Implementation of SDGs is in the national interest
ON 25 September 2015, 193 countries of the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Development Agenda titled as transforming our world.
The world leaders during the said high-level meeting pledged to transform the world by adopting “the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) with the idea to work together in partnership to fight against hunger, deprivation, illness, want and maladies our planet is facing including discrimination in all its forms and nuances.
The SDGs is a framework of 17 goals, 169 associated targets and 247 indicators which replaced the earlier expired Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The 2030 agenda specifically focuses on five areas namely people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership which are called as Five Ps.
On 16 February 2016, Parliament of Pakistan was among the first which unanimously approved the SDGs as the National Development Agenda.
There are mainly 17 Sustainable Development Goals which have been adopted by the UN member ountries and Pakistan is among one of them, which include no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure, Reduced Inequality, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action, Life Below Water, Life on Land, Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions and Partnerships for the Goals
According to the Sustainable Development Goal Index, recent ranking in 2021, Pakistan has ranked 129th out of 165 countries, which should be a point of concern to the parliamentarians and policy-makers.
Pakistan has 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.
It should be a positive expectation of every stakeholder, particularly representing in Parliament and working in government at both federal and provincial levels that there would not be repeating the earlier dismal performance of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when Pakistan had missed almost all targets.
Though, at the federal level, three separate SDG units have been created — one at the Prime Minister Office, another at parliament led by Speaker and yet another at the Planning Commission but these do not have an internal interface for policy coordination and implementation mechanism.
The first two units have huge funds at their disposal on an annual basis; with allocations estimated at Rs.55 billion in the form of the Prime Minister’s SDG programme (Rs30bn) and Rs.12.5bn each for clean drinking water for all and electricity for all.
Pakistan has seen some moderate improvements in the goals for poverty, health, water and sanitation, decent work, peace and justice and partnership, but it has made no progress on zero hunger, quality education, gender equality, clean energy, innovation, sustainable cities and communities and even went backwards on life below water.
There is another aspect to have negligible information about the outcome of the spending made through parliamentarians.
The Deputy Chairman Planning Commission of Pakistan should replicate these goals as National Development Goals and should also be made part of the five year plan now by prioritising education, health, economic well-being, water, peace and security and affordable energy, in that order.
Another problem, which is being seen in implementation of SDGs at the grass-root level that was noted, was the absence of administrative and financial powers of the district governments.
An even greater challenge was how to create awareness and knowledge about how critical the SDG goals were to uplifting the lives of the people and how to make the process sustainable.
At the Planning Commission level, the authorities proposing any big project are required to articulate if and how much their project papers were related to the SDGs.
But more importantly, authorities have to work closely with experts of all relevant fields with a strong implementation mechanism on balancing outcomes of various goals.
Pakistan’s performance on prevalence of poverty is impressive with only 4.1pc of the population reported poor at $1.90 per day and estimated to go further down to 0.2pc by 2030.
Pakistan is also very poor in terms of water quality despite a number of initiatives at the federal and provincial level.
The indicators have gone down drastically over the last 10-15 years resulting negatively on health and nutrition and resultantly education.
Poor water quality arose out of untreated industrial waste and arsenic flowing into drinking water resources, causing increased prevalence of hepatitis, cancer and other diseases.
Through implementing SDGs, we as a country can improve our social and economic indicators and can improve the standards of life to our citizens.
Pakistan’s performance would be assessed in about 230 unique indicators on 17 goals set under UN commitments, thus a lot to have been required now on a war footing for the well-being of citizens across the country by all the relevant institutions under one full fledged National Secretariat for implementation SDG goals.
There is now urgent need for taking immediate concrete and substantial steps and to prepare a professionally best framework/working plan by the relevant experts under one secretariat/umbrella at federal level with targets oriented approach, and to include the best practices of other countries for implementation of 17 SDGs goals by setting our priorities of SDGs and finally to work closely day and night with provinces, local governments and all related government departments in implementing SDGs goals in larger interest of the people of Pakistan and for compliance of Pakistan international commitment.
There is no second saying at conclusion that Implementation of Sustainable Development Goals is actually of those initiatives which are in Pakistan’s national, social and economic interests and they are also in line with citizen’s fundamental rights and points prescribed as Principles of Policy in the Constitution of Pakistan.
—The writer has served on many important quasi judicial positions including Chairman, Customs, Excise & Sales Tax Appellate Tribunal.