ISLAMABAD: December 14: Climate-resilient low carbon economy, ownership of MDGs, pro-poor good governance can help achieve food security and fight hunger, mal-nutrituion and bring livelihood to 600 million poor in South Asia, said today the South Asian development experts, researchers, scientists and representatives of key non-governmental oranisations in their respective addresses at the second day of the three-day 14th South Asia “Sustainable Development Conference” (SDC).
Held under the theme ‘Re-defining Paradigms of Sustainable Development in South Asia’, the regional moot has been organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Wednesday.
Speaking at the session on ‘Climate Change Concerns and Their Possible Impacts on South Asian Countries’, Bipul Chatterjee of Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) International, India said food insecurity and livelihood threats in South Asia are due to climate change impacts such as flooding and sea levels rise.
He called for adapting to climate resilient measures including low-carbon economy to minimise the ramifications of climate change.
Naseer Memon of Strengthening Participatory Organizations said 70 percent of population depends on agriculture for their livelihood in South Asia and is prone to disasters. He said regional cooperation in terms of knowledge sharing and technical collaboration is vital for disaster management.
Addressing another relevant session on ‘Factors Affecting the Food Security Situation in Resource Constrained Pakistan, the food security experts remarked food availability in market never mean that the poor sections of society have adequate access to it.
Citing inconsistent growth trends in supply and demand of food in Pakistan, Umer Malik of the Mehboob-ul-Haq Human Development Center said access to food and not production is a major challenge due to decreasing purchasing power, insufficient storage capacities and poor investment in agriculture research, land distribution, and agriculture credit distribution. Mehnaz Ajmal of the Oxfam GB said there is a need to protect small holding farmers from the shocks of food price inflation and costs of inputs to ensure food security.
In the panel on ‘Development Beyond the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)’, Dr. Saba Gul Khattak, SDPI lamented over lack of focus on women empowerment.
Afshan Ahmad from Germany called for ownership of MDGs achievement by the government by providing basic amenities to the poor.
She said the cost of terrorism is one of the main causes of off-tracking MDGs in Pakistan, a state in the making.
Dr. Peter Taylor from Canada highlighted room for improvement in the quality of policy-making processes in South Asia and maintained that research think institutes are the key for evidence-based information.
Dr. Sagar Sharma of Khatmandu University, Nepal said as a whole, the role of non-state holders for MDGs was more effective than the state holders. Dr. Bishnu Raj Upreti, Nepal said MDGs need to be redefined in the context of conflict and peace in the region and within the countries.
In the session on ‘Governance Challenge: Is there a Way Out?’ the speakers said the governance constraints have to be seen in political and military institutions perspectives.
Dr. Ishrat Hussain, of Institute of Business Administration, Karachi underscored that only those institutions should be focused for governance reforms, which have high pay off, spillovers and linkages to other services. Barrister Dr Ehtasham Anwar said without reforming the structure of governance, much awaited dawn would never arrive in our homeland.
Syed Akbar Zaidi, a noted economist said the foreign aid should be stopped as both military and political elites have mismanaged it, as 42 percent aid received was spent on military purposes.
Foqia Sadiq Khan of SDPI, mourn that violation of laws are noticed only when it is done by the weak and less resourceful sections of the society; while violation by elites remains unnoticed.
In the session ‘Revisiting Poverty Debate: Alternative Ways for Conceptualization, Measurement and Targeting’, Arif Naveed of SDPI, sharing district level poverty analysis, said 18 out of 20 poorest districts in Pakistan are in Balochistan and 20 least poor districts are located in Southern Punjab.
He said the research showed severe inter-provincial disparities in poverty and poverty in Pakistan seems to have an ethnic face. While Punjab is overall the least poor province, the Southern part of the province faces extreme levels of poverty, he remarked.
Dr. Vaqar Ahmed from SDPI and economist Dr. Sajjad Akhter were of the view that the issue of poverty should not be politicised and institutions such as Federal Bureau of Statistics and Planning Commission should work as autonomous bodies for sustained delivery of their mandated role.
International poverty expert Dr. Sabina Alkair from the University Oxford said that there is a need for diversified and quality data collection for rigorous analysis of poverty.
During the session on ‘Security and Development: The Geo-politics of China-Pakistan-India relationship’ the speakers said bilateral relationships among the three countries primarily revolve around their “national security interests” while ignoring human development.
Senator Hasil Bizenjo lamented unrelenting conflicts and their negative implications on people.
Amna Yousaf Khokar of Institute of Strategic Studies said Pakistan is still following old security dilemma of threats to its territorial integrity. She said Pakistan needed to reprioritise its national policy in view of changing security priorities towards economic wealth.
Dibyesh Anand from Westminster University UK said a people-centered security mechanism provides new opportunities for sustainable development and breaks ground for better inter-state relations.
Speaking in a panel, Dr. Saeed Shafaqat of SDPI said the 18th amendment is an appreciable paradigm shift that devolves powers from center to provinces, but faces resistance and urged provinces should recognize their powers and should not let the interrupters to interrupt.
Erum Haider of SDPI said that the 18th amendment has enhanced the fiscal responsibility of the provinces adding there is a lack of capacity in provinces, which can be addressed with incentives.
In the session on ‘Livelihood Options in Conflict-Affected Situations’ the experts said ensuring livelihood security, justice, rule of law and good governance, reconstruction and development in the conflict-hit areas face tremendous challenges.
In the session on ‘Education Financing in Pakistan: Challenges and Way Forward’ Jemal Ahmad of the ActionAid said education is important for strong nation-building and human development.
In the session on ‘Indus River Watershed: Adapting, Mitigating and Sustaining the Social Ecological Change, Dr. Ghulam Akbar of WWF, Dr. Abdul N. Laghari of UET of Nawabshah, Naghmana Ghafoor of Punjab government said water issues should be seen in a broader ecological context.
Ahmad Salim and Dr Lubna from SDPI were of the view that by promoting Sufism, we can curb religious extremism and militancy in the region.