will be two-fold; its vision to invest political will in the governance system and in giving sustainability a place in any of its development plans.
Achievement of SDGs in Africa is dependent on the willingness of political leaders to prioritize development projects and fight unsustainable vices. Kenya and Nigeria, in particular, need political leaders to address the rampant corruption that plague all levels of government. Corruption has aggravated the severe and prolonged economic failure and embezzlement of public funds in both countries. Kenya has recently experienced a major loss on economic growth as millions of cash is embezzled for one’s own gain. Due to the lack of good political will, most leaders in Africa have put their interests first and the general will of the country last.
With 17 goals and 169 targets, leaders need to prioritize sustainability. Change happens when there is political will. The new normal of sustainable development requires a change in the mindset of political leaders. If leaders commit to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) because they can see the benefits- or because civil societies groups put pressure on them -then we might see results. Political will is the collective desire of every citizen and the result –good governance- cannot be underrated.