SDG debates with main political parties ahead of elections help framing issues-based campaign in Malawi

Panellists for the SDG Question Time debate on health.

(March 5, 2019) Five main political parties represented by 19 political leaders in Malawi participated in the first-ever SDG Question Time debates from 25th February to 3rd March 2019 at Kamuzu College of Nursing (KCN) in Lilongwe.

Senior party members articulated how they intend to accelerate achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the country should they win May 21 Tripartite Elections this year. The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Malawi Congress Party (MCP), United Transformation Movement (UTM), United Democratic Front (UDF) and People’s Party (PP) are the political parties that participated in the debates.

The United Nations Communications Group partnered with Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) and Nation Publications Limited (NPL) to organise and conduct the debates. Development Partners contributing to UNDP’s Elections Basket Fund, namely the European Union, USAID, UK Aid, Royal Norwegian Embassy and Irish Aid also contributed to the debates.

The debates focused in four themes considered critical for the achievement of the SDG agenda: Climate Change and Agriculture (25th February), Education (27th February), Human Rights/ Leave No One Behind (1st March) and Health (3 March).

The debates aimed to facilitate an interactive discussion on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Malawi, providing a platform for issues-based and focused conversations among political parties and with Malawian citizens.

The debates were broadcast live, with some 100 people in attendance in the auditorium. Among people attending in each debate were students, interested citizens, UN Heads  and Heads of Mission accredited to Malawi. Panelists were senior members of the referenced political parties. They answered questions, in both English and Chichewa languages, put to them by debate moderators, audience members in the debate hall and Malawians following the debates on radio, television and Facebook.

“Malawi, together with 192 other countries, committed to achieving the SDGs by 2030,” said UN Resident Coordinator Maria Jose Torres. “It was therefore crucial for Malawians to understand how key political parties plan to advance the achievement of the SDGs in the country. We are delighted to note that the debates focused on issues that are critical for Malawi’s development and that the discussions were informative.”

The SDG Question Time debates were broadcast live on Zodiak radio and television, Zodiak Facebook live, Nation Publications Facebook live, and about 10 community radio stations across Malawi, in addition to summaries being published in The Nation and FUKO newspapers. The coverage of the debates was nationwide at a peak audience time (18:00-20:00 PM local time) and the community radios further disseminated the discussions in some case with over 10 million target audience. The debates were also widely covered by The Nation.

In the first debate on climate change and agriculture, the panelists tackled issues such as how Malawi can break the cycle of climate change effects like floods and droughts, solutions to recurrent food insecurity, and ways of diversifying the country’s agricultural sector.

The second debate on education tackled issues such as how Malawi can improve the quality of primary education for all children, expansion of access to quality secondary education for all young people, how to address gender-based violence and sexual abuse that limit girls’ access to education, and strategies for improving skills development through vocational education.

In the third debate on human rights and leaving no one behind, the panelists discussed issues such as inclusivity in Malawian society, expansion of political participation to women, youth and persons with disabilities, peaceful elections, strengthening rule of law, rights of prisoners, conduct of police officers, the fight against corruption, rights of persons with albinism, rights of sexual minorities and media freedom.

In the last debate on health, the panelists debated on how Malawi can improve on delivery of primary health care services in rural areas, health sector financing in line with regional and global commitments, strategies for addressing shortage of health personnel and drugs, implementation of the country’s alcohol policy, expanding access to safe abortion, maternal health and provision of health insurance.

The debates can be watched on the following links:

SDG Question Time debate on health:

Full debate –

SDG Question Time debate on education:

Full debate –

SDG Question Time debate on climate change and agriculture:

Part 1 –

Part 2 –

SDG Question Time debate on human rights and leaving no one behind:

Part 1 –

Part 2 –

Panelists for the debate on education

Panelists for the debate on education holding hands at the end of the talk show.

Panelists for the debate on climate change and agriculture holding hands at the end of the talk show.

One of the debate moderators, Teresa Ndanga, asking questions to the panelists.

Part of the audience

President of the Association of Environmental Journalists (AEJ) asking questions to the panelists.

Some of the Ambassadors and representatives of Development Partners (front row) who attended the debates.

A member of the audience asking a question on the panelists

A Child Journalist Mphatso Chimfuti (16) asking questions to the panelists of the debate on education as a co-moderator of the debate

Part of the audience including representatives of Development Partners and civil society.

One of the debate moderators, Suzgo Chitete, asking questions from people following the debate on the radio, television and Facebook live

Part of the audience at one of the debates