Justine Braby and Reinhold Mangundu

We need Environmental indicators to capture changes in our biophysical environment and to draw links between its current state and our current social economic system which comes with challenges preventing us from achieving the long-term sustainable development goals. The current measure of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), for policy research, management and decision-making, does not treat natural or environmental resources as part of the national asset. In the early 1990s, Namibia had various environmental indicators in place but due to the lack of capacity and the knowledge gap for implementing the environment statistics self-assessment tool, as well as a lacking demand at high level, little efforts have been made to integrate these indicators into national policies and plans in the recent years. Today environmental statistics in Namibia could be one of the biggest steps in ensuring better monitoring and evaluation of government policies working towards sustainable development. It is no longer a secret that ecological wellbeing is the cornerstone of sustainable development. Thus, there is a need for well captured environmental statistics to influence government decisions to ensure long-term sustainability. Governments need to be aware of the quality and availability of natural resources and how these could negatively affect us in the long term.

This month, a workshop geared off to discuss the implementation of environmental statistics in Namibia. After the workshop, bilateral consultations will take place to complete the Environment Statistics Assessment for the country. The process is hosted by the Namibian Statistics Agency and Ministry of Environment and Tourism, with global spear-heading by the United Nations Statistics Division.

The National System of Accounts, which measures GDP, needs an overhaul. These discussions are the first step, with a start in integrating important environmental considerations into national monitoring processes. Development of environment statistics will support results-based policy making as well as better monitoring, evaluation and reporting on progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

The main aims of the workshop are to build capacity for the implementation of environment statistics using the Framework for Development of Environment Statistics, facilitate dialogue and collaboration between line ministries to identify Namibia’s environmental policy needs and priority areas, and more broadly discuss the development of a Namibian Compendium of environment statistics and the role of invited ministries and other agencies.

We still have a far way to go if we want the transformation necessary for the SDGs to come to fruition – in fact, we need an entirely new measurement system – one that is more inclusive, such as the Genuine Progress Indicator, or the Inclusive Wealth Index. But, alas, one step forward is better than none.