The vibrant partnership between the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the past two decades continues to yield positive results towards sustainable human development.

The multiplier benefits of this partnership transcend geographical boundaries to bring hope and strengthen good governance and peacebuilding efforts, the empowerment of youth and women, and leveraging of innovative solutions, contributing to the attainment of global goals.

In Lesotho, the positive impact of the EU-UNDP collaboration and commitment as key development allies is particularly evident in deepening democratic aspirations, promoting inclusive governance and the rule of law, enhancing civic participation and renewable energy access while reinforcing national ownership of the development agenda.

The EU and UNDP have joined hands to promote access to clean energy in Lesotho by supporting the company OnePower to develop solar mini-grids in non-electrified areas across the country.

Renewable energy based on mini-grids will create viable pathways to affordable and sustainable energy for the people of Lesotho, especially those in the most rural and mountainous areas and away from the national grid.

Through funding from the Electrification Financing Initiative (ElectriFI), the EU mobilised € 4.5 million in equity and debt, leveraging on the grant funding of approximately US$ 1 million provided by UNDP through the Global Environmental Facility (GEF).

The USA and UK also contributed to the initiative. As a result of this joint initiative, it is estimated that 20,000 people will have access to clean electricity. The access also includes productive sectors, including four public schools, one police station, 13 small businesses and three health clinics.

The project also contributes to the country’s climate action ambitions and socio-economic progress centred on renewables and energy efficiency, crucial for a climate-resilient future while prioritising human welfare outcomes.

The EU and UNDP have also partnered to implement Renewable Lesotho, a joint initiative to increase clean energy generation and energy efficiency in the Mountain Kingdom, promote access to reliable and equitable access to energy, while improving energy sector leadership and capacity.

Launched in 2023, Renewable Lesotho is part of the Global Gateway, Europe’s strategy to boost smart, clean and secure connections in digital, energy and transport sectors, and to strengthen health, education and research systems across the world.

Through this joint initiative, the EU and UNDP are establishing a results-based grant facility for renewable energy and energy efficiency measures. The results-based grant facility plans to support 5,000 household connections to off-grid electricity, install 4,500 solar home systems and 4,000 improved cooking stoves.

It also incorporates productive energy use for 25 schools and clinics, 120 Solar Water pumps, 200 kWp for commercial and industrial use and 200 mixed uses.

At the request of Lesotho’s authorities, the EU and UNDP have also supported the National Reforms process from the consultations leading to the Multi-Stakeholder National Dialogue Plenary II Report, to the work of the National Reforms Authority. The profundity of this phase was to ensure that all the segments of the nation were satisfactorily covered, and their views were well captured, around the vision of “The Lesotho We Want”.

As part of the National Reforms Programme, government sectors such as the justice sector are undergoing reforms to duly and effectively discharge their mandate and enhance service delivery. With a view to enhancing access to justice as the primary service that maintains equality for all, the EU-UNDP support focused on ingraining an inclusive and accountable justice system aligned to the ambition of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to reduce inequalities and strengthen peace, and justice and strong institutions.

Lesotho Data for Sustainable Development also stands out as one of the initiatives successfully undertaken with the overarching aim of assisting the Government of Lesotho (GoL) in collating, analysing, and disseminating data and building capacities for evidence-based planning, reporting, monitoring, and evaluation.

The optimal value that the GoL derives from this project is generating clean and reliable data that can effectively inform the country’s development agenda, including policy formulation and implementation. This initiative significantly contributes to tracking the progress made by Lesotho towards Agenda 2030 and the African Union Agenda 2063.

The decentralisation process in Lesotho is another area with immense promise of leaving no one behind. The diagnostic study conducted in 2014 through the support of the EU, UNDP, and United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) proved to be highly valuable in identifying barriers to effective decentralisation but also underscored the importance of developing a Decentralisation Policy that strongly advocates for adoption of an appropriate model that is responsive to Lesotho’s context and needs.

The adoption of the National Policy in 2014 became one of the highlights of the unrelenting commitment to making government and services more accessible. The EU-UNDP partnership on the current national reforms aims to strengthen the decentralisation legal framework, approach, and processes to ensure that the country reaps the benefits fully.

While the EU-UNDP partnership with Lesotho demonstrates transformative change, more remains to be done. Continuation of the EU-UNDP partnership in support of the government and the people of Lesotho remains critical in enabling and scaling up efforts towards attaining global goals for all.