SDGs: A Glimpse from Pakistan

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The idea of sustainable development is that raw capitalism is far too powerful for its own good. Global capitalism is a juggernaut, with the world economy now doubling in size every generation. Yet on a finite Earth, with a billion new people being added every 15 years, that juggernaut is now laying siege to the physical bases of life and the social support systems that make life pleasant and decent.

Sustainable development offers a path out of this growing crisis. Sustainable development is a doctrine that says: Let us once again place the economy on a true moral foundation and we’ll keep greed within bounds, ensuring the economic growth is combined with social fairness and environmental sustainability. The idea of sustainable development is that an economy must satisfy all three principles: economic growth, social fairness and environmental sustainability.

Yes, there can and should be economic growth, especially for today’s developing countries. Human ingenuity and markets can indeed lead us to higher living standards and longer lives for all parts of the world, rich and poor alike. But these gains should be widely shared and should never be based on the exploitation of those at the bottom of society. Social inclusion has been widely shown to improve societal progress broadly for all. And equally important, those gains should be based on true value added, not on the destruction of natural capital, whether through deforestation, climate change, or pollution of air, land, and water.

Thus, sustainable development calls for a holistic approach that combines economic, social, and environmental objectives. This balanced approach is much harder to achieve than the raw capitalism that places the economy above society and the physical Earth. Yet it recognizes that we are doomed to conflict and even collapse if we fail to promote social equality and environmental sustainability.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by UN are part of a wider 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In developing the SDGs – a multi-year process involving civil society, governments, the private sector and academia – the United Nations sought to take all these failings into account.

17 goals for ‘people and planet.
In response to the accusation that the MDGs were too narrow in focus, the SDGs set out to tackle a whole range of issues, from gender inequality to climate change. The unifying thread throughout the 17 goals and their 169 targets is the commitment to ending poverty: “Eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development”. At the Sustainable Development Summit on 25 September, 2015, UN Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030.

The SDGs, otherwise known as the Global Goals, build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs. The MDGs, aimed at an array of issues that included slashing poverty, hunger, disease, gender inequality, and access to water and sanitation. Enormous progress has been made on the MDGs, showing the value of a unifying agenda underpinned by goals and targets. Despite this success, the indignity of poverty has not been ended for all. The new Global Goals, and the broader sustainability agenda, go much further than the MDGs, addressing the root causes of poverty and the universal need for development that works for all people.

Pakistan under the limelight
Global development agenda either set by United Nations Organizations (UNO) or any other organization are always blessings in disguise for the countries where holistic development programmes do not catch the sight of those at the helm of affairs. It forces and motivates the third world countries to craft their development programmes in tandem with global development goals and targets. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have replaced the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in September 2015 to be achieved by 2030.The SDGs are global set of goals aimed at addressing all the three important dimensions of development-social, economic and environmental.

Pakistan secured a score of 55.6 under SDGs’ global index against a far better regional average of 63.3 and is even lower than regional peers Bangladesh’s 56.2 and India’s 58.1. As a result, the country ranked 122 on the SDG index of 157 nations compared to Bangladesh’s 120 and India’s 116 position, according to July 2017 results. The good news, however, is that its preparedness to deliver on 2030 targets is among some of the top in the world, raising hopes that it would not be repeating its dismal performance of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when it missed almost all targets. Pakistan’s performance would be assessed in about 230 unique indicators on 17 goals set under UN commitments.

To begin with, parliament has adopted the SDGs as a national development agenda unlike the MDGs that were generally considered UN-driven initiative only to be complied with by four-yearly progress reports. These reports were prepared by consultants, without any implementation mechanism in place to actually deliver. Special SDG units have already been established at the Planning Commission and provinces to mainstream SDG objectives by creating synergies among various federal and provincial organisations and agencies. At the federal level, however, three separate SDG units have been created. Importantly, PDA has carried out a quick mapping on the current status of SDGs implementation in the Province Punjab that identifies the accomplishments and gaps to date.

According to the survey 70.4 percent women, 66.2 percent children and 62.4 percent unemployed people have claimed to be more vulnerable to experience poverty, discrimination and violence. Furthermore, age, employment type, low income, Gender based discrimination, Level of education; ethnicity, mental wellbeing and sexual orientation are some of the major factors impeding their marginalisation. More than 69 percent people do not have access to basic income including job security and protection. When it comes to the first sustainable development goal, Pakistan is aiming to end “all poverty” till 2030. For this purpose, Pakistan aims to establish a socio-economic system in which every person can earn up to or more than the equivalent of US$ 1.25 per person a day. This is an aspiring and complex goal, however not impossible to achieve. It requires for the next decades and a half we are provided with resources from institutions with clear commitment to help the country.

The second goal Pakistan hopes to achieve till 2030 is “to end all hunger”. The government of Pakistan has committed by signing on the SDGs to end malnutrition from Pakistan. It is important to note that Pakistan is producing enough food to feed all its citizens. A recent survey showed that enough food is being produced but 60% of it goes to waste. As far as the problem of medical awareness and good health is concerned, Pakistan also aims to promote an atmosphere of socio-economic medical awareness especially to end the rampant upsurge of the disease tuberculosis, polio, AIDS, malaria and other such diseases communicable or non-communicable by the year of 2030. One of its aims is to provide health insurance for all its citizens by the same year.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Clean and Green Pakistan (CGP) initiative has directly addressed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) priorities. PTI has made SDGs part of its election manifesto and now its government is trying to implement the same. Minister for Planning, Development and Reform, Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar recently said that provinces are major stakeholders (57 percent) to attain the goals of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) under the 18th amendment.
Despite the challenges, Pakistan has firm resolve to continue its efforts for attaining sustainable development by implementing the global development agenda of the SDGs consisting of 17 goals and 169 targets. “The government has recognised the private sector for partnering to complement its efforts to achieve the SDGs,” he revealed. The Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform in collaboration with the provinces and local governments launched National Initiative on SDGs to mainstream and accelerate SDGs implementation in the country.

The present government believes that it is national agenda above politics for achieving goals for the relief of the people at grassroots level in the country.
Pakistan’s effort to achieve sustainable development has been severely hindered by a combination of unfavourable internal and external factors in recent years like high population growth, large proportion of population living below the poverty line, exploiting the potential of growth, trade imbalances with major trading partners, and instability in political relationship with neighbouring countries. challenges posed by climate change, natural disasters, cost of war on terror, i.e, Rs 10,374 billion from 2001 to 2017, low tax-to-GDP ratio, the impacts of the global economic recession, lack of financial resources, low resource mobilisation at provincial level and high dependency on federal funds transfer also restraint government’s efforts for stable growth and sustainable development.

The government’s primary focus is on socio-economic and human resource development to bridge disparities among districts of the country for sustained collective national development. Pakistan’s ranking in terms of HDI has gone down during the previous years but it will be improving with introduction of reforms and focusing on human resource development.

One of the biggest problems Pakistan has faced from the last two decades is the problem of unsustainable energy production. What Pakistan requires is not merely electricity but an affordable clean energy resource that has a better and cost-effective production. As we know that Pakistan experiences dry and extreme weather conditions, so instead of considering this as a disadvantage, this can be utilized as an advantage by resorting to renewable and self-sustainable energy resources like solar power plants and windmills etc.

Water being the fundamental necessity as well as a right should be available to all the end users. Pakistan being a diverse landscape has areas that have underground freshwater resource. Still, in order to achieve the goal of clean water supply and sanitation upright management is required. A total of eight targets have been formulated to achieve the equitable use of safe and reasonably priced drinking water. Negotiating the path towards sustainable development is not easy for any country acting alone. Pakistan’s experience is evidence of the challenges given that levels of foreign investment, trade and development assistance have fluctuated over the years, both assisting and hampering development.

To meet the SDGs, Pakistan does not require international institutions. Instead, it must transform the way current institutions do business. It must continue to shape those institutions and one way is through effective cross-sector partnerships, which also indicate that resources are efficiently used, solutions stick and people benefit. The 2030 Agenda has united the world’s nations in a focus on a broad and comprehensive set of SDGs. Universal achievement of the SDGs is a massive undertaking. The central argument of this study is that to implement the 2030 Agenda, one of the foremost prerequisites is the responsibility of governments in developing countries to create an enabling environment with effective PFM systems. Enabling environments have significant potential to mobilise various resources domestically and externally, and from both the private and public sectors. Without an enabling environment, it will be hard to generate the resources needed to accomplish the SDGs. Thus, the primary conclusion is that a willing and capable government that is determined to reform PFM systems and generate more resources is well-prepared to achieve the 2030 Agenda. Without improving the quality of governance and creating an enabling domestic environment, implementation of the 2030 Agenda would be impossible. Where capacity lacks, numerous national and international means of implementation are available.