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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.


Drug and Human Trafficking

Year: 2011

Pakistan occupies an important geostrategic location in the transit and trade of illegal goods. The country shares a 2,450 km border with Afghanistan, the world’s largest producer of opiates. UNODC reports that nearly 40% of the heroin from Afghanistan is trafficked through Pakistan.  This easy availability of opiates (as well as synthetic drugs) has resulted in a growing population of drug users that pose an additional burden on the already overwhelmed public health system. Organized crime in Pakistan exists in various forms, orchestrated by complex informal networks of supplier rings, wholesalers, financiers, protectors and patrons, resulting in an extensive illegal network. Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA, on the border with Afghanistan, are particularly vulnerable. Law enforcement agencies struggle to counter these networks, particularly at the borders, at a serious cost to governance, development and security – not only in Pakistan but around the world.

The primary aim of this study is to analyze the implications of the 18th Amendment on federal and provincial functions related to the rule of law and drug-related health in Pakistan. For the purpose of this study the 18th Amendment is examined in three tiers (using a governance perspective): legislative changes and legal implications; institutional changes and administrative implications; and fiscal changes, and financial implications. The purpose is to inform and position development assistance in the new framework. It finds that while the provinces now have enhanced capacity to plan and target development programs, a major issue remains to be that of a lack of political will.

Rewriting History: The History of Partition Revisited

Partner: Heinrich Boll Foundation

Duration: 2008-09


It is commonly believed that three histories exist in our part of the world. The one that is told and taught in Pakistan, the second that is told and taught in India and Bangladesh, and the third which is neither told and taught here, nor across border. In order to highlight the third type of history, the SDPI team started a research project, ‘Rewriting History Project’ that was funded by the Heinrich Boll Foundation, Pakistan.


The project reflected the personal memories of a generation that witnessed the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 and the 1971 liberation War of Bangladesh. The Project addressed questions surrounding the massacre and migration after Partition; the establishment, nature and stability of Bangladesh, especially in regards to political and external agents and communities who were uprooted both in 1947 and 1971, such as the Bihari community, and the role of minorities in saving lives and promoting interfaith harmony. The aims of the project were to record and develop a more comprehensive knowledge base regarding these questions and to gain first hand understanding of the situation through oral history and ethnography. In Pakistan the emphasis was on the Mohajir community in Sindh and Punjabi refugees in Punjab; in Bangladesh it was on refugees from both West Bengal and Bihar who migrated from India to East Bengal in 1947, and then from Bangladesh to Pakistan after 1971.


Literature review and extensive field work in Pakistan was conducted in the first phase. The second phase of the project, included wider fieldwork across Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, and expanded publications, including a series of video documentaries. Two publications were produced, ‘Reconstructing History Memories, Migrants and Minorities’, including an introduction from renowned Pakistan specialist, Dr. Ian Talbot of the University of Southampton, and ‘The Land of Two Partitions and Beyond’, which consisted of three working papers. Three video documentaries were produced, ‘1947: Through the Sixth River’, ‘1971: Violence, Voices and Silence’ and ‘Religious Minorities: They are not “others” (1947-2008)’. The research was also disseminated in two panels at SDPI’s Sustainable Development Conference 2008.

Large Scale Land Acquisition in Pakistan

 Year: 2008-09


In 2008 when Government of Pakistan launched a scheme for leasing out/sale of state owned land at a large scale to foreign investors. In order to understand the possible implications of this plan SDPI undertook a study on large scale land acquisition in Pakistan. The main purpose of this study is to analyze the existing laws and regulations on large scale land holdings and to create a Policy, Legal, and Institutional Assessment Framework (PLIAF) for Pakistan that outlines all existing procedures and details all relevant institutions that are a part of that.


Due to food security concerns, worldwide land grabbing is becoming a more frequent incidence. This study is the first of its kind in Pakistan. In the first phase of the study, a detailed draft Policy Legal Institutional Assessment Frame-work (PLIAF) was created based on readily available data from all Federal and Provincial government level sources in Pakistan. PLIAF for the first time detailed the process of land acquisition and its appropriation based on the laws of Pakistan in simple words rather than in legal terminology.

The second phase of the study detailed the instances of large-scale land grabs in Pakistan for various purposes. The commonality in all these cases that are part of this inventory is that all of them are land acquisitions either for purposes other than appropriated or acquisitions by foreign investors, as in the case of Abraaj Holdings that has bought 324,000 hectares. This study is a crucial document in the discussions on land grabs and foreign holdings in Pakistan.

Post 2015 Development Agenda- National Dialogue on Strengthening Capacities and Institutions

Team Members: Dr Vaqar Ahmed, Babar Jamal, Naveeda Nazir

At the United Nations Millennium Summit, in September 2000, Pakistan among the other world leaders adopted the Millennium Declaration, including a vision for development and the eradication of poverty, the Millennium Development Goals. The MDG Framework will be completing its tenure in December 2015.

Pakistan performance on MDGs remained less satisfactory as compared to other countries in the Region. According to the National MDG 2013, Pakistan is off-track on 24 targets out of the total 33 indicators. Pakistan has been facing multifaceted issues related to political stability, security and natural disaster that have adversely hampered the development efforts.

Besides the constraints arising from the country security situation, issues related to governance and weak institutions have played a major role in the non-achievement of MDGs. Investment in statistical machineries to collect and make available timely data on the status of MDGs should have been given priority. The unavailability of data has been a major constraint in measuring progress towards MDGs and making informed decisions.

For the new set of the development agenda to replace MDGs after 2015, the UN launched global consultative process on post 2015 development agenda which will replace the MDGs Framework. Pakistan was selected one of the 100 countries for the national consultations, starting in December 2012. Inputs and feedback was gathered including representatives from Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), farmers, laborers, employers and workers associations, religious, ethnic and sexual minorities, students, parliamentarians, academia, development partners including donors and national staff of UN agencies, disabled persons, government officials at the federal and provincial levels, media, private sector, internally displaced people, women organizations etc. The key area that come up as priority from Pakistan consultation included peace, Justice and human Security, Governance, Energy, environment and Disaster Mitigation, inclusive economic growth and social development and Gender Equality

The second round of Post 2015 consultations focuses on the ‘means of implementation’ (MoI) critical for the achievement of the post 2015 development agenda and takes into account:, ownership, participation, capacities, partnership , monitoring and accountability.  Pakistan has been allotted the theme of “strengthening capacities and building institutions” required for the implementation of the post 2015 development agenda. The Dialogue on capacities and institutions underpins the importance of national-level actors, signaling that a transformative agenda requires transformed institutions.

Six themes of MoI have been identified: 1) Localising the post-2015 development agenda; 2) Helping to strengthen capacities and institutions; 3) Participatory monitoring, existing and new forms of accountability; 4) Partnerships with civil society and other actors: 5) Partnerships with the private sector; 6) Culture and development. Pakistan is one the eight countries chosen to undertake the national dialogue on Helping to strengthen capacities and institutions.

UNDP in partnership with the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), to conduct the consultative process composed of the following streams:
  • Desk review was conducted to do the important ground work to review and analyze the effectiveness of the present institutional structures and mechanisms, with a view to distill the lessons learned, and inform the implementation of the Post 2015 development agenda in Pakistan.
  • An online survey, targeting 1500 respondents, was conducted on the citizen’s feedback on public service delivery. The survey gave an opportunity to hear from the general public being the ultimate beneficiaries of the public services regarding their experience in dealing with and availing of services from the public sector institutions. The findings of this survey will inform interventions to strengthen capacities and build effective institutions for the provision of services for post 2015 development agenda.
  • To ensure inclusion, community based focus group discussion with women group, youth group and IDPs among the vulnerable groups. The focused group discussion to gather inputs for improving capacities and institutional effectiveness
  • A national consultation was held  to gather feedback from diverse stakeholders including  government representatives from national and sub-national level, experts, civil society members and policy makers on the issues hampering the ability of the national institutions in the public sector, identify priorities, gaps and recommendations for institutional and capacity development initiatives.
Following the key finding emerging from the national dialogue process:

Post 2015 development agenda will be different from the era when the MDGs were designed because of the context. SDGs are being formulated in an era when the world economy is recovering from the financial crises, there is less fiscal space from the donor available with a context of conflict and natural disasters. Need to realize and identify what capabilities are needed for data management as SDGs have more than 600 hundred indicators to monitor and report as compared to MDGs with only 48 indicators.

Strategic planning, monitoring and reporting are of extreme importance.  The MDGs in Pakistan didn’t get adequate attention in terms of converting the MDG Framework into concrete plans and strategies especially at the sub-national level. Planning should be done by establishing short and medium term goals rather than only having end-point targets. Government of Pakistan has launched the Vision 2025 as long-term development strategy aligning its seven pillars with the proposed sustainable goals. The plan build on development of human and social capital through education and skill enhancement added with indigenous sustainable growth, institutional reforms, energy, water, food security and nutrition.

New role of Planning Commission in post 18 Amendment scenario as an institution of federation. Representation of all provinces in the national level committee for smooth approval and execution of social sector development plans.

Localization of SDGs to local context is also one of the priority areas of the post 2015 discussions. In Pakistan, such localization efforts should go beyond the national level. In the post 18th Constitutional Amendment situation, localization has become the most critical element of an effective implementation mechanism for SDGs. In the current devolved governance structure, Pakistan would need to develop coordination mechanisms through which national and provincial plans and actions could be synthesized and experience and best practices shared.

An organized plan of action is need to undertake the governance/ civil service reforms starting from the smaller but important initiatives. The Ministry of Planning Development and Reforms, is committed to reforms for the good governance and will be holding Pakistan Governance Forum inviting experts from different areas to relook and reexamine the governance agenda to transforming institution into high performance institutions.

National capacities on data and statistics needs to be strengthened.  Survey tools and procedures to collect data on key variables should be aligned at federal, provincial and regional statistic departments.

Use of dashboard and KPIs for monitoring progress and results at national and sub-national level
Broad range of mechanisms is available to the citizens for social accountability in the country’s legal framework. There is a strong need to raise awareness among the citizens to exercise the right for creating demand for delivery of efficient public service as well as to hold the state  accountable.
Fiscal decentralizations/ financial allocations
Transfer of expertise and knowledge from the progressing countries on how to build better and effective institutions

From Vulnerability to Resilience

Partner: The National Centre for Competence in Research (NCCR) North-South (Transversal Package Project)

Year: 2008-09

Locale: Upper Dir and Swat


The research focuses on the implications of male out migration for the women who stay behind through which the need for reconceptualization of the Government’s development agendas that lack specific coverage   of migrant sending regions becomes apparent. The report stresses the necessity of development sector mobilization for harnessing local development potential in migrant sending communities.


In this project International migration and its linkages with vulnerability and resilience have been investigated. The project undertook a conceptual work/review of regional and global evidence; empirical research in Upper Dir and Swat, as well as networking and dissemination of research finding through publications, conferences, net-working and capacity building. The conceptual work undertaken investigated the gendered interface between social capital and vulnerability.


Based on Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of social capital, a shift from the investigation of women’s exclusion from and gender inequality within social networks to an analysis of masculine domination is suggested. Domination, in turn, appears to be directly associated with the degree of vulnerability that women experience. The research finds that a focus shift needs to take place from financial flows to the wellbeing of migrants and their families and communities in analyzing politics and patterns of migrant flows. To understand, for instance, the multilocality of migrants’ livelihoods, relations of migrants to their places of origin as well as linkages to their multiple other places of residence and work have to be considered, as well as considering the political economy of bordermaking.

The Rule of Law and Drug Related Mandates in Pakistan

Year: 2011

Team Members: Erum Ali Haider

Significant turning points in Pakistan’s political history are often closely tied to constitutional reform, either through the promulgation of a new constitution or through amendments to the existing constitution. The Constitution of 1973 is widely regarded the first legislative document to have had broad consensus amongst national and provincial political parties in Pakistan; significantly, it introduced a multi-party parliamentary form of government. But in the decades following 1973 two major constitutional amendments, the 8th and the 17th Amendments, changed the parliamentary democratic fabric of the 1973 Constitution. Through these Amendments, powers were transferred from the Parliament and Prime Minister to the Presidency, changing the system of governance in the country. After an intense period of political struggle and compromise, in 2007, major political parties agreed to a revival of the 1973 Constitution in its original form, in an effort to bring the country back to democratic and parliamentary track. Following this, in April 2010, the 18th Amendment was approved.

This study by SDPI focuses on the implications of the 18th Amendment on the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) mandate areas and how they operate in relation to Pakistan’s federal and provincial governments. It reviews the issues surrounding UNODC’s Programme through the governance lens, highlighting key changes brought about by devolution and discussing their impact. The study finds that the 18th Amendment has provided the provinces with considerable financial and administrative resources, which provincial governments must be held accountable for. A system of government that allows elections to the Union Council and district level, if used effectively, might help to reduce monitoring costs and increase transparency. Additionally, it would result in additional resources to the districts where they could be targeted effectively.

In addition to the report, the fieldwork conducted for this study has provided a rich dataset that is currently being used to write a Working Paper on the 18th Amendment. The Primary aim of this study is analyze the implications of the 18th Amendment on the federal and provincial functions related to the rule of law and drug-related health in Pakistan. For the purpose of this study the 18th Amendment is examined in three tiers (using a governance perspective): legislative changes and legal implications; institutional changes and administrative implications; and fiscal changes, and financial implications. The purpose is to inform and position development assistance in the new framework. It finds that while the provinces now have enhanced capacity to plan and target development programs, a major issue remains to be that of political will.

Better Governance Index

Donors/Partners: UNDP

Locale: Pakistan
Duration of Project: December 2016 – May 2017
Team Members: Dr Vaqar Ahmed, Dr Shehryar Khan, Rabia Manzoor, Ahmad Durani
The project uses a set of governance indicators (quality of governance, accountability, inclusion and openness, effectiveness and responsiveness for assessing institutional performance across selective public sector institutions. The construction of BGI would enable the government to reflect on institutional performance and also enable the citizens for holding state institutions to account. The BGI initiative attempts to inculcate the need for enhanced public accountability, while permitting institutions to identify managerial blind spots for continuous improvement. The BGI will be a first-in-class initiative for measuring and comparing public sector performance and comprise a range of relevant metrics that will:
  • Serve as a tool for benchmarking performance of public sector institutions;
  • Drive better performance, providing public sector managers with a tool for identifying areas for improvement in individual institutions as well as in a group of institutions;
  • Help create a competitive market for public sector institutions, leading to enhanced accountability, improved services and lowering of transaction costs; and
  • Likely evolve into an accreditation system for public sector, providing a basis for budgetary allocations, linking individual career progression with institutional results and financial and technical support from donors with performance on donor-assisted projects.

Social Assessment of the Brick Kiln sector

Year: 2008-09


This study focused on the living and work conditions of brick kiln workers, the nature of the contractual relationships between workers, middlemen, managers and employers/owners and the implications of mechanization and new technologies for workers in the industry. The assessment also includes a review of available reports, and a list of active stakeholders representing the government and civil society organizations


The research underlined the need for more support and facilitation from government to the vulnerable workers in addition to effective implementation of the government’s existing laws. SDPI also recommends issuance of national identity cards, adult literacy and vocational training, better work conditions related to remuneration, timings and shelter, and easy access to health facilities. On top of this, SDPI suggests adoption of fuel efficient technologies, and highlights the need for tripartite dialogue and transfer of technology under two-way benefit arrangements where workers could be at the centre.

Impact of Devolution on Public Service Delivery

Partner: Planning Commission 

From May 2018 to September 2019
Team Members: 
  • Shehryar Khan Toru (PhD) Team Leader
  • Sajid Amin (PhD) Impact Assessment Specialist
  • Rubab Syed Project Assistant 
  • Mohsin Ali Kazmi Senior Data Analyst
  • Maryum Waqar Survey Coordinator
Project Brief/Concept:
This study aims to analyze the impact of devolution on social services. A number of broader themes will be explored through mix methods. The instruments used for this study include structured household survey, Key Informant Interviews (KIIs), and Focus Group Discussions (FGDs). The study, to be administered in eight districts of Pakistan [two from each province] with a sample size of 800, adopts the following assessment criteria. 

I. Availability
Availability means that the right type of service is available to those who need a particular service “in the right place at the right time”. 
II. Accessibility
Accessibility means how access to public goods is secured by those who rely on the state provision of these services. The actual experience of accessing services and interactions of service users with state officials would be observed at the level of service provision. 
III. Affordability
Affordability will be examined by exploring the willingness of service users to bear the cost of a particular service.
IV. Quality 
The quality of service is associated with service outcomes viewed in terms of visible improvement in a particular service. For example, improvement in health status or nutrition of students can significantly contribute to school attendance. Measuring quality entails analyzing pre and post devolution statistics across selected services. 

1. Selected Social Services: 
To empirically analyze the impact of devolution on service delivery, the following social and collective services are identified for this study.


I. Maternal Health care
Improving maternal health is the 3rd Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), which deals with appropriate health care to reduce mortality rates. Access to maternal health care is an essential service especially in rural areas of Pakistan where high mortality rates prevail.
II. Water and Sanitation
Water and sanitation is the 6th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) which deals with water supply to urban and rural dwellings and domestic sanitation systems. As argued by Jones et al., “the effective provision of these services, primary health benefits and prevents the spread of disease”.
III. Solid Waste Management
Solid waste management is linked with the harmful effects of health and environment in an increasingly urbanized context. Providing safe disposal of refuse, processing and recycling is a major challenge for local governments. According to the World Bank (2011), “coverage and effective disposal” of waste varies considerably across urban areas.

The study attempts to shed light on the following broader outcomes:
  1. The examination of theoretical relationship between devolution and service delivery. As mentioned in literature review, decentralisation or devolution leads to better service delivery. This proposition would be explored throughout the study by focusing on the institutional arrangements of devolution and local governance context governing its implementation across select services.
  2. Exploring key governance challenges encountered by service providers in the effective provision of social services in a devolved context.
  3. Evidence-based analysis of devolved services by drawing on the actual provision of services ethnographically and through households’ perception survey.   
  4. Deliberating on political economy factors in the realisation of improved service delivery. For instance, the problem of “free riders” and “tragedy of the commons” would be explored.
  5. A detailed analysis of devolution by paying attention to the problems faced by service users such as; access, availability, quality and the rest on the one hand, and reflecting on “institutional” and “governance” dimensions of devolution on the other.
  6. The findings of the study would be disseminated at a national seminar.
  • Literature review
  • Development of Questionnaire (Quantitative & Qualitative)
  • Preliminary overview (Literature review, stakeholder mapping, budget review, etc.)
  • Prepare inception report for review and approval by Planning Commission
  • Validation of methodology to be used
  • Pilot testing of the quantitative data
  • Quantitative data collection from KP (Buner & Mardan), Punjab (D.G. Khan & Chakwal), Sindh (Thatta & Hyderabad), Balochistan (Quetta & Ziarat)
  • Qualitative interviews from representatives of relevant governmental and non-governmental departments in KP (Buner & Mardan), Punjab (D.G. Khan & Chakwal), Sindh (Thatta & Hyderabad), Balochistan (Quetta & Ziarat)
  • Report writing and submission
Status: ongoing.