Published Date: Dec 7, 2017
SDPI’s 20the Sustainable Development Conference (Closing Plenary)
Representatives of the public, private and development sector must rise above their differences and generate consensus on economic, environmental, and foreign policy issues before the 2018 elections, said Syed Khurshid Shah, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly
He was speaking at the closing plenary of 20th Sustainable Development Conference organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI’s) here on Thursday.
Mr Shah emphasized ensuring stronger parliamentary oversight of the budget making process, while calling for the implementation of people-centric economic policies, including the establishment of an equitable welfare system to improve quality of life for the majority population. He also stressed revisiting Pakistan’s development policies, which had sped up the rate of environmental degradation, while calling for more efficient use of our fiscal and natural resources, which are being strained by rapid population
growth. “It is the responsibility of democratic forces to speak truth and tell the people truth and share with them what is reality,” he added.
In his keynote address Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, Chairperson of the Senate Standing Committee on Defence, spoke on the opportunities and challenges of conducting trade and foreign policy in South Asia’s emerging geopolitical landscape. He cautioned against falling into the cold war model of geopolitics while welcoming the trend towards greater regional connectivity and integration in South Asia, which would enable the regional countries to leverage their tremendous human resource, economic and natural resource potential. To ensure this trend is fully realized, he recommended a revival of Track-II diplomatic channels and full participation of regional partners in the upcoming SAARC Regional Summit in Islamabad. He called for peaceful solution of the Kashmir issue in line with United Nations resolutions, which is key to ensuring peace, stability and prosperity in India, Pakistan and the wider region. He also emphasized the importance of Pakistan’s new policy of respecting Afghanistan’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, which would contribute towards the country’s ongoing transition towards peace and stability.
Discussing the steps required for Pakistan’s sustained growth, Dr Shamshad Akhtar, Under Secretary General at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP),
stressed the need for mainstreaming the Sustainable Development Goals across development plans and budgets at the federal, provincial and local levels. She also called on the government and political parties to unequivocally back the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and create a robust mechanism for the implementation and monitoring of progress on much-needed socioeconomic reforms. To fully realize the UN 2030 Agenda, she recommended an increase in public spending on health and education, which is currently 4% of GDP; expansion of social safety nets, including the Benazir Income Support Programme; increase in financial inclusion for the poor and marginalized; and broadening of the tax
base to reduce Pakistan’s debt servicing burden and reliance on external finance markets. She felt Pakistan needed to better leverage its presence on regional cooperative arrangements and become a signatory of the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross Border Paperless Trade.
Opening the plenary session, SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri highlighted the importance of building consensus between political parties and other stakeholders on dealing with Pakistan’s different economic, infrastructural, governance and foreign policy challenges. He also stressed the need for promoting the politics of progress, pluralism and inclusion, embodied by the SDC, in the interests of countering the current wave of hate and exclusion gaining ground in the region and the rest of the world.
The event concluded with an awards ceremony in which a lifetime achievement award was presented to Ambassador Shafqat Kakakhel, the chairperson of SDPI Board of Governors.