JENA’s 2021 STRATEGIC INTENT

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This document spells out JENA’s strategic intent for 2021 positioning itself as a ‘think and do tank’ working as part of the global movement for sustainable global solutions to eradicate the injustice of poverty in Africa and to protect the planet. As we attempt to build back better in the wake of COVID-19 and in a changing context in Africa and globally, this document clarifies how we plan to effectively position ourselves in relation to the changing and widening African development agenda. Using the framework of our 2019 to 2023 Strategy, in 2021 JENA will continue to engage the issues identified in the strategy as well as pay attention to emerging issues of injustice that plague Africa. The COVID-19 crisis has opened our eyes to deeper underlying injustices that create poverty and need to be attended to if we are to prepare a better future for our world that is healthier and more just.

While remaining focused on our strategy we will engage issues with renewed understanding, forming new partnerships, and adopting new approaches. JENA is aware of the risks attached to such a relatively open-ended approach. Yet we are confident that we can manage this broad agenda by putting in place filters and mechanisms to operationalize our strategy in a focused, feasible, financially viable, and results-oriented manner. The volatility of today’s world obliges us to embrace a wide range of issues and build flexibility into our strategy, in order to accommodate the shifting priorities and demands of our multiple partners especially those we serve.

Guided and inspired by the Catholic Social Teaching (CST) and the Jesuit-driven Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs), which provide a vista and guide for our apostolic engagement, it spells out four clusters of our transformational agenda that will contribute to making the justice of the Gospel and the Goals for Sustainable Development (the 2030 Agenda) a reality for all. The four clusters of our transformational agenda are:

  1. Promoting Pope Francis’ Vision of an Inclusive Global Economy
  2. African Structural Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Decent Jobs
  3. Peace and Security, Social Cohesion and Human dignity
  4. Financing for Development in the COVID-19 Era and Beyond.

JENA is well placed to carry out this agenda. JENA is a network of Jesuit NGOs and is also part of a larger Catholic Church network of individuals and organisations in the Catholic Church championing social justice and linking local and international development policy to practice in development contexts. JENA has further forged partnerships for sustainable global solutions and the promotion of justice.

  1. Advancing Pope Francis’ Vision of an Inclusive Global Economy

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic globally has been worse than anticipated. In a UN study, Sumner et al. (2020) confirmed that global poverty could increase for the first time since 1990 mainly through contraction of household income or consumption.[1] The problem of extreme global poverty in which Africa has the largest share is not new and has not been caused by the coronavirus shock. The coronavirus is only helping to uncover historical systemic failures that produce and perpetuate poverty and inequality. Despite the fact that the world has experienced rapid growth in average income, billions of human beings are still condemned to life-long severe poverty, with all its attendant evils of low life expectancy, social exclusion, ill health, illiteracy, dependency, and effective enslavement. 

While many of Africa’s problems are internal and arise on account of bad local decisions, many of Africa’s problems are exogenous ones beyond Africa’s control and therefore call for systemic reform of the current global institutional and economic order, which produces that poverty. In the analysis of global poverty and inequality, the disparate fortunes of poor countries and rich countries should not be treated as separate and unrelated phenomena. The problem is that the current international institutional arrangements are vastly unequal. These arrangements and global institutions, systems of rules, practices, and transnational actors shape the environment (e.g., global markets) in which national societies in Africa exist. This is in regard to how they govern and tax themselves, how they organize education, health care, agriculture, and defense, and how they regulate foreign investment, intellectual property rights, and foreign trade. They powerfully affect (and often negatively) the domestic life of national societies in Africa: through their impact on pollution and climate change, food security, invasive diseases, culture and information, technology, and (most profoundly); through market forces that condition access to capital and raw materials, export opportunities, domestic tax bases and tax rates, prices, wages, labor standards, and much else and even occasion illicit financial outflow from Africa.

In the light of the foregoing, JENA’s work in 2021 will contribute to reframing the debate on global health, poverty eradication, climate and domestic revenue mobilization (DRM) and build up some popular passion and energy for both basic and radical changes to the international financial system and the global economy.  To advance this programme, JENA will engage global justice principles and the Catholic Social Teaching (CST) especially as articulated in our time by Pope Francis. Pope Francis envisions “a different kind of economy: one that brings life not death, one that is inclusive and not exclusive, humane and not dehumanizing, one that cares for the environment and does not despoil it.” [1]

JENA will further advance the foregoing analysis in five broad ways.

  • The first way is the articulation of the possibility of global justice; that there exist robust duties of justice between people that do not live in the same country. In the wake of the Coronavirus, JENA will mount campaigns to promote quicker and universal access to the coronavirus vaccine.
  • The second way to advance the Francesco Economy is to articulate the urgent need for a profound transformation of our economies in order to face the challenges of global poverty, invasive global pandemics, sustainability, and climate change.
  • The third way, which is also tied to the second, is maximizing the potential for domestic resource mobilization (DRM) in developing countries by enhancing their capacity to collect more revenue and to stem illicit financial flows.
  • JENA’s further work in the global justice space will also focus on reviewing key policy frameworks for managing international partnerships. Partnerships play a big role in the 2030 Agenda, and they will be key to achieving many of the Global Goals. Our priorities in this regard include reviewing the partnership between the AU and the EU; reviewing and deepening the political partnership between the Global North and Africa for better development results.
  • JENA will also address the link between migration and development. Here JENA will focus particularly on the crucial link between migration and development in the Global North and African policy context. In collaboration with Jesuit and Church organizations in Europe focused on this theme, JENA can play a relevant role in fostering inclusive dialogues and brokering mutually beneficial solutions – beyond mere security response.
  • JENA will address the impact of economic sanctions on development outcomes in Africa.

Promoting Laudato Si: Under this cluster, JENA will promote the realization of the message of Laudato Si with a focus on 4 of the 7 key elements of the Encyclical:

  • Response to the Cry of the Earth – the need to address climate, loss of biodiversity and need to transition to carbon neutrality.
  • Response to the Cry of the poor – in defense of human life while drawing attention to vulnerable groups including local indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs).
  • Ecological Economics – the need for sustainable production and ethical consumption, ethical investments and promotion of renewable energy, and de-escalation of activities that harm people and the planet.
  • Adoption of Simple Lifestyles – calls for sobriety in the use of natural resources, including energy and the use of greener modes of transport.
  • Ecological Education – calls for re-imagining the educational curricula, reform them to create greater ecological awareness.
  • Ecological Spirituality  – to recover a religions vision of God’s creation and encourage greater contact with the natural world.
  • Emphasis on Community involvement and participatory action – it is caring for nature at all levels and promoting advocacy and people’s campaigns and action, encourage rootedness in local territory and neighborhood ecosystems.
  1. Rethinking African Development for Shared Prosperity and Decent Jobs

COVID-19 has revealed Sub-Saharan African social and economic vulnerabilities on account of Africa’s over-reliance on foreign capital and external markets for its commodities. Economic development and poverty reduction cannot be sustained with continued dependence on the export of low-value primary commodities extracted by foreign corporations. For the last 30 years, Africa has relied on externally driven development undergirded by neoliberal approaches characterized by liberalization, privatization, and wooing of foreign capital. COVID-19 has taught Africa to recognize its local wealth and the need for Africa to create local systems, local processes and exploit the vast human capital to unlock its development.

Africa needs to take advantage of its comparative advantage and say no when need be. Africa has abundant land and natural resources and a young workforce that it can leverage as a global competitive advantage and a great asset in driving economic transformation. By 2050 Sub-Saharan Africa will have a larger and younger workforce than China or India. This transformation will come through diversifying Africa’s economies, boosting its competitiveness in world markets, increasing its shares of manufacturing in GDP, and developing more sophisticated technology in production. Africa will then become much more prosperous, less dependent on foreign assistance, and much more resilient to shocks like COVID-19 as it increases its competitiveness in global markets and creates high-quality jobs for the burgeoning young populations. This is crucial for the eradication of the deep poverty Africa is currently experiencing.

Africa needs to make the “Africa Rising” narrative meaningful for its people by moving away from the neoliberal driven jobless growth it has ‘celebrated’ in the first decade of the millennium whose weaknesses and inadequacies have been exposed by COVID-19. In order to eradicate poverty, Africa’s economic growth needs to be inclusive (for women and young people in particular), equitable (leading to shared prosperity), and sustainable (particularly in terms of protecting human health and ecosystems). In addition, effective governance is critical here and Africa will not achieve an economic transformation without sound political and economic governance assuring the rule of law, property rights, stable business conditions, and inclusive, transparent, and accountable governments.

In line with its strategic framework 2019 to 2023, in 2021, JENA will engage the following workstreams to contribute to advancing African structural transformation:

  • Hold Africa centered policy discussion on sustainable and inclusive development in Africa. Promote conversation and the development potential of territories in Africa 
  • Making agriculture and regional and global value chains in natural resources (mining and extractive industries) work for economic transformation, ‘green’ growth, and inclusive development 
  • Promote local and foreign impact and ESG Investment with a stronger focus on the E and S components while paying attention to human rights, corporate social responsibility, and policy coherence for (sustainable) development. 
  • Private sector: Our focus concerning private-sector actors will be mainly on the role of business and work, the role of the private sector ‘for’ development, as projected in the 2030 Agenda
  • We shall promote economic diversification and transformation through industrialization and development of the services industry 
  • Using the framework of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, JENA will support trade and promising regional integration dynamics
  • Advance the AfCTA agenda and propose ways of making it promote endogenous development.
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  • Promote the right type and role of education and learning that holds value in the labor market and prepares young African citizens for the world of tomorrow.
  1. Peace and Security, Social Cohesion and Human dignity 

In 2021 JENA will continue its collaboration with the Vatican COVID-19 Commission on the theme of peace and security. JENA will continue to engage in research and analysis regarding the peace and security issues that we have identified from an African perspective. Given that peace and security are global public goods and prerequisites for inclusive and sustainable development JENA will leverage its collaborative partnership with the Vatican’s DIHD to advocate for collective global action based on a deep understanding of underlying problems, comprehensive approaches for preventing conflict, and resolutions that take root causes of conflicts into account.  As Pope Paul VI taught, the other name for peace is justice. Therefore, JENA will advocate for policies that promote social justice and cohesion by providing social protection, creating decent jobs, fostering gender equality, and strengthening resilience.  JENA will also engage in the food security domain as it is inextricably linked with stability and social cohesion. 

In 2021, JENA will engage four workstreams in the peace and security space:

  • Supporting countries, the AU, and the international community
    • on the need to eradicate small arms and light weapons (SALW); 
    • on the multilateral disarmament efforts, especially the Arms Trade Treaty and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons;
    • Food security in the post-pandemic world.
  • Promoting African processes and mechanisms for addressing peace, security, governance, and development concerns with stress on the involvement of the young and women
  • Promoting democracy for peaceful societies with a focus on the rule of law, space for citizens’ voice and participation, political, social, and economic rights, especially of women.
  • Promoting policies for social cohesion and wealth and job creation
  1. Financing for Development in the COVID-19 Era and Beyond

The COVID-19 pandemic has gone beyond a health and humanitarian crisis to also become an unprecedented global development emergency with serious ramifications for Africa. The COVID-19 shock has widened economic inequalities, disproportionately impacting Sub-Saharan Africa and more particularly vulnerable groups within the continent. In Africa, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the financial distress on the continent as export, tourism and remittance receipts have almost all dried up, threatening their ability to service existing debt payments and to finance development.  With the support of the international community, Africa needs to find solutions to the current financial crisis it is facing. There is a need to ensure that Africa does not fall into financial ruin, escalating poverty, and debt crises. In working for a healthier and more just post-Covid-19 work, in 2020, JENA will work with its partners to inspire a global response to the effects of the pandemic and maintain momentum towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs. Building on Pope Francis’ vision for an inclusive global economy, JENA will direct its work of advocacy toward reimagining our economic systems, more sustainable and inclusive recovery, and re-establish momentum toward achieving the SDGs to build back better. 

In collaboration with its allies, JENA will direct its efforts to build the political support needed to influence world-wide decision-makers, the G20, International Financial Institutions, and the United Nations to promote poverty reduction and move solutions to the international debt crisis. Ultimately, JENA will advocate for an international financial system that protects and includes all especially the most vulnerable within the context of human rights. JENA’s advocacy work shall be directed toward the promotion of responsible lending and borrowing, increasing debt relief for SSA countries, curbing illicit financial flows and corporate tax avoidance, moving forward an international debt resolution process, pushing reforms in international financial institutions, and protecting poor countries from financial predatory behavior. 

The following workstreams will contribute to advancing the needed Finance for Development in COVID-19 times and beyond for Sub-Saharan Africa:

  • Debt and Lending
    • Ensuring that countries have access to sufficient liquidity
    • Advocate for the extending and expanding of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI). 
    • Address the SSA debt overhang directly by having all bilateral creditors, as well as private creditors, agree to a common framework for resolving debt solvency issues as quickly as possible. 
  • Tax, Corruption, and Transparency
  • Capacity building of African tax administrations
  • A transparent financial system. 

[1] Sumner, Andy, Chris Hoy, and Eduardo Ortiz-Juarez. “Estimates of the Impact of COVID-19 on Global Poverty.” UNU-WIDER, April (2020): 800-9.


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