Current Affairs South Asian Affairs

Bridging ‘research-policy-practice’ gap must for sustainable development – SDPI moot

ISLAMABAD, Dec16: There is an urgent need of collaboration among academicians and researchers in order to determine actionable and creative research agenda for socio-economic growth of Pakistan and make the development more durable, said Dr Nadeem Ul Haque, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission of Pakistan.

He was speaking on Thursday (Dec 15) at the concluding day of 14th Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) ‘Re-defining Paradigms of Sustainable Development in South Asia’ organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Thursday.

From Let: Shahid Kardar, Nadeem-ul-Haq and Dr Abid Suleri.

He also launched SDPI’s web television, Sustainable Development Television (SDTV) which is first of its kind initiative in Pakistan and meant to focus the issues and aspects of sustainable development in Pakistan with a people-centered approach. Urdu publication Dharti and life-time achievement awards to SDPI long-serving members Ahmad Saleem, Dr Mahmood A. Khwaja and Brig (r) Mohammad Yasin were conferred upon.

Shahid Kardar, former Governor State Bank of Pakistan said sustainability is being affected by the macroeconomic imbalance having acquired structural characteristics due to problems of both revenue and expenditure sides. He said fiscal deficit, more than 6 percent budget deficit, inflation and continued pressure on rupee cannot be addressed unless structural reforms are undertaken. Dr Abid Suleri of SDPI gave vote of thanks to national and international scholars and hoped findings of this conference will help the stakeholders in finding the solutions of compounding crisis of governance, human security and peace and social justice.

In the session on ‘Governance challenges’ the panelists were largely of the view governance is a broader concept than the outdated idea of merely a “Government”, and is achieved through fostering interaction between the three pillars of societal structures namely state, civil society, and private sector or market. They said the role of civil society to observe government actions and induce positive developmental actions is a very critical aspect of the overall development process. Daniyal Aziz, Governance Institutes Network International, Kaiser Bengali, Member National Finance Commission, Dr. G. Shabbir Cheema of East-West Center, USA, Dr. Urs Geiser, University of Zurich, Switzerland, Tulasi Sharan Sigdel, Nepal Administrative Staff College, Jawalakhel, Nepal and Janaka Hemathilaka, Practical Action, Sri Lanka maintained spoke at the occasion.

In the session on “costs of economic non-cooperation to consumers in South Asia’ Bipul Chatterjee of CUTS International India shared glimpses from a research study conduced in collaboration with SDPI. He said both Pakistani and Indian consumers would gain hugely from cross border trade liberalization. Shafqat Munir of SDPI highlighted a wide disconnect between traded policy formulation and consumers resulting into imbalances in favor of business interests.

The panelists at session ‘re-imaging security in South Asia’ observed South Asia is facing policy challenges as the current policy environment revolves around state-centric security paradigms at the cost of  people-centric development. They said notion of state security degenerates into enterprise which serves the interests of powerful elements. Dr Abid Suleri said the major chunk of financial resources of Pakistan is spent on defense followed by debt servicing and administrative expenditures whereas governments usually cut social development spending in times of financial crisis or to meet the first two needs. Dr Dibyesh Anand of Westminster University, UK maintained that state security should be viewed from the perspective of week segments of state as the traditional state security notion is predominantly serves the vested interests of dominant classes. Dr Sabina Alkire of Oxford University, UK was of the opinion more people die due to hunger, malnutrition, and lack of health care than people die in violent conflicts and battles due to states’ overwhelming focus on physical security involving more focus on territorial security ignoring the people.

In session ‘transnational feminisms, de-politicization, international development’, Dr. Fidaa Shehada, State University, USA, highlighted Palestinian women’s movements and conflict ridden conditions of Palestinian state in which these courageous and strong women were managing their daily life and struggling for their rights. Dr. Farzana Bari of Qauid-I-Azam University urged women parliamentarians to develop more gender consciousness in a united manner towards the struggle for women’s empowerment. Dr. Lubna Chaudhry of SDPI and State University of New York, USA shared younger women tended to be pro-Taliban due to radical programmes by Moulvi Fazlullah on radio, whereas the older women were more against them in Swat.

During the session on ‘Indus river watershed: adapting, mitigating, and sustaining the social ecological change’, Dr. Iqrar Ahmed of University of Agriculture Faisalabad maintained that sufficient storage structures have to be built in the country to deal with increasing floods. Dr. Nuzrat Yar Khan of SDPI stressed on the need of education and its relevance with livelihoods. Faryal Gohar underlined the need for an inclusive national policy for addressing agriculture and water issues.

In the panel on ‘Celebrating literature by Rabindranath Tagore, Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Ustad Daman, Ahmad Saleem of SDPI, Humaira Ishfaq of Islamic International and Dr Niaz Zaman highlighted different aspects of their lives and the contributions of these historic personalities.

In the session on ‘rethinking education for pluralism: representation of religious minorities in public and madrassah education’ experts recommended government to negotiate with madrassah umbrella organizations to discuss madrassah reforms and also to allocate funds for financing the process of change. Afsheen Naz of SDPI expressed that ruling elite have encouraged a particular mindset with using curriculum, which has instilled obscurantist vision in general masses in the name of advancing the ideology of Islam in order to protect their own vested interests. Peter Taylor of International Development Research Centre, Canada said poverty, unemployment, disruption of social settings, weakening of Sufi traditions and sense of deprivation, alienation and outrage were some of the key social and economic reasons promoting hatred and militancy.

The panelists at ‘energy and sustainability: exploring efficient alternatives in South Asia’ panel unanimously maintained alternate energy sources and energy efficiency as the only option to address the energy crisis in the country. Bilal Ahmed of GIKI University recommended hydrogen fuel which is an environmental friendly solution because of no carbon emissions. Dr. Muhammad Bilal Khan of NUST University urged liaison between major stakeholders of energy production, industry and academia and suggested small hydro power station, wind energy, solar energy and bio-fuel to meet the energy crisis. Nafeesa Irshaad of Fatima Jinnah University stressed government to provide incentives to major energy intensive industries. Farzana Yasmin of SDPI underlined implementation of an in-expensive way of solar radiation management method using white roofs on large scale to combat climate change and energy crisis in Pakistan.

In panel “climate change: readapting forest management in South Asia”, the experts identified issue of land ownership in forest covered areas as the key reason for forest degradation leading to unemployment and livelihood problems for local communities and food insecurity and poverty elevation globally. They highlighted the need of revision of sectoral policies, participatory and integrated forest management. Dr Parkas Taiwari from India, Dr Bashir Wani and Dr. Sultan Rome from Swat expressed their expert opinions.

In the session ‘Regional cooperation for water governance, it was said that all South Asian countries immediately should sign the ESPOO convention. They said Siachen glaciers should immediately be declared as peace-park without any conditions or prerequisites and particularly without any ground demarcating on the ice.  Syed Imtiaz Gillani, VC UET, Peshawar concluded there is an instant need to execute the decisions of the International Court of Justice regarding implementation of trans-boundary impact assessment. They said there is an immediate need to rehabilitate degraded watershed in Kashmir for sustainable flow in the rivers so that paradigms of sustainable development in South Asia can be redefined and added our future is dependent on this and India has to open Indian-held Kashmir for Pakistanis to strengthen the peoples-to-peoples contact.

In the session on ‘Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation plus (REDD), Ahmad Hussain of Planning and Development Division, Islamabad, emphasized there exists an enormous opportunities to manage natural and productive forests following the precepts of this new mechanism of REDD which has global significance in terms of climate change debate as it is a cost effective mitigation measure.  Dr. Muhammad Afzal, Director of Punjab Forestry Research Institute, Faisalabad highlighted the need for a national level carbon databank of all forests which will help foresters and policy makers in enhancing the carbon stock through sustainable management of forest in the context of climate change. Mehwish Ali of Institute of NUST emphasized on the importance of carbon sequestration as an effective means for alleviating the effects of greenhouse gas emission in the atmosphere and recommended remote sensing method is an effective and reliable approach for carbon stock estimation in forest. Eak. B. Rana of ICIMOD, Nepal urged benefits for poor in such a process.

About the author

Saleem Shaikh

The writer is a development journalist. He writes on water, sanitation, environment, climate change, agriculture, women development, human rights, education, health, development budgets and economy.

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