Tracking the SDGs

Published : 10 April 2018

EVEN with the best of intentions, it is unlikely many countries will achieve the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals given the confluence of multiple challenges facing world leaders — more poverty and disease, more inequality and injustice, and the growing impact of climate change. A comprehensive report in Dawn recently tracked the performance of Pakistan’s crucial socioeconomic indicators, reminding the government that it has until end 2018 to get its act together before submitting its first progress report to the UN. Admittedly, there is a lot of work to be done to implement even certain critical goals. And because these are ambitious targets, they require mandated institutions and commitment — including national resources — if we are to achieve them by 2030 as stipulated. These are prerequisites for sustainable development that successive governments have not prioritised. National and provincial policies developed in silos do not help, especially when they are not supported by resources, timelines or political will. Consider just these statistics: 44 per cent of children in Pakistan are stunted and 60pc of the country is food insecure. Given this sorry state of affairs, trying to achieve the 169 targets that comprise the SDGs seems a pipe dream when even in the best of times it has been impossible to eliminate extreme poverty and inequality and effectively address climate change.

If the champions of reform who have aligned the SDGs with Pakistan Vision 2025 are seriously committed to people’s betterment, they must adopt a realistic approach by selecting certain pressing issues — fighting poverty and improving health and literacy indicators — and deliver on their promises. Effective implementation that translates blueprints into reality is a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. It is globally accepted that a locally driven approach is critical for improving human development indicators. This becomes impossible when politics of greed, the kind witnessed at the provincial government level, cuts out grass-roots leadership as an effective partner. When infant mortality is the bellwether for broader progress on poverty and health initiatives, for example, local government infrastructure can prevent these deaths through poverty alleviation policies and medical care. Even before the promise of the SDGs — and its predecessor, the MDGs — past governments came up with snazzy policies and road maps. Political disinterest led to all of them eventually disappearing into the ether. A renewed chance at working in tandem with a global development agenda should motivate the government into meaningful action.

Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2017

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