This year, Pakistan is due to present Voluntary National Review (VNR) in the United Nations in July 2022. Participation in VNR aims to share the SDGs implementation progress with the donors and relevant stakeholders.
Earlier, Pakistan gave their VNR in 2019, as per rules. Pakistan will present its VNR of five goals; SDG-4: Education; SDG-5: Gender; Goal 14: Life on Land; Goal 15: Life Below Water; Goal 17: Partnership and Development.
Currently, Pakistan stands number 130th from the top and 129th from the bottom. In addition, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) statistics, Pakistan is constantly ranked among the most vulnerable countries due to poor resilience and high exposure to climate change impacts.
For this purpose, the SDG Secretariat of Pakistan has set up the hierarchy of the federal and provincial SDG task forces and parliamentary task forces to reflect on the current progress on global goals.
Accordingly, the task is essential in compliance with the execution of the 18th amendment to Pakistan’s constitution that devolved most government apparatus to form a federal mandate to the independent provinces.
SDGs Task Force
The task force aims to enhance the representation of each region by maintaining gender balance and minority representation from all parties.
The provincial task forces have been actively linked with leveraging gaps between experts, practitioners, government representatives, academia, civil society, and media to pave a way forward for finding the local solutions specifically for marginalized communities.
In 2013, the countrywide discussion on crucial development sectors and areas identified the need for investment during the goal-setting stage.
Consequently, Pakistan drafted its 12th Five Year Plan and provincial medium-term development strategies with the 2030 sustainable development Agenda.
Most importantly, Pakistan is the pioneer in adopting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of its national development plan through the National Assembly resolution.
Federal and Provincial Assemblies in Pakistan set up special task forces to oversee the progress in this sector.
According to the report on Pakistan’s Implementation of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the recent projects in Pakistan are designed around the No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well Being, Gender Equality, Affordable Clean Energy, Decent Work and Economic environment, Climate action, and Partnerships for the Goals.
In addition, Pakistan has set up seven SDG support units to streamline vertical and horizontal coordination among different government and non-governmental stakeholders.
The Federal Ministry of Planning, Development, and Reform (MoLD&R), provincial and administrative area Planning & Development Department (P&DDs) has played an instrumental role in collating Pakistan’s first Voluntary National Review (VNR).
Fundings for SDGs
Pakistan’s development projects are financed through global, non-voluntary contributors from the United Nations core resources and bilateral and multilateral donors.
UNDP is playing an instrumental role in the cost-sharing of the ongoing project. The following figure shows the snapshot of the top ten donors for the ongoing projects in Pakistan.
The diversity in the donors contributing to UNDP programs shows their confidence in the national and provincial governments to achieve the shared goal of sustainable development.
Legislative Mapping of SDGs
The Secretariat aims to identify and analyze SDGs interventions and status by listing all the indicators on the Map.
Further, the Secretariat has also passed and implemented numerable resolutions and Private Member bills to enhance SDG implementation status in Pakistan.
SDG Secretariat is also responsible for publishing quarterly SDG reports, watch magazines, and newsletters. The Taskforce meets and discusses several issues during every session of the National Assembly.
The Secretariat staff is also responsible for data sharing, initiating consultations with relevant stakeholders, and think tanks to oversee the interventions in the parliamentary business.
Parliamentary Business on SDGs
Since its inception, the Secretariat has made the report’s findings enactment of the valuable parliamentary businesses, including:
- Private Member Bills Passed by National Assembly (2) Gender Equality, Good Health.
- Private Member Bills Introduced (5) Gender Equality, Mother and Child Health, Clean Energy and Water.
- Resolutions (18) Health, Education, Climate Change, Gender Equality, Child Rights.
- Calling Attentions (40) Climate Change, Routine Immunization, Women, Water, WASH.
- The motion under Rule 259 (8) Health, Energy, Peace, Water, Quality Education.
SDGs Implementation Status in Punjab & Sindh
Back in 2022, the United Nations Development Fund Punjab (UNDP), in collaboration with the Planning and Development Department of South Punjab, launched two reports on the District SDGs Profiles and South Punjab SDGs Indicators Reports.
Consequently, the District SDGs Profiles Report is the flagship step in localizing SDG Agenda 2030 at the district level.
The report will serve as a cardinal instrument in policy guidance for district administrations to achieve effective SDGs implementation.
Additionally, the core focus of the information is to reduce the regional inequalities while catering to socio-economic and environmental challenges faced at the district level.
While focusing on South Punjab’s comprehensive regional development as a core factor, the Punjab SDG unit has addressed the data computation gap and has updated data on forty indicators.
Sindh is the hotspot of climate change impacts due to recurrent extreme heat waves and flooding in the province has resulted in massive destruction of agricultural land, fisheries, and livelihood of the people.
Challenges in Sindh
Meanwhile, the provincial Government in Sindh also focused on localizing existing resources to implement Agenda 2030. The local government aims to address the socio-economic challenges which achieve sustainable development in the country.
Most importantly, adequate resources have been set up to document and reflect on the data generated during the developmental process.
Lack of access to financial resources, high cost of implementation, and lack of transparency during the execution phase while addressing challenges faced by the provincial Government in SDGs implementation and performance.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan
Pakistan has made significant progress in implementing SDG 5; Gender Equality. A specific focus on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan have witnessed a reduction in violence against women to 23.5 percent and 34 percent, respectively.
The highest number of untrained youths belonged to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 38 percent. The province of Baluchistan has made significant progress in the realm of education.
The government ensures equitable and quality primary and secondary education for the children regardless of age, gender, or other discrimination.
The legislative strives also strengthened to fill the legislative gaps, including alternative modes of education for children, adolescents, and adults. The below-listed tables provide descriptive insight into the acts enacted for SDGs implementation in the country.
Laws enacted under SDGs
Under SDG 2 (Zero hunger), the Pakistan Halal Authority Act, 2016 (Act N. VIII of 2016) was enacted in 2016. In addition, four laws were enacted under SDG 3 (Good health and well-being).
These laws are listed as the West Pakistan Prohibition of Smoking in Cinema Houses (Repeal) Act, 2019 (Act No. I of 2019), the West Pakistan Juvenile Smoking (Repeal) Act, 2018 (Act No. XXXIX of 2018), the Health Services Academy (Restructuring) Act, 2018 (Act No. XXIV of 2018), and the Islamabad Healthcare Regulation Act, 2018 (Act No. XXIII of 2018).
Similarly, the Goal 4 (quality education) includes four acts which are the Institute for Art and Culture Act, 2018 (Act No.XXX1 of 2018), the National Civic Education Commission Act, 2018, The Apprenticeship Act, 2018 (Act No. I of 2018), and the Compulsory Teaching of the Holy Quran Act, 2017 (Act No. XX).
Meanwhile, Pakistan has made significant progress in achieving gender equality through the introduction of laws in twelve categories.
These groups include harassment laws, inheritance laws, trafficking laws, laws related to child domestic workers, domestic violence, sexual offenses, acid and burn crimes, maternity benefits, female infanticide, and dowry-related laws.
Economic Growth for Sustainability
Furthermore, the government also proposed one law “the National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act, 2016 (Act No. XXX of 2016)” to increase access to affordable and clean energy (SDG7) in the country.
In addition, four distinct laws for access to decent work and economic growth have been proposed since its inception.
These laws are listed as the Companies Act, 2017 (Act No. XIX of 2017), the House Building Finance Corporation (Repeal) Act, 2018 (Act No. XXV of 2018), the Establishment of the Federal Bank for Cooperatives and Regulation of Cooperative Banking (Repeal) Act, 2018 (Act No. XXVI of 2018), and the National Assembly Secretariat Employees Act, 2018.
Also, Pakistan joined the global community in the accreditation process by proposing The Pakistan National Accreditation Council Act, 2017 (Act No. VI of 2017) under SDG 10 (reduced inequalities).
Along with this, another law on “the Pakistan International Airlines Corporation (Conversion) Act, 2016 (Act No. XV of 2016)” was enacted to achieve sustainable cities.
Further, Pakistan demonstrated remarkable progress in enhancing access to peace, justice, and strong institutions (SDG 16) by enacting nine major laws.
These laws include the Islamabad Subordinate Judiciary Service Tribunal Act, 2016 (Act No. V of 2016), the Publication of Laws of Pakistan Act, 2016 (Act. XIII of 2016), the Equity Participation Fund (Repeal) Act, 2016 (Act No. XXI of 2016).
Likewise, the Corporate Restructuring Companies Act, 2016 (Act No. XXXII of 2016), and the Deposit Protection Corporation Act, 2016 (Act No. XXXVII of 2016) also strengthen the judicial system.
Moreover, the Members of the Election Commission (Salary, Allowances, Perks and Privileges Act, 2016) (Act. XLII), the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 2017 (Act No. V of 2017), the Public-Private Partnership Authority Act, 2017 (Act No. VIII of 2017) and the Limited Liability Partnership Act, 2017 (Act No. XV of 2017).
Progress in Achieving SDGs
The implementation status of SDGs in Pakistan is different across different cities and districts. The official review of the quality of SDGs implementation in Pakistan shows that the pandemic has been a massive setback for sustainable development in the country.
The aftershocks of the pandemic can still be felt in the form of high inflation, unemployment (SD8G 8), and an increase in poverty (SDG 1).
The income of 6.7 million people declined while unaccounted households were forced to cut their expenditures on Non-food items (SDG 2).
In general, the enthusiasm demonstrated at the Initiation phase enjoying commitment to SDGs has significantly reduced over time, according to the Federal SDG report 2021.
Despite the country’s progress in disaster preparedness, access to health facilities, and the IoT and broadband services, the country’s improvement is modest in other sectors.
Federal SDG Report 2021 Outcomes
According to the Federal SDG report 2021, Pakistan’s progress in poverty reduction has been steady. During 2018-2019, 9.3 million people emerged from the national poverty line.
Accordingly, undernourishment declined by 4.2% from 2015 to 2019 under SDG 2. From 2013 to 2018, stunted growth and wasting in children reduced by 7%. Similarly, significant progress in the healthcare sector has been achieved under SDG 3.
For instance, the number of deaths during pregnancies and birth has reduced by 33 percent between 2007-2019, increasing labor attended skills by 10% from 2013-to 2018. National vaccination coverage also improved by 11.5 percent in the same time frame.
Moreover, the progress on SDG 4 is not commendable. The prevailing gender gap remains at 9 percent, whereas the completion rate has stagnated at 67 percent. The national literacy rate stagnates at 60 percent.
In addition, access to clean water resources (SDG 6) has significantly improved at the national and provincial levels. In Baluchistan, access to clean water will increase by 17 percent by 2020.
Ninety-four percent of the population has access to water, and the status of hand washing facilities and toilets has also increased.
The level of investment in renewable energy (SDG 7) has grown by four foods from 2015-to 2019. Ninety-six percent population of the country is on the grid.
Downward Trend in SDGs Implementation
Consequently, the review of the progress on SDG 8 shows a decline to -3.36 percent during 2019-2020 due to adequate education and training facilities for the youth. The child labor and employment rate has declined by 2 percent.
On the other hand, SDG 9 demonstrated moderate progress. Nearly 88 percent of the rural population lives near paved roads.
In response to SDG 12, Pakistan is committed to addressing the issue of safe disposal and management of hazardous waste in compliance with the Basel Convention.
Pakistan’scontributions to SDG 13 (Climate Action) remain minimal. Recently, the country has incorporated Disaster Risk Reduction with national strategies; however, greenhouse gas emissions have increased by 2.5 percent since 2015.
Additionally, the government has maintained its fish stocks at a minimum of 30 percent by 2020 (SDG 14).
The forest cover of Pakistan has remained unchanged at 5 percent, which is questionable due to the tremendous rate of urban sprawl and growing population (SDG 15).
Access to Justice
Pakistan has remarkably improved in context to SDG 16 (peace, justice, and strong institutions).
The fast-track digitalization of the country has increased access to the internet for the people countrywide, thus has widened the scope of implementation of SDG 17 (Partnership for Goals).
Pakistan’s SDG Index score range has increased from 53.11 (2015) to 63.49 in 2020. Subsequently, Pakistan has made remarkable progress in Statute of SDG 2, SDG 3, SDG 5, and SDG 16.
The situation of the healthcare system was already ailing before the onset pandemic (SDG 3). The condition worsened with the pandemic.
However, timely financial grants by donor organizations in the form of medication, vaccination, and ventilators averted a major catastrophe in the fifth most populous country in the world.
Also, the access to education and the quality of available curricula in the public and private institutes is a dismal portrayal of inadequate policies and a weak governance system in the country.
To meet the enormous demands of the population, the country requires an effective financial inclusion plan to provide and regenerate long-term financial solutions for SDGs.
The government cannot survive without transparency and accountability for ongoing projects. Although massive investment in the formal structure for goal achievement, the country’s progress at the legal forefront is constantly declining except for Goal 5 (Gender Equality) and Goal 16 (Peace, justice, and strong institutions).
Essential Steps for SDGs Implementation
It is the need of time that the country must take immediate steps to address the current issues to achieve the targets set in Agenda 2030 of sustainable development.
It is the only chance the government can enter the list of upper-middle countries by 2030. Meanwhile, reviewing the current trends and progress concerning the SDGs implementation status in Pakistan shows that the country needs stringent measures to complete ongoing projects to meet the Sustainable Agenda 2030.
Similarly, the government also needs transparency and accountability during the data collection and dissemination.
*The writer is a Research Fellow at The Diplomatic Insight and Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies
**The Diplomatic Insight does not take any position on issues and the views represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Diplomatic Insight and its staff.