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Building a bridge: Kenyan Parliamentarians pledge to work with scientists on SDGs

Kenyan parliamentarians committed to deeper engagement on sustainable development goals at a first-of-its-kind event with the scientific community.
Emily Yehle / Published on 18 July 2017

SEI joined GLOBE International and the Global Challenges Foundation to host the first Science-Policy Dialogue in Nairobi, bringing together parliamentarians and scientists to discuss the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The June 6 event served as the first step in a partnership that aims to ensure the realization of sustainable development goals.

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Dr.  Crispin  Kowenje, chair  of  the Department  of  Chemistry at Maseno University, and  Dr.  Alice  Odingo,  geography lecturer at the University of Nairobi, were among the scientists who gave presentations during the Science-Policy Dialogue. Dr. Kowenge also is a member of the Africa  Future  Earth  Committee.

Kenya National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi called the Dialogue a “timely intervention” that will hopefully lead to ongoing collaboration between scientists and policy-makers.

“An effective public policy has objectives that are sound, achievable, cost-effective, and sustainable. This then poses the question, how is it possible to formulate effective policies without the science?” Muturi wrote in prepared remarks that were read at the event by National Assembly Member Christopher Omulele. “When science and policy unite, the changes of success increase greatly, as science provides compelling evidence of the outcomes of interventions.”

Twenty-two parliamentarians – representing four committees in the National Assembly and four committees in the Senate – committed to strengthening collaboration with the scientific community.

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Kenya National Assembly Member  Christopher  Omulele reads remarks from Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, who could not attend the first Science-Policy Dialogue in Nairobi.

But challenges remain. Participants noted that science and research are rarely mentioned when the Parliament writes legislation, conducts oversight or creates budgets. The reasons are unclear, but all agreed that both parliamentarians and scientists must take concerted action.

Four key recommendations emerged:

  • Parliament should increase funding for research, which is currently only 0.8% of Kenya’s GDP. The Science, Technology and Innovation Act of 2013 set up a legal framework for promotion, coordination and regulation, but science, technology and innovation remain woefully underfunded.
  • Scientists must communicate more effectively. The right information at the right time – in the right way – can help parliamentarians consider scientific research in policy-making. Scientists can better package research results, as well as actively engage as stakeholders in the legislative process.
  • Parliament needs to institutionalize engagement on the SDGs, perhaps through a joint committee, members’ caucus or monitoring desk. Overall, public institutions need the required architecture, capacity and authority to implement policies.
  • Parliament and scientists can work together to ensure accountability. By providing recent and reliable data, the scientific community can help the government monitor and track the progress of SDGs in Kenya.

Addressing development challenges in Kenya – and achieving the SDGs – will require Parliament and the scientific community to work together and share knowledge on science, technology and innovation.

The science and technology community “can play a critical role in capacity building on SDGs to ensure no one is left behind, especially providing support on harnessing credible data for monitoring and evaluation,  and tracking of the SDG indicators,” said Isaiah Kamande, who attended the Dialogue and is the director responsible for SGDs at the Ministry of Devolution and Planning.

Parliamentarians have asked SEI and its partners to ensure a follow-up with the 12th Parliament, which will begin in September 2017.

“We look forward to continued engagement and developing a stronger collaboration with the Parliament of Kenya, and see this event as something that can also be replicated in other jurisdictions,” said Stacey Noel, director of SEI’s Africa Centre.

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