Published Date: Feb 18, 2012
‘SOUTH ASIAN STATES SHOULD WORK TOGETHER TO TACKLE CHALLENGES’
South Asian countries should work together to meet common challenges like climate change, food insecurity, energy issues, conservation of biodiversity, efficient use of water, promotion of sustainable development and building resilient communities.
This was the crux of a book titled “Peace and Sustainable Development in South Asia” launched by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).
Climate change has caused massive flooding in the region for example in Pakistan in 2010 while other parts of the region also faced massive floods, killings thousands of people, besides damaging standing crops, properties and drowning of millions of cattle heads as well as other livestock, according to the book.
South Asian countries are also facing serious challenges of terrorism, natural calamities, unemployment, security and food insecurity making millions of peoples’ lives vulnerable.
Religious differences among the communities have also played an important role in keeping the region one of the most backward areas in the globe.
The book said although regional governments are trying to alleviate poverty through public sector spending still South Asia is home to millions of people who live below the poverty line.
The regional governments are spending billions of rupees on poverty alleviation programmes since long which are normally divided into three categories: those that provide social safety net and those intended to create assets for the poor households.
According to the study, the entire region is in the grip of high inflation, which resulted in low purchasing power of the people, with the majority of the people spending a large part of their earnings on food.
Population is growing at an alarming pace in the region, annually millions of youth enter the job market but majority of them remains jobless due to few job opportunities.
A lot of workers in these countries derive their livelihood from agriculture and the food expenditures account for a high proportion of the total expenditure of the poor households.
Agrarian structure in these countries is dominated by small farms ie, holdings of less than one hectare, and share of small holdings exceeds 55 percent of total holdings except in Pakistan where they account for 17 percent.
In addition to the marginal and small farmers there are a large number of landless households, accounting for 20 percent of all rural households in Bangladesh, 30 percent in India, 18 percent in Nepal, 30 percent in Pakistan, and 22 percent in Sri Lanka.
These two categories ie marginal farmers, and landless labourers and a large number of traditional craftsmen constitute the bulk of food insecure households in the rural areas of the region.
The book revealed that the energy needs in the region are growing with each passing day.
To bring sizeable population out of poverty net and achieve economic growth, countries need to work together to ensure universal access to sustainable and affordable energy, including optimisation of renewable energy potential in the region, measures to promote green energy, and establishment of regional energy grid.
The book while underlining the need for taking all possible measurers to alleviate poverty, hunger and conflicts suggested that the governments, academic institutions, and civil society organisations need to jointly work to prepare compendium of best policy frameworks/practices.
Deliberating on education, the study underlined mutual learning and sharing of experience and knowledge between the government agencies, civil society organisations, academic and research institutions, and other stakeholders through building of networks and establishment of exchange programmes of experts, researchers and media.
Highlighting importance of gender equality, it said women must be involved at all the decision-making levels and processes to incorporate their perspectives and address their needs and vulnerabilities.
Furthermore, networks of expatriate South Asians can provide invaluable support in the form of financing, knowledge sharing and access to information and technology, which should be materialised.
It further underlined adaptation of strategies which the book urged must be designed keeping in view the shared ecosystems in the region such as mountains, glaciers, rivers and monsoon systems as well as the common interests of countries including prevention of conflict.