Empowering communities key to achieving SDGs: Sartaj

Published: September 16, 2017
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Planning Commission deputy chief says inability to translate MDGs into local goals led to its failure. PHOTO: FILE

Planning Commission deputy chief says inability to translate MDGs into local goals led to its failure. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a convention of local support organisations (LSOs) on Friday emphasised on the need for including communities in the development process, both at the planning and implementation stages.

Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Sartaj Aziz, who headlined the convention, said that community institutions led by locals were key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Since communities living in different areas face a diverse range of issues and challenges, and local knowledge and context allows them to overcome such challenges in an indigenous way, it is fundamental that they are made a part of the development planning and implementation process at the local level to achieve SDGs,” Aziz said.

The convention had been organised by the Rural Support Programmes Network (RSPN), a network of 11 rural support programmes (RSPs) working on poverty alleviation in 137 districts of Pakistan.

LSOs work with public institutions at the union council level fostered by RSPs and led by local community members which form linkages with government departments and civil society organisations to undertake development initiatives well aligned with the local context.

RSPN and RSPs have so far fostered 1,457 LSOs, including 394 women-only LSOs. The national convention of LSOs is a platform where representatives from these organisations from across Pakistan, representatives of donor organisations, government officials, diplomats and development practitioners gather for sharing their experience, mutual learning and showcasing development initiatives taken by organised communities.

Aziz, however, was critical of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – terming them a “top-down mechanism” and “essentially a bureaucratic process”, which is why a number of countries, including Pakistan, missed out on achieving them.

“UN, and we all have learnt and hence the goals were increased from eight to seventeen in the SDGs, with more focus on social sector and improving people’s lives,” he explained.

“We could not localise the MDGs, but since SDGs is an international standard, we need to convert them to integrate within the local context. We have started converting SDGs into national goals. It is equally important to convert them into provincial and local goals to enhance public’s understanding and mobilise them to achieve SDGs,” he stressed.

Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) Chairperson Marvi Memon said Pakistan was progressing towards achieving SDGs since all national development programmes were now integrated with SDGs. She said communities’, particularly for women, financial inclusion was the key to sustainable development.

In his remarks, EU Ambassador Jean-François Cautain said that the 2030 agenda for achieving Sustainable Development adopted by the UN in September 2015 is the international community’s response to global challenges and trends in relation to sustainable development and the evolution from the MDGs to the SDGs is reflected in the change in approach to global development.

“We believe that sustainable development can only happen if communities at the local level are taking charge of their own development because only strong and well-organised communities can demand quality services from the government and make officials accountable,” he said.

RSPN Chairman Shoaib Sultan Khan said that community institutions work as the social pillar to supplement and complement the political and administrative pillars of the state.

“Empowering these LSOs is so important to achieve SDGs,” he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 16th, 2017.

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