Published Date: Dec 15, 2011
CLIMATE RESILIENCE, OWNERSHIP OF MDGS, AND DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE CAN ENSURE FOOD SECURITY IN SOUTH ASIA
Climate resilient low carbon economy, ownership of MDGs, pro poor governance can ensure food security and livelihood of 600 million poor in South Asia, said the speakers at the second 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 Wednesday.
Speaking at a session in 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 adopting climate resilient measures including low carbon economy to minimize the impacts 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.
Another relevant session on ‘factors affecting the food security situation in resource constrained Pakistan’ experts said if there is food availability in market, it does not mean that the poor sections of society have access to food. Citing inconsistent growth trends in supply and demand of food in Pakistan, Umer Malik, of 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 under-investment in agriculture research, land distribution, and agriculture credit distribution. Mehnaz Ajmal of Oxfam GB said there is a need to protect small holding farmers from the impacts 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 to provide basic services 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 research think institute are a 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 with-in the countries.
In the session on ‘governance challenge: It 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, said the foreign aid should be stopped as both military and political elites have mismanaged it, as 42 percent was aid received was spent on military purposes. Foqia Sadiq Khan of SDPI, said laws violation is noticed only when it is done by the weak and less resourceful sections of society while violation by elites remains unnoticed.
In the session on 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. Dr. Vaqar Ahmed from SDPI and economist Dr. Sajjad Akhter were of the view that the issue of poverty should not be politicized and institutions such as Federal Bureau of Statistics and Planning Commission should work as autonomous bodies. Dr. Sabina Alkair, University Oxford, said there is a need of 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 over persistence of 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 needs to reprioritize 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. Zulfiqar Halepoto of Thardeep Rural Development Programme, Sindh said often research on water in South Asia misses political dimension. He urged the governments to include water agenda as part of bilateral negotiations and emphasize on permanent transboundary policies for better water governance.
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 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 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.