The Sustainable Development Goals in The Gambia
The Sustainable Development Goals are a global call to action to end poverty, protect the earth's environment and climate, and ensure that people everywhere can enjoy peace and prosperity. These are the goals the UN is working on in The Gambia. The Resident Coordinator leads the UN Country Team (UNCT) and ensures that the UN agencies support the national development priorities through three UNDAF outcome areas. These are: (i) Governance, Economic Management and Human Rights supporting initiatives aimed at strengthening national institutions responsible for economic and financial management and oversee reforms to guarantee people their human rights; (ii) Human capital development supporting access to education and health care services, improving equitable quality and access to water, sanitation and hygiene, social protection and gender and youth empowerment; and (iii) Sustainable agriculture, natural resources, environment and climate change management covering agricultural production and productivity, food and nutrition security, environmental management, mainstream climate change in environment and disaster risk management. The UN Country Team coordinate their work through joint Work Plans.
01 June 2023
Changing lives in The Gambia: A UN Resident Coordinator blog
"When my mandate began, in 2018, it was not long after the end of the dictatorship [The two-decade rule of Yahya Jammeh]. The new Government was already embracing several reforms simultaneously, reviewing the constitution, the judiciary, and the security sector, and the UN had allocated funds for peacebuilding. Truth and reconciliation An important development was the establishment of the Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission (TRRC), with the backing of the UN and other partners. People were enthusiastic to embark on the Commission, which has been very important for the country. Expectations were high from the victims, from the population, but also from different partners. It was important that it should be a Gambian-driven process, to avoid any influence from outsiders. We helped to set it up and provided the necessary expertise to run it. The Ministry of Justice needs to be strengthened, because they are leading that process, and this is the first time that they have had to face a case like this. Here again, we’re providing the expertise to work on a roadmap that will lead to implementation of the Commission recommendations. We’re involved in communications connected with the process: we want to ensure that the communities, local governments, and civil society all know what role they have to play, and manage expectations. These reforms are not going to happen in one day, it will take many years, and we need to make sure that is understood. Now it’s time to put reforms into practice. So far, the Government has released a white paper approving almost all of the recommendations. The COVID-19 pandemic slowed the process, but I think that they are still committed to do more. Laying strong foundations It’s crucial to have a government that shows leadership. If not, you can outline a vision for where you think the country should go, but you won’t get anywhere. We have supported the Government’s creation of a Department for Strategic Planning and Delivery, within the office of the President. We have trained the staff, and shown them best practice in other countries. When we arrived, there was no Minister for Gender, so we advocated for a new ministry to be established, and we are seeing progress in terms of women’s empowerment. Coming out of a twenty-year dictatorship, where human rights were abused, we supported the creation of a National Human Rights Commission, which is fully functional and, in many ways, a centrally important institution, which will monitor the implementation of the TRRC. Going forward, it’s crucial for The Gambia to succeed in building strong institutions, something which is true for all countries. If institutions are weak, you can’t implement any plans, and you waste resources. I think that this country is moving in the right direction. We have many more partners now, and the donor community is growing. After a five-year period, the transition is nearly complete, and we have helped the Government to lay the foundations for most of the reforms, policies, and strategies. Changing lives for the better Aside from supporting the reforms, we’ve been an active partner in developing the economy, empowering women, and climate action. In terms of the economy, where tourism plays an important role, UN agencies have focused on providing training for young people and vulnerable groups such as returning migrants, and giving them seed capital to start their own businesses. Often, returning migrants feel like a burden on their families, but with our help many of them have been able to thrive. Unfortunately, this is a country where there is significant violence against women, including female genital mutilation. Sometimes women don’t want to talk about the violence they suffer, so we have set up hotlines they can call, and built centres where they can go to be treated, and receive support. The climate crisis is affecting The Gambia, particularly in terms of flooding; last year was the worst flooding experienced here in 38 years. It may not be on the scale of the floods seen in Pakistan but, for a small country with a small population, it made a big impact. Our agencies provided food and shelter for those displaced by the flooding, and providing clean drinking water, but we are also helping the population to adapt, and become better prepared before the next floods arrive. I’m confident that we have changed lives for the better in The Gambia. We’re still in the early stages, but I believe that we’ve created solid foundations for development, and that we will see even greater impact in the next five years, and see the country develop in a cohesive manner, in all regions of the country, with no one left behind." The UN Resident Coordinator, sometimes called the RC, is the highest-ranking representative of the UN development system at the country level. In this occasional series, UN News is inviting RCs to blog on issues important to the United Nations and the country where they serve. Learn more about the work of the UN in The Gambia here.
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01 June 2023
First Person: Hatching a plan for success in rural Gambia
Gidom Sabally’s high school education was cut short because his family could no longer afford school fees. For many years, he struggled to find work as an unskilled labourer. Now in his 40s, Mr. Sabally was able to take up the opportunity of free technical training, provided by a UN-led training programme, in 2018; having completed the course, he found work as an engineer, supervising the construction of culverts – raised roads that allow his community to cross land that is inundated by floods, a consequence of climate change that is affecting many parts of the country. He explained to UN News that, with the money he has saved, he has been able to branch out, and become a successful poultry farmer. “I live in my family compound in Brikamaba village, where I was born, in the Central River Region of Gambia. There are 14 of us, my brothers and sisters, their children, and my father. Life is difficult here. There aren’t enough jobs and, when there is work, it is usually only available for a short period of time. So, people here find it hard to feed their families. When I dropped out of high school, I was sad. I knew that, without education, it would be very hard for me to learn the skills I would need to become a professional and advance in life. For many years it was difficult for me to find work. Breaking ground on a new career In 2018, a friend of mine heard a radio advertisement about a free technical training course, run by the UN, that would provide me with construction skills. He told me about it, and I applied. It wasn’t difficult for me to go back to school, even though I was 38 at the time. The teachers knew exactly how to support me. I learned many useful skills, including masonry, carpentry, and painting and decorating. At the same time, I was also able to earn money by going to work on a UN project to build road culverts. At first, I was employed as a labourer, getting gravel, moving rocks, doing anything that was needed. After I graduated, I was able to work on the next culvert project as a trained engineer, and today I supervise a team of 50 workers. ‘The women can do anything the men do’ We have 25 men and 25 women, because gender equality is an important part of the project. When it started, people in the community would say that women cannot do this job but, today, they are seeing the benefits! As well as the money they provide, women can now work with their husbands to improve their own homes, they can contribute to the decision-making process, planning, and construction. The women can do anything the men do, from fixing steel reinforcements to masonry. We have to give them opportunities to show what they are capable of. Adapting to the changing climate Building culverts is very important, because of the changing climate. The rains in The Gambia have become more and more extreme and have caused the roads to erode. These culverts will allow the community to cross flooded areas during the rainy season. This will make a big difference. Children will be able to get to school, we will be able to access health care, and businesses will be able to trade. It will make everything easier because now, when there are heavy rains, everyone has to take a much longer route to cross the water. These higher roads will change our lives.” ‘This belly is never full!’ The culvert-building projects are heavy jobs, and I’m not getting any younger! Also, they will be phased out soon, so it’s important to learn about entrepreneurship and business, so that you save some of the money you earn. My grandfather used to say “this belly is never full”; you always have to think about how you will get your next meal! I decided to invest my earnings in starting a poultry farm, and it’s working well for me. I started with 50 chicks and, with the money I made from selling eggs and chickens, I was able to buy 100. It’s going well. I don’t even have to go to the market; people come to me, and I sell very easily. I’m planning to rebuild the farm, and add more lights, so that I can house more chickens. I would like to have around 600, and employ some of the unemployed young people from my community. I want to pass on the skills I have learned, so that they can start their own businesses. I can’t do it all on my own! More people need to understand the importance of saving and investing. Because, even when you have millions, if you spend millions, you will end up with nothing. I’m very happy that I was able to get the skills to work on the culvert project, because I am now a professional mason, and a successful poultry farmer. I have been able to fund more technical training, and earn an advanced level diploma, and put my kids through school. My life is far better than it was before.” UNCDF in The Gambia Mr. Jobe’s training was provided as part of the Jobs, Skills and Finance for Women and Youth (JSF) programme in The Gambia, the flagship programme of the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), in collaboration with International Trade Center (ITC), and funding from the European Development Fund. JSF addresses persistent challenges in The Gambia which include lack of job opportunities for youth and women, low levels of financial inclusion and climate change adaptation and mitigation. Climate change adaptation activities are implemented using the Local Climate Adaptive Living Facility, LoCAL, a mechanism for channeling finance to local government authorities for locally led adaptation to the impacts of climate change. The JSF programme supports Target 8.3 of Sustainable Development Goal 8, which calls for the promotion of development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services.
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01 June 2023
First Person: Starting from zero – Gambian returning migrant counts cost of attempted Europe crossing
“I’m from Jarra, a rural area in the Lower River Region of The Gambia, in the middle of the country. I moved to the capital, Banjul, when I was 15, to live with my brother and go to high school. I didn’t graduate, though, because we couldn’t afford the fees. Around five years ago, when I was about 20, my friends encouraged me to leave The Gambia. This is not a wealthy country, and we heard that people had left, and became successful in Europe, sending money back to their families. I wanted to go to Italy, because I thought that this was the easiest European country to get to. I knew that many people had died trying to get to Europe, but I thought that I could make it. The first step was neighbouring Senegal, and from there we got a bus to Mauritania. I stayed there, with my sister’s husband, for five months, doing construction work, and whatever I could, to earn money for the next stage of the journey. From Mauritania I went to Mali. This was a very long bus journey, and it took about 12 hours to get to the capital, Bamako. There were many other Gambians on the bus. Then we went to Agadez, in central Niger, via Burkina Faso. At each stage, we had to pay to be allowed to continue. We felt in danger but, by that stage, it was too late to go back. There were about 25 of us in an open pickup truck, driving through the desert, with no shade. It was very hot and uncomfortable. We drove for three days, sleeping in the desert. At night, it was very cold, and we had to buy blankets and big jackets to keep us warm. ‘I was scared they would shoot us’ Sometimes the drivers were nice people, but others were very harsh, and they would beat us. When we got into Libya, we were beaten, and all of our money was taken from us. Luckily, I had hidden some food in the bus. The people who beat us had guns, and I was very scared that they would shoot us. The next stage of the journey was to Sabhā, in central Libya. Because I had no money, I had to stay in Sabhā for four months, finding work to pay for my fare to Tripoli. When you travel from Sabhā to Tripoli, you have to be smuggled in. If you are seen, people might kill you, so I had to hide in a dark room with no lights for three days. This was during the civil war, and there was a lot of danger. ‘They shot the boat’ I had to wait over a year in Tripoli before I could get to the coast and take a boat for Italy. One of my brothers found the money for me to get a place on the boat. Before we set off, there was some shooting and we soon realized that our boat was taking on water:. There were armed men who didn’t want us to leave for Europe, so they just shot the boat, not caring if any of us died in the water. Our only option was to turn back towards the Libyan coast and, when the boat had taken on too much water, we swam to shore. When we arrived on shore, we were taken to a detention centre. We were beaten by soldiers, who told us to give them money, but I had nothing left. I had to stay there for two months in these harsh, dirty conditions. Our phones were taken from us so we couldn’t contact our families; many of them though that we were dead. Starting again from zero Eventually, people from the UN came to the centre. They gave us clothes and some food and offered us a voluntary flight back to The Gambia. I was very sad: I had lost everything and would have to start again from zero. I didn’t want to return home, but I had no choice. When I arrived in The Gambia, the UN migration agency (IOM) offered to help me to start a business. They asked me what I wanted to do and, because of my experience working in construction, I told them that I could sell cement. They provided me with tailored in-kind support in the form of a cement business, but, unfortunately, the place I found to store the bags of cement was not protected from the weather: it was the rainy season, and the water reached all of the cement. It was ruined. I went back to the UN to ask for more help, and they offered me skills training. This was very useful, and I was able to get a certificate and go back to working with aluminium. I got a job working in a friend’s shop in Banjul, which sells aluminium window frames. In the future, once I can raise the money, I plan to open my own shop. I’m married now and I have two children. I want to succeed here now, and I wouldn’t try to retry that journey to Europe. It’s too risky. If you don’t succeed, you lose everything.” Mr. Jobe’s training was provided as part of the Jobs, Skills and Finance for Women and Youth (JSF) programme in The Gambia, the flagship programme of the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), in collaboration with International Trade Center (ITC), and funding from the European Development Fund. JSF addresses persistent challenges in The Gambia which include lack of job opportunities for youth and women, low levels of financial inclusion and climate change adaptation and mitigation. The programme supports Target 8.3 of Sustainable Development Goal 8, which calls for the promotion of development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services.
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