WINDHOEK: Namibia’s robust legal framework and sound developmental policies and programmes have very limited success in improving the situation of the poorest in the country.
United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda raised the concern during a media conference on Monday at the end of her first fact-finding mission to Namibia.
“Social policies in areas ranging from health and education to employment and land reform are undermined by severe implementation gaps,” she noted.
In her view, inefficiency, limited institutional capacity, skills shortages, a slow decentralization process and poor monitoring have prevented good policies from producing the intended outcomes, despite substantial budgetary investment.
In her preliminary findings at the conclusion of her mission, Sepúlveda provided specific recommendations in the areas of health, education, employment, social protection, access to land, housing and gender equality.
She said more than two decades after independence, Namibian society is still beset by unacceptable levels of inequality along the lines of gender, race, region, ethnicity and class.
While recognising the damaging legacy of colonialism, progress has not been forthcoming at the necessary pace, according to Sepúlveda.
Namibia has enjoyed political stability and steady economic growth since independence, is rich in natural resources and has a GDP that classifies it as a middle-income country.
She warned that the fact that the country remains one of the most unequal in the world is a clear sign that the benefits of economic growth have not reached the poor.
The lack of opportunity for women to enjoy independent livelihoods combines with limited access to services such as education, health and justice to make women more vulnerable to sexual violence and exploitation, teenage pregnancies, HIV/AIDS and maternal mortality.
These in turn perpetuate women’s social exclusion and poverty in a vicious cycle, according to Sepúlveda.
She said she left Namibia “with a profound sense of admiration of the resilience and courage of Namibian women.”
Sepúlveda called for systematic structural changes to address the levels of socio-economic inequality in the country, and more comprehensive social protection programmes and strong investment in expanding access to public services.
“Poor Namibians cannot wait any longer for the benefits of economic growth to trickle down. The Government must address the critical needs of the poorest and most marginalized as a matter of priority,” she said.
The independent expert on extreme poverty arrived in Namibia on 01 October 2012 and visited the Omaheke, Kavango, Khomas, and Karas Regions, where she met with Government officials, civil society organizations and communities living in poverty.
She will present a full report on Namibia to the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2013.