Achieving sustainable development goals in Balochistan
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 goals formulated by United Nations (UN) with the key objective of achieving sustainable development by 2030. These goals are multidimensional and do carry a weight for any society, community and system to develop.
Goals which are included in this framework cover core aspects related to social, economic; and environmental. Goals and number of targets defined under these three core areas thus define tangible targets and have become a guiding tool for an economy to develop around the globe with variations in priorities. Priorities can vary depending on the nature of economy i.e. economy can either be developed, least developed or underdeveloped.
Keeping this framework of SDGs, the government of Pakistan developed its own implementation framework in early 2018, under the umbrella of Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms. Key objectives of the framework formed by the government include localization of these goals as per the demographic needs and for this purpose three categories were defined in accordance to the priorities. First category being prioritized as immediate action which include the goals of attaining food security, improved nutrition, quality education for all, accessible drinking water and sanitation as well as responsive institutions, peace and security. Second group includes building resilient infrastructure for cities and rural areas, realizing better approaches to reduce gender inequalities and poverty reduction through interventions. Third belongs to the long term goals of the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources, and the mitigation and proactive responses towards climate change.
The lack of reliable data makes it especially difficult as the Planning Commission noted that out of 230 indicators, one fourth had unreliable data and for almost half of those indicators the data was scattered or not computed. Consistently gathering reliable data is a challenge as many areas still lack proper infrastructure and streamlined channels for data gathering.
The localization of the SDGs is the next step for the Balochistan provincial government as they focus on uplifting the province. This localization will be after complete formulation of implementation framework which will satisfy the demographic needs. In one of the recent exercise of Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), it was observed that of all the provinces in Pakistan, Balochistan is the least developed. The provincial government of Balochistan must utilize the localized framework and make an effort to help its citizens. In August 2018, the Balochistan government announced a health and education emergency in the province and initiated funding approvals to solving the crises. However, corruption and a lack of accountability will make any radical change difficult.
To build a ‘Naya Balochistan’, the government must take on several steps and strive to determine targets of the localized SDGs. All the goals mentioned below also fall into Category I, and hence dictate the sense of urgency towards the achievement of these goals. Firstly, the dire need of the hour is water availability. This can be achieved through Goal 6 ‘Clean Water and Sanitation’. The province has struggled to retain most of its water resources and is the most water-scarce province in Pakistan. Currently, a staggering 7.6 million people lack access to safe drinking water in the province. Through the National water policy, the government should initiate in infrastructure development for retainment of water and formulate plans to counter climatic changes. The construction of dams all over Balochistan has been a welcome step, but due to their small size, they are incapable of alleviating the water shortage. Water shortages have also been a major cause of loss of fertile land and agriculture. For the port city of Gwadar, desalination plants can provide a stable supply of safe drinking water but would require large investments.
Secondly, the government must take steps to provide quality education (Goal 4) in the province. While substantial steps have been taken to bring children into the education system, many districts still have abysmal enrolment rates and lack facilities such as drinking water and toilets for girls. In a recent report published by the Human Rights Watch, only 25 percent of women and 60 percent percent of men have attended schools in the province. There are also more than twice the number of schools for boys than girls. The government needs to invest extensively in the infrastructure of the schools and colleges to address this situation. The report also mentions that wrong education and curricula in private and public schools can promote extremist mindsets if not regulated. Hence, an initiative to normalize and normalize the curricula must be undertaken within the Balochistan Education Department.
The prevalence of ‘ghost schools’ where salaried teachers do not show up can be thwarted with the use of the phenomenal real time education monitoring system. Currently the monitoring infrastructure is not present in every district and hence, hinders its potential. The provincial government acknowledges these issues and has approved allocation of Rs 1bn to building of infrastructure of the schools.
The lack of reliable data makes it especially difficult as the Planning Commission noted that out of 230 indicators, one fourth had unreliable data and for almost half of those indicators the data was scattered or not computed
Furthermore, the lack of post-primary education institutes means that children who finish primary school simply drop out of the education system as they do not have access to a high school near their area. Alif Ailaan in a report detailing the key challenges for education in Balochistan suggest vertically integrating high schools into primary schools with high enrolment rates in the short-term.
In the same report, it is observed that gender parity in Quetta is more than 95 percent. Cities provide security, opportunity and higher standards of living and hence can facilitate a higher enrolment rate of children in schools. The government could duplicate this effect and further develop and invest in key cities in the province to provide a safe environment for children to attend schools.
Third, addressing the deaths of newborns due to malnutrition. Up to 45 percent of children deaths under the age of 5 are caused by under nutrition. Through Goals 2 (No Hunger) and 17(Partnerships for the Goals), programs with donor groups could be set up to help fund medical and food aid in the province. In the long-term, projects such as providing farmers with high-yield crops, as done in Punjab, must also be considered to reduce food shortages in the area.
Finally, Justice must be established to protect the rights of citizens and minorities as it is the duty of the state to provide these basic facilities and part of the 16th development goal of peace, justice and strong institutions. A strong reform in the governance structure in the provincial institutions and a universal theme of uplifting the province must be established. Police up gradation and reforms will allow the police force to be better equipped to handle terrorism in the province and reduce corruption.
Moreover, being a diverse province, district-level policies can be adapted to cater to the needs of the people. Inclusion in decision-making will also help reduce tensions and friction between the people and the state.
These five SDGs provide a basic framework based on priorities and immediate issues that the government must focus on addressing.
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.