In 2015, the United Nations set out 17 goals that serve as a blueprint for achieving a more sustainable future by addressing the challenges people face all around the world. This blog presents the significance of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and why Pakistan needs to achieve these goals to raise the standard of living in the country. The blog also presents how Pakistan can use these goals to have complete sustainable development by 2030.
- What are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
- Why does Pakistan need the SDGs?
- What has Pakistan achieved overall after adopting these goals?
- What are the challenges faced by Pakistan in implementation of the SDGs?
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were conceived at a United Nations conference in 2012 and were subsequently adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 to protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030 (UNDP, 2020). The SDGs replaced the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which started in 2000 to tackle poverty. At the time, measurable and universally agreed objectives were established to end extreme poverty, hunger, prevent deadly disease, and provide education to all children. The achievements amassed under the MDGs provided valuable lessons to work on new goals as the job remains unfinished for millions of people around the world. The SDGs are an urgent call to the world to shift towards a more sustainable path of socio-economic development. Therefore, the SDGs are a commitment to finish what has already started. The SDGs are connected together with success in one affecting the other. For instance, how we deal with our natural resources will ultimately impact climate change, and achieving better health will also help eradicate poverty. All in all, it is the single greatest chance of improving living conditions for the future generations of humanity.
Pakistan’s Journey Towards Sustainable Development Goals
Pakistan was the first country to integrate the SDGs into its national development agenda in February 2016. The country made significant progress by mainstreaming these goals in national policies and strategies. In 2018, a National SDGs framework was designed to prioritise and localise SDGs (Ministry of Planning, 2018). At present, there is a firm stance on strengthening institutions, ensuring meritocracy, and introducing transparency at all levels. By establishing federal and provincial SDG units, Pakistan has achieved monitoring and evaluation processes which are crucial for supporting SDG implementation. Pakistan has had progress on several fronts such as reducing poverty and child stunting, increase in transparency and accountability, and promotion of gender equality and women empowerment. Support Units have been installed at the federal and provincial level to improve vertical and horizontal coordination among different levels of government. Not all goals can be fulfilled at the same time; therefore, the Framework designed by the National Economic Council (NEC) is used for guiding provinces in determining their development priorities based on local needs. Pakistan has seen the greatest number of legislations related to SDG 16 (‘Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions’), SDG 8 (‘Decent Work and Economic Growth’) and SDG 4 (‘Quality Education’).
Pakistan’s Progress on SDGs
Pakistan has faced issues related to economic stability throughout its history. It was ranked lower than its regional peers in the SDGs global index, but this does not mean that the country is not achieving anything in the process. Although Pakistan presented a dismal performance in its Millennium Development Goals, it is promising to see that it is ready to deliver on its SDG targets till 2030. Pakistan aims to establish a socio-economic system to end poverty, where every person can earn more than $1.25 a day. Another goal is to end hunger and malnutrition. Pakistan produces enough food to feed all its citizens, but a recent survey has shown that 60 percent of it goes to waste (Aqsa, 2013). Pakistan is also promoting an atmosphere of medical awareness to address the upsurge of disease. Lastly, the biggest problem Pakistan faces is the lack of sustainable energy production. Pakistan can also use its weather and climate to utilise a wide variety of renewable energy sources. In the past four years, Pakistan has slid 15 notches on the UN Sustainable Development Goals index. The country ranked 115th in 2016, went down to 117th in 2017, and then to 122nd in 2018 before reaching the 130th spot in 2019 (Dawn, 2020).
However, Pakistan continues to make progress despite constant challenges. Poverty has fallen by 26 percent and multi-dimensional poverty by 16 percent. The Ehsaas programme was launched in 2019 to expand social protection and support human capital development. Stunting and malnutrition have declined between 2013 and 2018 by 6 to 9 percent. Realising the nutrition challenges, greater focus is being placed on this issue but is underpinned by the allocation of resources. Skilled birth attendance has improved by 17 percent, while the neonatal mortality rate has fallen by 10 percent during the same period. A universal health coverage initiative, the Sehat Sahulat Programme, was launched in 2019 to provide health insurance coverage to those in need. In the education sector, female literacy remains low, while the rising number of female enrolments show that Pakistan is eliminating gender disparities in education. The National Sanitation Policy 2006 and the National Water Policy 2018 is guiding the improvement in water and sanitation. Access to electricity has also increased by 8 percent. Usage of clean fuels has seen an increase of 11 percent, and this has a positive impact on health and environment sustainability. Pakistan faces an enormous challenge of climate change. Pakistan has surpassed its target due to completion of the Billion Tree plantation drive and has further scaled up the initiative. A new affordable housing scheme, Naya Pakistan Housing Program, has also facilitated the production of homes and is poised to provide housing to millions in the coming years. (Government of Pakistan, 2019)
Challenges for SDG Implementation in Pakistan
Several challenges remain to achieve the SDGs in Pakistan. Financing the SDGs in a slow-growth economic environment is a difficult task. There is also a knowledge and technology gap in developing local solutions and improved governance. The path towards sustainable development is not easy if a country is acting alone. In the case of Pakistan, development has been hampered by fluctuating levels of foreign investment, trade, and development assistance over the years. As long as global partnerships are not encouraged worldwide, the prospects for the development of SDGs remains weak. This global partnership must have different elements, such as development assistance aid, debt relief, trade agreements, and foreign funding. If Pakistan is to achieve its SDGs, it has to pay extra focus on building robust partnerships which prioritise integration through cooperation. Lastly, Pakistan needs strong institutions which can transform the current business trajectory of the country.
Although Pakistan can be seen as going down in its ranking on a yearly basis, nonetheless, progress has been made under the SDG plan. Pakistan has come a far way in alleviating poverty, increasing health standards, improving ease of doing business, and improving the overall environment standards. There are still multiple challenges which plague the implementation of sustainable development goals with scarce financial resources at the centre of all problems. With a focus on global partnership in different sectors of SDG development, Pakistan has a chance of performing better in attaining the targets till 2030.
- The SDGs are an urgent call to the world to shift towards a more sustainable path and approach.
- Pakistan integrated the SDGs into its national development agenda in Feb 2016 and was the first country to do so.
- A National SDGs Framework was designed to prioritise and localise SDGs. By establishing federal and provincial SDG units, Pakistan has achieved monitoring and evaluation processes which are absolutely critical for supporting SDG implementation.
- Poverty has fallen by 26 percent and multi-dimensional poverty by 16 percent.
- Stunting and malnutrition have decreased between 2013 and 2018 by 6 to 9 percent.
- Skilled birth attendance has improved by 17 percent, while the neonatal mortality rate has fallen by 10 percent.
- The National Sanitation Policy 2006 and the National Water Policy 2018 is guiding the improvement in water and sanitation.
Aqsa, K. (2013). Careem and Robin Hood Army on a mission to help poor Pakistanis. Retrieved from Techjuice: https://www.techjuice.pk/careem-and-robin-hood-army-on-a-mission-to-help-poor-pakistanis/
Government of Pakistan. (2019). Pakistan’s Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Voluntary National Review). Government of Pakistan.
Ministry of Planning. (2018). SUMMARY FOR THE NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL – SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS NATIONAL FRAMEWORK. Retrieved from https://www.pc.gov.pk/uploads/report/National_SDGs_Framework_-_NEC_2018.pdf
UNDP. (2020). Sustainable Development Goals. Retrieved from Pakistan UNDP: https://www.pk.undp.org/content/pakistan/en/home/sustainable-development-goals.html