Published Date: Dec 11, 2012
SDPI PRESS RELEASE (SDC DAY 1)
Sustainable development in South Asia strongly depends upon how well we can achieve social cohesion across regions, faiths and ethnicities, said Syed Naveed Qamar, Federal Minister for Defense while speaking at the opening session of 15th Annual Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Tuesday.
The three-day conference titled “Sustainable Development in South Asia: Shaping The Future” is looking at future of sustainable development in South Asia. The conference seeks to analyze how things will look like 20, 30 or even 50 years from now, what issues will be looming large, making concrete suggestions on how to overcome future challenges; and, give practical policy recommendations about a sustainable South Asia for all.
Syed Naveed Qamar said that social cohesion and tolerance should be the priority agenda for government and non-governmental organizations in the region. “Going forward our priorities must include on how the rising economic gains and access to technology be configured in a manner that can reduce inequalities – particularly the inequality of opportunities for our people”, the minister added.
He said that developmental considerations should regard social justice and respect our environment and natural resources. Speaking on governance and role of institutions for people’s empowerment, the minister urged on ensuring participatory democracy at the local level whereby communities and households can feel themselves integrated and part of the overall vision for national and regional development.
He said that Pakistan is undertaking a foreign policy focusing on ‘looking towards Asia’. “Pakistan has played an active role in SAARC for formulization of the processes towards setting up food bank and supporting other regional arrangements including South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), he added.
He further added that cross-border trade and investment in this region has the potential to mitigate poverty and inequalities. “Today South Asia remains the least connected region in the world. If we continue to be as distant as we are today, our children may never be able to interact, talk, meet and play with their children in the neighborhoods. Such a lost opportunity will be synonymous to a youth stolen in the name of history’s baggage,” he said.
Speaking as key note speaker on the occasion, the former Information Minister and Vice President, IUCN Pakistan, Javed Jabbar said that despite diversity in every aspect and richness of resources, the South Asia region still faces significant stresses and shortages in water, food and energy sector. He said that the region needs to bank upon commonalities while thinking and acting collectively.
He identified seven elements essential in shaping the future of South Asia, including environmental security; economic equity; moderating consumption and conservation; democratic reforms for greater accountability and improved governance; respect for all religions and ethnicities; military restraints by India, Pakistan and other countries to strengthen peace and civil supremacy in the region, and lastly the greater social stability. He also suggested of introduction of a ‘Green Budget’ before the presentation of fiscal budget in parliament.
Earlier, Dr. Saeed Shafqat, chairman Board of Governors, SDPI welcomed participants at the conference and said, ‘For a prosperous and secure future, South Asia needs to move away from an ‘economy of war,’ towards an ‘economy of peace’. He further added that an inclusive and equitable economic growth must be ensured through redistribution of power structures.
Dr. Abid Suleri, Executive Director of SDPI, said that the choices that policy makers make today will determine ‘how the future may unfold in South Asia’. He also shared the positive role that SDPI is playing in socio-economic development in Pakistan and across the region.
Panelists at session ‘Will media be a catalyst for change?’ discussed the role of media in stimulating change in society. They unanimously agreed that forms and formats of media are changing rapidly where social media are not only informing at fast pace but is also linking individuals, groups, societies. Mohammad Malick from Dunya News was of the view that media is a catalyst for change but it depends upon which side of picture is being looked at. Farrukh Pitafi from ‘News One’ said that even if there are laws regarding media they are not relevant and rational. Moneeza Hashmi, President, Commonwealth Broadcast Association said that over the years, radio channels have mushroomed providing entertainment, sports and twenty four seven news coverage to people. Badar Alam, Editor Herald said that “journalism is going to get worse before it gets better.” Fahad Hussain from Waqt News talked of role of advertisement in influencing media content and maintained that often media is used by certain groups through their financial influence.
During session on public financing of education in Pakistan, Hamza Abbas Research Analyst at SDPI said that public expenditure on education is directly linked with economic growth and tax revenue collections. He said that government and civil society can jointly initiate tracking of primary education budget by improving its tax collection system by means of increasing powers of tax revenue departments. Zohair Zaidi from Oxfam GB said that donors must make aid flows more predictable and reliable. Tassaduq Rasul, Country Director Action Aid Islamabad said that to improve education, it is essential to build accountability mechanism, tracking systems and education management concepts. They concluded that Pakistan has not been able to achieve primary education related targets and a major reason for this is lack of financial resources.
The session on “Dynamics of Non Traditional Security Threats“ analyzed the nontraditional security threats in the context of conflict raised due to energy and climate change. Tahir Dhindsa of SDPI expressed that international beneficiary systems are directly integrated with the petroleum resources and sovereignty of the states. Khurram Javed from Diplomatic Academy, Azerbaijan stressed on implementation of IP, TAPI and Trans-Caspian projects for initiating development in the region. Naeem Akram from Economic Affairs Division, Pakistan identified inflation, change in temperature and precipitation as major impediment in growth and threat for human and food security. Human development index was also considered as an important factor in determining the Climate change vulnerability and conflict. Dr. Saba Gul Khattak, Member BoG, SDPI, concluded the session with view that “The heart of the conflict lies in the difference of logic in politics and science and it needs to be work out at earliest”.