Presented by Angela Kabeto, Youth Climate Ambassador, UNICEF, and Benny Ndonyo, Energy and Environmental Concerns For Zambia (EECZ). Watch the video.
On behalf of the Alliance for Civil Society Organisations for Clean Energy access (ACCESS) network and civil society from across Zambia, thank you for the opportunity to engage in the AEEP Sustainable Energy in Southern Africa Forum. The ACCESS network is a coalition of civil society organisations working on energy access – we advocate for people living in poverty to have access to safe, reliable and affordable energy, and for environmentally sustainable and efficient energy systems globally. We are made up of international NGOs as well as hundreds of regional and national CSOs. ACCESS is now the focal point for SEforAll’s Global Facilitation Team.
ACCESS came together 3 years ago because we knew that civil society participation was vital to the achievement of universal energy access – and we recognised that there was a need for greater coordination across civil society, in order to have a common voice on issues of energy access. AEEP’s recent mapping of energy initiatives highlighted that civil society is often overlooked as a stakeholder group by major programmes and initiatives, and the ACCESS network seeks to address this.
For the past two days 54 CSOs from across Zambia and the region have been meeting to discuss how we can effectively contribute to the energy access debate in Zambia, Southern and East Africa. We’d like to thank the Africa-EU Energy Partnership for facilitating and supporting this initiative, and are eager to share the fruitful dialogue that we have had.
The following statement expresses how we can and will work together with you, in partnership, to accelerate energy access in the region; and why the contribution of civil society is vital to the achievement of SDG7, Paris climate goals and national targets.
- Civil Society has a great deal to offer on energy access; in particular, building on a legacy of community engagement, community-based organisations have a genuine understanding of the needs of rural communities and can act as a bridge between the Government and the people. CSOs can bring the voices of the communities they represent into energy planning, and look forward to sharing this unique insight with Government, the private sector and other stakeholders.
- We can support with evidence to inform policies that will work more successfully, and are keen to partner with public and private institutions to pursue people-centred approaches to electricity access and clean cooking; in particular decentralised, renewable technologies which can provide people with energy access more affordably, sustainably and quickly than traditional options – and really transform lives as a result.
- As we’ve heard today, energy access is a cross-cutting issue, affecting the health, water, environment, agriculture and education sectors; and civil society is already working across these sectors at both the policy and implementation levels. For example, energy is important in healthcare to ensure women can give birth safely at night, vaccines and medicines can be kept cool and people have access to clean water. Understanding these interconnected issues, civil society can support government and private sector to improve across them all.
- Women and vulnerable groups need to be involved in energy planning from the very beginning and at different levels – from the community sphere to the policy realm. Civil society promotes gender equality, and can support decision-makers to achieve gender transformative energy access policies and programmes.
- We also see the role of civil society as a critical friend and partner with Government; we want energy access for all, and we will always champion the needs of the energy poor. As part of this, we are keen to support the Government in its endeavours and promote a two-way dialogue to ensure continued accountability.
We are seeking a closer and more active partnership with the Government. We recognise that, historically, civil society has not always been unified. However, the ACCESS network demonstrates that we can self-organise and talk with a clear and united voice. We will continue to work in collaboration like this, and hope that other groups will be willing to do the same. The issue of energy poverty in Zambia, and sub-Saharan Africa more widely, cannot be solved by one group alone. We are in an Energy Trilemma of energy security, energy equity and environmental sustainability. In order to overcome this challenge, we all need to be open to working more closely together, forging effective partnerships, and sharing knowledge more widely, in order to stand a chance of achieving universal energy access by 2030. In this room today, we are all working towards the same goal – eradicating energy poverty. Each group has something unique to offer; so let’s pool our resources, skills and experiences together to energy poverty a thing of the past.