NCHD A Face Of Human Development In Pakistan


Hassan Baig

Human Development is defined as the process of enlarging people’s freedoms & opportunities and improving their well-being. Human Development is about the real freedom, which ordinary people have to decide who to be, what to be and how to be. Now, Health and Education have also been acknowledged & included as the most important drivers of human development. The dismal picture of Human Development in Pakistan as portrayed in UNDP Human Development Index (HDI) Report has indeed raised the eyebrows of many across Pakistan. I being representative of the only National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) am the most effective in the series.  Unfortunately, Pakistan’s HDI value for 2019 is 0.560 which put the country in the medium human development category, positioning it at 152 out of 189 countries and territories.

Following the UN Millennium Summit held in September 2000, where Pakistan became a signatory to the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), improvement in the status of human development in Pakistan assumed urgency.

In order to convert this concept into reality, the then President of Pakistan established a Task Force on Human Development (September 2001), with a mandate to find innovative solutions to improve and fill implementation gaps in social service delivery at the grassroots in the sector of Education, Health and Poverty Alleviation. The following deficiencies in delivery of social services in Pakistan were identified by the Task Force:

  • Inadequate capacity, competency and managerial efficiencies within:
    •  Government line departments
    •  Elected representatives
    •  Private sector delivery system (NGOs, CBOs)
  • Lack of community participation and decision making rights;
  • Lack of integration/coordination in planning and implementation; and,
  • Gaps in service delivery, quality and financing.

After extensive research the panel proposed a National Commission to lead the country in a coordinated manner towards human development. Thus, NCHD was established as a Federal Autonomous Body under Cabinet Division by a Presidential Ordinance in 2002, and mandated to support the district line department, elected representatives and Civil Society Organizations, in Education, Health and Capacity building of the Line Departments, launched a phase wise program on Literacy and Universalization of Primary Education (UPE) based on the adapted best practices, in the whole of the country, with the approval of the Federal Government.

However from July 29, 2011 NCHD has been placed under the Federal Education and Professional Training Division by amending Rules of Business 1973.

NCHD is an innovative public private partnership (PPP) between the Government of Pakistan and Pakistan Human Development Fund (PHDF) for improving social sector delivery to deal with the challenges of human development in Pakistan. NCHD takes a holistic approach to human development, focusing on people’s needs.  It works through existing frameworks to leverage human and financial resources, building capacity, raising awareness, promoting community participation and volunteerism, and encouraging public-private partnerships.

The Commission successfully overcame the initial challenge of delivering social services on a ‘scale’ and established outreach nationally in a brief span. NCHD started its operations in 2002 in just two districts, Mardan and Narowal.  Since then it has scaled up its network, and its programs are now being implemented in 134 districts/administrative units out of total 150 Districts across Pakistan. The main premise of the human development approach is that expanding peoples’ freedoms is both the main aim of, and the principal means for sustainable development. If inequalities in human development persist and grow, the aspirations of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will remain unfulfilled.

Accordingly, NCHD is well poised to assume a pioneering role in reshaping and influencing the movement for social change in Pakistan. NCHD as per its mandate conferred upon through the ordinance and The Decision of the Honorable Supreme Court of Pakistan is a potential organization to support the government in achieving the following Sustainable Development Goals by the year 2030.

  • End poverty in all its forms everywhere (Goal #1)
  • End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition.(Goal # 2)
  • Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all age.(Goal # 3)
  • Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.(Goal #4)
  • Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.(Goal #5)
  • Ensure access to water and sanitation for all. (Goal #6)
  • Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.(Goal #8)
  • Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (Goal#13)
  • Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies (Goal #16)

NCHD has vast experience of running large scale programmes related to MDGs, EFA i.e. Education, Health, Capacity Development, Poverty Alleviation, Environment Protection etc. There is a responsibility gap at the national level with regards to Govt. of Pakistan’s International and regional commitments like SDGs and Vision 2025. NCHD may be given the responsibility to address the responsibility gap. No special legislation will be required to assign the desired role to NCHD and the most important of all no Start-up Cost will be required. It is the only potential organization to achieve the international commitments and SDGs’ Targets in Pakistan.

One of the Prime mandates of NCHD is to help Pakistan achieve the target of 90% literacy  as envisioned in the vision 2025 in order to achieve this goal, the commission has prioritized and a two pronged approach towards this:

  1. Dealing with the back log of adult illiterates by implementing Adult literacy programs in the communities.
  2. Ensuring that all children should be enrolled and retained in schools for the completion of full primary schooling cycle through its Universal Primary Education Program.

In order to achieve gender equity, equality NCHD launched its mass Literacy initiative in August 2002 to support the Ministry of Education. The goal of the Program is to enhance adult literacy in Pakistan, with special emphasis on female literacy. NCHD realizes that the issue of female literacy is built on sharply differentiated gender roles. Therefore, the issue of planning, gender mainstreaming, programming and matching resources for equitable provision of female education has to be addressed. Over the long run, it is expected that educating females will improve the status of women in Pakistan.

NCHD Literacy program has been recognized both internationally and at the national level. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has conferred the UNESCO International Reading Association Literacy Award for 2006 on the recommendation of the International Literacy Prize Jury on the NCHD for increasing the literacy ratio in Pakistan by implementing a community based and effective  intervention design. The Award consists of a medallion, prize of US $ 20,000 and a certificate. Recognizing the achievement of increasing the literacy ratio and the nation-wide scale (covering all districts and federal agencies) of the NCHD in field of literacy, the President of Pakistan has declared the NCHD as Lead Agency for Literacy in Pakistan.

First and foremost, NCHD has been working with the Federal and Provincial Governments through their education departments in primary education to achieve the target of 100% enrolment of children (age group 5-7 years) in schools. Preventing dropout of children from schools and reducing the dropout rate from the current level of 50% to less than 20% and ensuring quality education through teachers training. NCHD is the only organization which has established National Training Institute (NTI) in 2017 for training on the Non-formal and Accelerated Learning Programs.

From August 2002 to 2020 in a period of about 18 years, the Commission has made commendable success in all its established programs. Till December 2008, the outreach of NCHD’s programs was in 122 districts of Pakistan. NCHD has reached to 134 districts during 2019-20. NCHD has::

  • Supported enrolment of 16 million out of school children (5-7 years) under its UPE Program
  • Established 10, 939 Community Feeder Schools (CFs) and provided about 15, 000 Feeder Teachers in Govt. Primary School to   cater for the increased enrolment
  • Trained 296,276 teachers in enrolment, dropout prevention and quality education
  • Established over 170,190 Adult Literacy Centers
  •  Made 3.98 million Adults literate with 92% females
  • Trained more than 187,000 teachers on adult literacy teaching techniques, and assessment of learning achievements
  • Trained about 2000 professionals of 100 civil society organizations in Implementation of Literacy Program
  • Trained 12,000 Literacy Supervisors in Management   of literacy centers
  • Provided door to door preventive health care to 1.17 million Households
  • Trained 16.68 million women in preparation and usage of ORS in 80 districts
  • Vaccinated over 669,000 women and children all over Pakistan
  • Screened 2.67 million children for eye sight and hearing problems under School Health Program
  • Launched Relief Operations for over 3.0 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Swat, Buner, Shangla, Lower Dir of Khyber Pakhtonkhwa Province and Wazirastan.
  • Established 620 medical camps, extended treatment to 4,512 patients and distributed medicines worth Rs. 37 million among the IDPs
  • Identified  and  registered  478, 941  volunteers  across Pakistan  and  trained  them  in  community participation techniques  in  education  and  health  programs  at grassroots level
  • Trained 11,261  EDOs/Govt. Officials  and  elected  representatives in planning & budgeting
  • Trained 4,384  elected  representatives  on  their  role  in  Zilla Management Committees / Citizen Community Boards (CCBs)
  • Trained 2,437  EDOs,  DOs  and  TMA  officers  on  their  role  in operationalization of CCBs.
  • A total of US$ 27.14 million has been mobilized through global and local resources.

Despite being a relatively young organization, NCHD has already established a niche for itself by becoming an International Best Practice through the positive outcome of its interventions, its contribution for promotion of human development through literacy & volunteerism, and is being promoted as a model public private partnership (PPP) for replication in other developing countries:

  • Pakistan has become the first country in the developing world to set up a National Volunteer Corps for achievement of MDGs through NCHD, whose key role was acknowledged by United Nations (UN) Secretary General in his General Assembly address (2003).
  • NCHD co-hosted the first ever UN-sponsored International Conference on Volunteerism and MDGs held in Pakistan in Dec. 2004 involving participation of experts from over 30 countries, whose findings contributed in enhancing awareness about the role of Volunteering.
  • NCHD has been presented as a Model organization to be emulated for achieving MDGs in developing countries by the UN. This is attested by the high-powered Chinese delegation visit in March 2005, facilitated by UNDP, to study the NCHD’s PPP model for replication in China.
  • NCHD literacy program was awarded the prestigious UNESCO International Reading Association Literacy Prize in 2006 for increasing the literacy ratio in Pakistan.
  • In September 2010, NCHD was declared the Lead Agency for spread of literacy programmes in Pakistan in recognition of its efforts in promoting literacy in the country and the efficacy of its literacy model.
  • The findings of three independent Third-Party Evaluations by UNDP (2004 and 2006) and Shell Pakistan Ltd. (2005) have endorsed the NCHD model and recognized the positive contribution made by NCHD in the social sector delivery in its operational districts.

Keeping in view the above track record NCHD may effectively be used by the Present Government and it may play its pivotal future role in paving the ways for achieving the Human Development Targets in Pakistan by supporting and facilitating Provincial Ministries of Education through its unique programs of Universal Primary Education and Adult Literacy by Imparting literacy and numeracy skills to illiterate adults  (15+ Years) through;

  1. Basic Literacy Centers                  ii.   Post literacy centers

iii.  Quranic Literacy Centers              iv.   Mobile based literacy

  1. Literacy Centers in Jails               vi.   Community Learning centers

vii. Literacy centers at work places    viii. Each one Teach one Initiative

Provide basic education to illiterate out-of-school children (10-14 Years) through schools/centers based on Accelerated Learning/condensed syllabus of 32 months. NCHD may act as an Implementing Partner for BISP and different components of EHSAS program through its trained human resource and country wide out reach benefiting from its rich experience in social development sector. Through its vast network of volunteers, NCHD can play a significant role in successful execution of Government initiatives like ‘Clean and Green Pakistan’ .

NCHD has completed the ‘Mainstreaming of Madaris’ project in Federal Areas and currently implementing ALP syllabus in 100 Deeni Madaris in the provinces. NCHD is currently supporting Directorate General of Religious Education (DGRE) through all its districts offices and 137 Staff as District Registration & Facilitation Officers. NCHD may be given full responsibility of this important national initiative in future as it is the only Federal organization with an access and mandate to work throughout Pakistan in wake of 18th Constitutional Amendment.

However, the unforeseen financial constraints have always restrained it partially from delivering vital services to the nation. After giving valuable services to government line departments, ministries, district and local governments for about 18 years, it is now high time for NCHD to move from project to a complete program for the uninterrupted delivery of its most needed services in the field of Human Development which will help the government to achieve its international commitments on SDGs and Vision 2025 through its unique programs in the next 10 years.

The writer is an Analyst and   Economic Expert. He can be reached at