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Global Go To Think Tank Index (GGTTI) 2020 launched                    111,75 Think Tanks across the world ranked in different categories.                SDPI is ranked 90th among “Top Think Tanks Worldwide (non-US)”.           SDPI stands 11th among Top Think Tanks in South & South East Asia & the Pacific (excluding India).            SDPI notches 33rd position in “Best New Idea or Paradigm Developed by A Think Tank” category.                SDPI remains 42nd in “Best Quality Assurance and Integrity Policies and Procedure” category.              SDPI stands 49th in “Think Tank to Watch in 2020”.            SDPI gets 52nd position among “Best Independent Think Tanks”.                           SDPI becomes 63rd in “Best Advocacy Campaign” category.                   SDPI secures 60th position in “Best Institutional Collaboration Involving Two or More Think Tanks” category.                       SDPI obtains 64th position in “Best Use of Media (Print & Electronic)” category.               SDPI gains 66th position in “Top Environment Policy Tink Tanks” category.                SDPI achieves 76th position in “Think Tanks With Best External Relations/Public Engagement Program” category.                    SDPI notches 99th position in “Top Social Policy Think Tanks”.            SDPI wins 140th position among “Top Domestic Economic Policy Think Tanks”.               SDPI is placed among special non-ranked category of Think Tanks – “Best Policy and Institutional Response to COVID-19”.                                            Owing to COVID-19 outbreak, SDPI staff is working from home from 9am to 5pm five days a week. All our staff members are available on phone, email and/or any other digital/electronic modes of communication during our usual official hours. You can also find all our work related to COVID-19 in orange entries in our publications section below.    The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) is pleased to announce its Twenty-third Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) from 14 – 17 December 2020 in Islamabad, Pakistan. The overarching theme of this year’s Conference is Sustainable Development in the Times of COVID-19. Read more…       FOOD SECIRITY DASHBOARD: On 4th Nov, SDPI has shared the first prototype of Food Security Dashboard with Dr Moeed Yousaf, the Special Assistant to Prime Minister on  National Security and Economic Outreach in the presence of stakeholders, including Ministry of National Food Security and Research. Provincial and district authorities attended the event in person or through zoom. The dashboard will help the government monitor and regulate the supply chain of essential food commodities.


National Sustainable Development Strategy (NSDS)

Partner: UNEP, Ministry of Environment

Duration: 2008-09


SDPI owes its inception to National Conservation Strategy of Pakistan. The strategy pre-pared in 1992 contained a recommendation about establishing an independent policy think-tank that is SDPI. Since its inception it has been working on various aspects of sustainability following a multidisciplinary approach. SDPI signed a memorandum of understanding with United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) for joint activities in Pakistan

One such joint venture was the preparation of a National Sustainable Development Strategy (NSDS) that SDPI prepared for the Federal Ministry of Environment (MOE) and UNEP. NSDS focuses on achieving the Millennium Development Goals, especially poverty alleviation and enhanced human development. The Strategy, based on a coordinated, participatory, and continuous process of analysis, debate and consensus, has integrated the economic, social and environmental objectives of Pakistani polity and is being developed upon the recognition of the direct linkages between environmental management and poverty alleviation.

NSDS is focused on key sectors, including agriculture, water, energy, forestry, waste management and sustainable production and trade. It not only incorporates existing policies, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper and Vision 2030 to shape an integrated cohesive strategy, but also defines the institutional and financial mechanisms to operate this strategy. The idea is to bring environment and climate change policies into all facets of policy, particularly into development and investment decisions. The Strategy provides for the establishment of a National Commission for Sustainable Development, which would motivate, plan, and coordinate policies and programs contributing to sustainable development in Pakistan, with the active participation of all stakeholders for the prosperity of present and future generations.

Pakistan’s NSDS was launched along with other South Asian NSDSs in an international moot hosted by UNEP regional office Thailand. The national launch of NSDS was carried out during SDPI’s annual conference in December 2009.

Disaggregating Recruitment: Uncovering the Expectations, Obligations, and Hidden Steps in the Labor Migrant Recruitment Process

Partner: New York University, Abu Dhabi

Locale: Peshawar, Swat, Abbottabad, Mirpur, Dina, Jhelum, Muzaffarabad, Dhirkot

Time Frame: Nov 2016 to July 2017

Team Members: Syed Ali Wasif naqvi, Waseem Iftikhar Janjua


Concern over the lives of non-skilled labor migrants in Gulf Co-operation Council states have resulted in multiple studies of migrants’ living and employment conditions in the host countries. However, it is becoming increasingly recognized that migrants’ circumstances are directly influenced by the information, expectations, and obligations migrants have before leaving their home countries. This research project, therefore, situates itself in Pakistan as a major contributor of GCC unskilled labour force. Through this pilot project, the study will try to understand the misinformation, expectations, obligations and relationships low-skilled labour migrants have before leaving Pakistan. A rather innovative approach is being taken in this project and all project participants will receive cell phones to collect data at micro-temporal intervals via an app-based survey questionnaire. The goal is to understand the process of labour recruitment — how information, expectations, and obligations change as aspiring migrants attempt to leave for the GCC. To maintain a gender balance, the number of participants will be maintained for a better understanding of the issues surrounding the aspiring migrants.

Project Status:

Project team is in the first phase of implementation. App is being developed for the smart phones and participants are being recruited.

Project Focal person, Syed Ali Wasif Naqvi; (

Assessing Poverty Alleviation Strategies and Programs: Some Lessons for Program and Policy Design

This study tries to identify a set of practices, which shall help design effectual poverty alleviation. The method adopted entails the following set of specific objectives:
  • To identify successful practices from the experiences of global and national poverty alleviation programmes
  • To assess how Zakat money could be used for poverty alleviation
  • To provide recommendations for economic development initiatives
  • In-Depth Interview (IDI)
  • Key Informant Interview (KII)
  • Focus Group Discussion ( FGD)
  • Poverty is a recurring phenomenon because of dynamic trap people find themselves entangled. Therefore, the design of intervention should be more flexible and should have a fusion of both protection and promotion.
  • Poverty in Pakistan is multidimensional with regional variations in nature, driver and remedies.
  • Promotional activities designed in Pakistan are too paternalistic while workfare trainings stood mismatched with demands of market. Similarly, the ultra-poor are mostly excluded from such promotional activities because of their higher needs and little capacity to pay.
  • Our findings suggest that poverty exists in many forms with different intensity levels. In the wake of growing cost of living, absence of social protection and increase in number of the working poor, only promotion could not pull people out of poverty traps.

Review of Healthcare Access and Service Delivery Mechanisms in Pakistan with Health Equity and Human Rights Based Approaches

  • To review health sector response (institutional/structural, and policy/programme) in Pakistan applying health equity and human rights lens at national and provincial levels (post devolution) while taking in account sociocultural determinants of health
  • To recommend strategic directions for policy dialogue to address identified gaps and the identified priority policy and programmatic actions in order to promote progressive realization of the right to health and achieve universal health coverage at national and provincial levels.
This study uses a triangulated method of analysis, including desk review of policies of health and other related sectors, quantitative evidence from the data and perceptions of respondents from policy makers, health care providers and community. The qualitative analysis covers in-depth interviews of policy makers, key informant interviews at DHQ health departments and FGDs with community. The districts for qualitative analysis were selected based on health deprivation index.
  • A look into federal and provincial budgetary allocations discloses that despite a considerable increase in the health sector allocations since 2010, the development budget allocations did not increase at the same proportion as of current expenditure allocations.
  • Only 16% of the poorest households use water or soap for hand washing. Further it is documented that only 4% of households from Balochistan and 5% of the poorest households are using some sort of cleansing agents other than soap along with water. Most importantly more than 30% households from Balochistan don’t wash hands with any of water, soap or other cleaning agents
  • Almost 11% women have experienced any type of violence during their pregnancies 2. Among the women facing violence, 17% belong to younger group married between 15-19 years of age.
  • Rural areas are showing more prevalence of violence against pregnant women as compared to those from urban areas. Of the provinces, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has shown high percentage of women who are empowered with house and land and along with this these women are emerging as most vulnerable (21% violence during pregnancy). As soon as pregnant women attain more education, they got less chances of experiencing violence. Almost same picture can be seen within different wealth strata. Poor women have more chance (15%) of facing violence during pregnancy. 
  • Post 18th amendment, the provinces, do not take ownership of the federal health policies, and state that the strategic planning is to be undertaken at the provincial level to address issues specific to the province. It is in this context that respective documents drafted by each province are called Provincial Strategic Plans rather than action plans which in itself show the ambiguity.

Social Protection in Pakistan

Partner: UNDP-Pakistan

Duration: January 2013 to March 2013

Locale: Nowshera, Buner, and Lower Dir in KP and Chaghi, Loralai, and Pishin in Balochistan

Team Member: Dr. Vaqar Ahmed, Fayyaz Yaseen, Haider Abbas

The study aims to map out social protection programmes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan. It also carried out an analysis of these programmes, and evaluated them on a set of pre-determined criteria.

Under its Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas (RAHA) programme, the UNDP-Pakistan, in collaboration with the government of Pakistan and donor community, has been engaged in promoting regional stability. It also compensates for social, economic and environmental damages to Pakistani community by over seven million Afghan refugees who are still living in the country. A study was designed at SDPI to examine the extent to which such programmes are contributing towards Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).


  • Primary data collection
  • Drafting of report and policy briefs
  • Research dissemination and advocacy events in provincial capitals of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa


  • Working opportunities for the IDPs, Afghan refugees and calamity-hit communities are scarce. Cultural hindrances restrict women from contributing to their household income while men are saddled with the responsibility to fulfil the needs of a 12-15 member family on average
  • Owing to lack of essential skills and capital for business, the menfolk are usually on the look for daily-wage work
  • Social protection programmes are mainly confined to the government employees
  • Except Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), most of the social assistance programmes are highly inefficient, not well-targeted, but politicized.
  •  Financial and in-kind support extended through these programmes is usually insufficient and unsustainable.
  •  Though these programmes contribute towards the attainment of MDGs, at present they are delivering well below their perceived effectiveness.
  • There is hardly any social assistance and social protection programme that has been extended to RAHA project districts.


  • Political interference should be controlled to ensure transparency of the social protection  mechanism.
  • Through digitalization of the social insurance programmes, record of all entitled beneficiaries and that of their dependents should be maintained so that unnecessary delays could be avoided in the process of ‘establishing the eligibility’.
  • The social insurance programmes should have a clearly articulated poverty reduction objective and the payments made under the respective programmes to the employees should be inflation sensitive.
  • There is a need to streamline all the existing social assistance programmes running alongside BISP to develop synergies among them for a more effective impact.
  • With its extensive data gathered for the PMT scores, the BISP could share information with other programmes for more efficient service delivery.
  • There should be a periodical assessment of effectiveness of monthly cash transfer under the programme – a cash transfer of Rs 1000 per month per household may have been enough in 2008, but will it suffice in years to come? This needs to be assessed periodically.
  • The monthly cash transfer programme under BISP needs to formally incorporate a mechanism for households to come out of poverty.
  • The BISP is being positioned as the main safety net programme, with others to be built around it. This offers a window of opportunity through which other programmes such as Zakat can be reformed to have a stronger gender focus as well as better targeting and delivery mechanisms.
  • A number of gender issues have not been considered under the BISP todate – for a programme that is intended to benefit women primarily, the BISP is remarkable in its lack of consultative decision making with women participants, NGOs working on women issues, gender activists etc.

Focal Person: Dr Vaqar Ahmed

Mainstreaming Migration into the Development Agenda: A Case Study of Pakistan

Partner: Institute of Policy Studies, Sri Lanka

Duration: May 2013 to September 2013

Team Members: Safwan A. Khan


The role of migration and remittances is vital in South Asian economies. Though, migration and remittances have a significant impact on development, ‘migration policies’ and ‘development policies’ have been treated separately in countries’ development agendas. In this context, it is important to examine the status of migration as a tool of development.


  • The main objective of the study is to explore relationship between outward migration from Pakistan, and development within the country with  special focus on capital stock, per capita output growth and education, hypothesizing whether and how these variables were related over the last 40 years in the county’s history.


  • Historical quantitative analysis,
  • Primary data collection


  • Results from the econometric analysis reveal that emigration numbers have had a positive relationship with GDP per capita in the country, negative relationship with capital stock, and no relationship with literacy rate. The qualitative analysis, however, does suggest that migration has been and is likely to continue to have a relationship with development in the country through a variety of other mediums such as knowledge and technology transfers, export growth via diaspora, and remittance flows into the country. Overseas migration can have beneficial spill-overs domestically if the economy provides opportunities for those residing overseas just as much as for those settled within the country.


  • Migration is mainly triggered by economic conditions within the country. Hence, when economic opportunities become low owing to suppressed competition and monopolized markets, lesser economic opportunities  can be tapped.
  • Migration policies need to look more closely at skill development for those seeking to go abroad instead of focusing narrowly on remittances alone.
  • Higher outward migration flows may not necessarily be bad for the country of origin. Migration plays an important role in knowledge and technology transfers back home.
  • Diaspora provides excellent markets for the export of the country of origin. Creating joint ventures with diaspora bodies and venture capital initiatives or cross country incubators will help propel exports for the country besides providing lucrative markets overseas.

Pro-Poor Environmental Fiscal Reforms

Partner: IUCN

Year: 2008


Environmental Fiscal Reforms (EFR) refers to a series of fiscal measures and actions which can contribute in generating revenues and strategizing and reducing expenditure in a way that can help in broadening and promoting environmental goals. EFR can also play part in reducing poverty through environmental and financial benefits. Comprehensively strategizing the environmental and economic benefits to a sustainable and pro-poor growth in the current financial crisis is challenging. The pro-poor environmental fiscal reforms should be implemented at district level. The issues highlighted for better environmental fiscal policies include effective revenue and taxation systems

Urban Displacement and Vulnerability in Peshawar (Pakistan)

Partner: ODI

Duration: 2012 to May 2013

Locale: Peshawar

Team Member: Ashley Jackson


The population of Peshawar has roughly doubled since 1998 to about 3.3m people, and it has become one of the largest recipient cities for refugees and IDPs in South Asia. It is also one of the poorest cities; an estimated 29% of KP’s population lives in poverty. The government agencies charged with urban development have unclear mandates, inadequate resources and limited capacity to effectively manage Peshawar’s ongoing expansion. As the city has sprawled out beyond its originally intended limits, the state has not extended basic services and infrastructure accordingly. The study on Urban displacement examines the challenges of displacement in the context of rapid urbanization.


  • To improve the understanding of the drivers and consequences of displacement and the impact of displaced populations in Peshawar.
  • To analyze legal and policy frameworks for displaced populations, both refugees and IDPs, with regard to human rights, land and property, housing, protection and urban development.
  • To understand the protection threats faced by displaced populations, as how they seek to cope with them and how they compare with the threats faced by the resident urban poor
  • To identify how the aid community can better engage with and meet the needs of displaced people in Peshawar, and the implications for humanitarian and development policy and programming


  • Primary data collection
  • Publication of a report on Urban Displacement and Vulnerability
  • Research based policy intervention


  • Many of the poor residents, whether displaced or not, face serious problems like sustainable livelihoods, access to basic services such as adequate shelter and sanitation, and physical security. The study finds that those living outside formal camps were often as poor as those residing in camps. Many IDPs choose to live outside the camps for cultural reasons (such as lack of privacy, especially for female family members), or because they are no longer allowed to reside there or receive other official assistance once their areas of origin are ‘de-notified’ or declared secure by the government.
  • The most serious challenges for the displaced are often related to their legal status and documentation. The lack of legal protection for refugees and IDPs makes them extremely vulnerable to threats and extortion. Decisions and policies for displaced populations are highly politicized and unpredictable, adding even greater uncertainty to the already precarious plight of the displaced in Pakistan.
  • Despite opportunities to start new livelihoods or expand existing ones, there are unique challenges in doing so for displaced populations. Both Afghans and IDPs reported that they find it difficult to access the initial capital needed. All the respondents reported to have faced problems in obtaining loans from banks and frequently borrowed from Pakistani or Afghan friends and relatives.


  • Urgent support is needed to extend basic services and infrastructure to off-camp locations.
  • An overall plan and vision for the urban development of Peshawar is required to manage growth and to deliver this plan, partnership with the private sector should be explored.
  • The government should revise its registration guidelines and IDPs should be given logistical support throughout the registration process.
  • Donors must devote more resources to assist displaced populations in KP,  FATA, and IDPs.
  • After the introduction of new local government laws, donors should take the opportunity to engage with and support the provincial administration in addressing problems of urban governance, planning and displacement.
  • More focus should be given to long-term livelihood support, and skill development programmes in Peshawar. This could include skills and vocational training based on market research as well as a diversification of livelihood support to displaced populations and long-term residents.
  • Particular attention should be paid to livelihood support for displaced women in Peshawar.

External Publication:

Poverty and social Impact Analysis (PSIA) of Chief Minister Initiative of Primary Health Care in District Lodhran

Partner: UNDP

Duration: October 2012 to March 2013

Locale: Lodhran


Poverty and Social Impact Analysis (PSIA) involves the analysis of the distributional impact of policy reforms on the well-being of different stakeholder groups with a particular focus on the poor and vulnerable. PSIAs are analytical exercises that attempt to understand the likely poverty and social impact of particular policy choices. The project has a strong focus on research studies, impact evaluations and assessments to undertake a PSIA of “Chief Minister’s Initiative of Primary Health Care (CMIPHC)” being run by Punjab Rural Support Programme (PRSP). The initiative was taken for the welfare of the poor. PSIA provided a better understanding of impact assessment of CMIPHC.


  • To help take informed policy decisions through measuring the social and poverty impact of CMIPHC in Lodhran district.
  • To analyze the poverty and social nexus in the context of health care services to different segments of the society.


  • The overall analysis depicts good social and health outcomes when compared with the baseline before the start of CMIPHC in Lodhran. The Basic Health Unit (BHU) operations were almost transparent, and Punjab Rural Support Programme (PRSP) system of monitoring was in place to ensure staff attendance and provision of services. As far as the medicine purchase is concerned, PRSP has a centralized system and Community Support Groups (CSGs) have no role either in purchase or distribution of medicines. No major flaw observed, which could be big threat to Public Private Partnership (PPP) model as well as an overall progress towards Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The current assessment shows that there are more underlying gaps that need to be addressed for the creation and existence of effective organizational mechanisms to redresser grievances.


  • The Community Support Groups (CSGs) can be instrumental for social inclusion, social influences of programme, grievance redressing mechanism, monitoring progress and programme’s sustainability. The CSGs need a proper institutional setup and active role in Basic Health Unit (BHU) affairs. The government policies support PPP model, therefore,  continuity of programme with certain improvements would bring further visible outcomes towards MDGs.