Sustainable Development Goals – A way forward for Pakistan!

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Muntaha Talat

Research Associate – IICR

Driving on the roads of Pakistan, you might have observed the spark in the eyes of a child selling flowers on the road to earn money, or a hungry boy picking up food from the leftovers, or a homeless family living on a footpath. This might have caught your attention forcing you to think about the striking difference that exists in the lifestyle of the people residing in this country and across the globe.

Although mankind has this instinct to strive and struggle throughout their life but the difference that divides the people between the rich and poor and the problems that accompany it are necessary to be dealt with on priority. Do you know that there are 689 million people, (9.2%) of the world population living under extreme poverty, with the situation worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, and this brings forward the numerous challenges they have to face that most of us are unaware of.

Sustainable Development Goals or the SDGs are a global effort to curb poverty, hunger, injustice, climate change, and other major challenges faced by the world. Adopted by all the member states of the United Nations in 2015, these 17 goals were a way forward for both the developed and developing countries. They aimed to opt for strategies that bring peace and prosperity in the world, along with the provision of better facilities to the people and to protect the environment.

This 2030 agenda for sustainable development opens the door for the countries to take steps towards a better future. It accounts for the integrated and interconnected efforts that unleash positive outcomes for all the aspects as a result of work done on any one aspect. Out of all the member states, Pakistan was the first country to make the SDGs as part of their national development agenda in February 2016. Is Pakistan on the right track or it has more to do is the point of concern here.

The global pledge for a better future in the form of SDGs is a ray of hope for many. However, the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be a major hurdle, as it affected millions of people, claimed 2.3 Million deaths, and pushed 20 million people back into poverty. With the lost income and inflation being the main reason for the increased ratio of people falling below the poverty line, Pakistan’s response in tackling the pandemic was considerably better. With effective strategies, the PTI government was somehow successful in containing the spread of pandemic and reducing its after-effects to a great extent.

Pakistan stood at 115 position out of 149 countries in 2016, while in 2019, it ranked 130th out of 167 countries. However, in 2020 its position slipped to 134 according to a sustainable development report. Pakistan was ranked lowest in South Asia, as Bangladesh and India took lead with 107th and 116th rank respectively. Currently, our SDGs score is 56.17/100 which is significantly low as compared to the other South Asian states. One of the prime reasons for this is the absence of a national assessment report for the year 2020, and the unavailability of the latest data that had to be collected through the surveys. Government officials say that the report is in draft form and data collection got delayed due to the pandemic.

Pakistan however showed a committed stance towards working on SDGs and formulated SDG units on federal and provincial levels. Moreover, a framework designed to achieve the desired goals was approved by the National Economic Council, which is chaired by the Prime Minister and is the country’s highest platform for approval of plans to implement policies. A number of policies have been planned and implemented since 2016 and most of the work has been done on SDG-4 (Quality Education), SDG – 8 (Decent work and economic growth), and SDG-16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions). Apart from this under the current tenure of the PTI government, various projects including the Sehat Sahulat Program and The Lady Health Workers Program have proved to be a great initiative in the provision of better health facilities. Prime Minister Imran Khan had his focus on the environment and climate change as well and his initiative of the Billion Tree Tsunami Project received worldwide appreciation.

Despite all the challenges, Pakistan’s current leadership is showing commitment towards the achievement of SDGs. Steps taken for the betterment of citizens of Pakistan are going to yield magnificent results in the times coming up. With continued dedication towards the cause, it is hoped that in 2030, the terminal year of SDGs Pakistan will be celebrating prosperity and progress InshaAllah!