The United Nations coordinator’s parting shot

Tuesday August 27 2019

The outgoing UN Resident Coordinator in

The outgoing UN Resident Coordinator in Tanzania Mr Alvaro Rodriguez during the interview. He bade farewell to Tanzania yesterday with his favourite Kiswahili quote: “Tufanye ya wakati, wakati tuna wakati; utakuja wakati tukitaka kufanya ya wakati, wakati hatuna wakati. Wakati ni huu!” (Literally summarised, it’s a word against procrastination). Photo | Courtesy 

By The Citizen Reporter @TheCitizenTz news@thecitizen.co.tz

Monday marks your last day working in Tanzania, can you tell us where you are heading to from here?

I feel sad to be leaving beautiful Tanzania and will miss all the people I have worked with in our efforts to lift communities out of poverty. However, it’s time for me to take up a new assignment in Turkey. I have no doubt that my successor will bring fresh ideas and strengthen UN’s work here in Tanzania.

There are a number of similarities between Tanzania and Turkey if you look at how the two countries are affected by conflict occurring in some neighbouring countries. I have learnt a lot through my experience with the Kigoma Joint Programme, through which we are as the UN providing support to refugees from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo and to the communities hosting the refugees.

What key achievements have been made by the United Nations during your tenure as Resident Coordinator?

The formulation of the United Nations Development Assistance Programme (UNDAP II, 2016-2021) in line with the five-year National Development Plan in the Mainland and the Mkuza Strategy III in Zanzibar was finalized in 2016.

Like I mentioned earlier, the Kigoma Joint Programme was an attempt by the UN family to provide various support to refugees. Given the fact that Kigoma is one of the poorest regions in the country, we needed to also support the Tanzanians hosting the refugees, working with the entire UN Country Team with support from donors including Norway, Sweden, Ireland and Koika (Korea International Cooperation Agency).

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The Zanzibar Joint programme has always been close to our hearts despite some challenges we experienced in the past.

I am also happy that I was able to work with various stakeholders in raising awareness on the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a global initiative that took me to almost all regions of the country.

Earlier on you spoke about some of the challenges experienced by the UN during your term of office. What strategies did you use to remain afloat and focused on the UN mandate?

I think understanding that I am an international civil servant working for the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania helped me a lot. Over the years, I have learnt that when change happens, especially in government, it’s important to understand the new set of fresh ideas and new ways of working to adapt quickly.

The current government has been very committed in its drive against corruption and continues to push hard for enhanced efficiency in delivery of results. This business unusual approach also meant that the UN had to quickly adapt to the new context, without losing our values and principles. I would say, one of my secrets was having a positive attitude and constructive spirit grounded in the understanding that I needed to maintain a long-term partnership with the government. That helped me to remain professional and diplomatic.

Some may say it’s a tricky balance difficult to achieve especially when at times we get criticised in some quarters because they think that as the UN we should be doing something they feel is more important. But one must always be very clear of the importance of maintaining the long-term partnership with all development partners, including the government and to understand that as the United Nations, we do take the ‘Do no Harm Principle’ very seriously.

How have you ensured that the UN remained relevant in supporting the Mainland and Zanzibar Governments’ national priorities?

The UN is undergoing extensive reforms in over 70 years of its existence and I believe looking at the changes in Tanzania, this is the right action to take. The reforms are an attempt by the UN to revitalise itself into an institution that is fit for purpose in the 21st century. As international civil servants, we work for the member states (governments) and are not an independent entity. Therefore, the ongoing reforms compels the entire UN System to come together around commonly agreed priorities of member states in a way that has never been done before.

Importantly, the reforms empower the function of the Resident Coordinator to play a more robust role in ensuring that all programs are aligned and coherent around key national priorities in every country around the world. This also means improving our efficiency to ensure that we save on our operational costs and put more money into programmes to support more people.

One key aspect of the reforms is the prioritisation of issues related to the empowerment and protection of women and girls. We know it is going to be tough to achieve the SDGs if women and girls are not given the same opportunities as men. The new reforms are going to mark a different way of working in close partnership with the two governments of Zanzibar and Mainland and that will keep the UN relevant to the evolving context.

Which areas would say the UN is contributing significantly to the development of Tanzania?

We have been fortunate to contribute to a number of national programmes through provision of technical assistance, advice and other forms of support. One area we are supporting as One UN is in poverty alleviation. The First SDG advocates for an end to poverty in all its forms everywhere. It is a summary of what all SDGs aim to achieve. We have participated in the development of the Tanzania Social Action Fund (Tasaf) working to build capacities of key stakeholders involved in poverty reduction initiatives with emphasis on community driven development, accountability, transparency and full participation in social and economic development aspects. Through Tasaf we have been able to design various programmes to strengthen national interventions.

Our focus on providing multisectoral support to women and girls for their empowerment and protection is further emphasized in the new UN reforms. Our work with women and girls spurns from education, skills development, ending violence against women, women’s leadership, health to sexual and reproductive health and rights, HIV and Aids and agriculture.

We are also working hard in supporting Tanzania to strengthen its adaptation to climate change, working in various communities to sustain climate smart agriculture; disaster risk reduction and management; low-cost water harvesting techniques and use of renewable energy resources.

One of our strong areas is our collaboration with development partners and embassies.

How would you describe Tanzania’s current development context?

Like any country, Tanzania has many strengths, challenges and opportunities. I am optimistic about the country’s future because over the years, it has remained peaceful. There is a new way of working within the government that demonstrates a sense of urgency towards developing the country further. Although industrialisation and infrastructure development are key factors in Tanzania’s development trajectory, the process should be balanced by paying equal attention to the needs within the social sector. To achieve this balance, there is need to boost investment in developing skills capacities of women and men. The wealth of Tanzania is indeed in its women and men who should drive the industrialisation process.

The provision of free education in public primary and secondary schools is a great starting point as it will ensure that in future, the economy will be in the hands of young educated women and men.

In the recent Southern African Development Community (Sadc) Summit, Tanzania showed that it is a major advocate of promoting regional trade. This provides a huge potential to generate wealth, jobs, taxes and opportunities for everyone through intra-regional trade in Africa.

In my years in Tanzania, I have also seen a strong interest in holding dialogues to discuss various issues from women empowerment, agricultural development and energy resources to politics, good governance and women’s leadership. In the short-term, governments are elected by the people to implement policies that promote inclusive growth. The principle of inclusion is key to sustainable development as it advocates for respecting the voice of all people and promotes the participation of women and men in all socio-economic and political sectors.