Light at the End of the Tunnel: Hope in Times of DespairConcept Note Page

Concept Note

Please Register here for attending the sessions online and receiving session’s notification.

Dil nā-umīd toh nahīñ nākām hī toh ha

Lambī hai ġham kī shaam magar shaam hī toh hai

Faiz Ahmed Faiz


(Translation: I haven't lost hope, but just a fight, that's all; the night of suffering lengthens, but it is just a night, that's all.)[1]


(Translation: Oh yes, I grieve, but I do not despair, The dusk of sadness is long, but it’s just a dusk, that’s all.)[2] 


The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) brings its annual 26th Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) from 21 – 23 November 2023 in Islamabad, Pakistan. The overarching theme of this year’s Conference is “Light at the End of the Tunnel: Hope in Times of Despair”.

The SDC is a flagship event of the Institute that not only provides a forum for SDPI’s own research but also invites other researchers, practitioners, policy makers and academia from the world over to share their work and engage in a dialogue with fellow panellists and audience. This annual event has been established as a prime Conference in South Asia and beyond.

Carrying on with the tradition, SDC will be presenting the way forward amidst the global times of trial. SDPI, through its annual Conference, would be upholding a beacon of light and be a source of inspiration.  

Troubled times, dangerous times, times of uncertainty, times of political and economic turmoil, touching the rock bottom, deep in the abyss – such has been a bleak picture in Pakistan and various regions the world over.

The world is going through unprecedented times of political and economic turmoil, marked by uncertainty and despair due to multiple crises, conflicts, climate change, and the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic. These challenges have severely impacted the development agenda, particularly in South Asia, where the effects of these crises have been most acute. Despite these challenges and trials, there is still hope for sustainable development. The light at the end of the year will depend on the actions of governments, civil society organizations, private sector, and individuals who are actively engaged in addressing these crises and promoting sustainable development. The Conference aims to inspire hope and optimism for the future of the region and contribute to a more sustainable and resilient South Asia and beyond.[3]

The Conference invites scholars, researchers, practitioners, legislators, bureaucrats, and other speakers to place their solutions on the table and share message of hope, inspiration, and optimism in times of despair. In retrospect, we need to examine the mistakes and take away the lessons learnt. Looking into the past 75 years, where does the future take us another 25 years down the road? How will the regional alignments be beneficial? Learning from the past, what kind of economic, foreign, and social policies could be derived? How can the bridging divides be overcome? What are some of the pathways to sustainable development? The broader agenda is to have a futuristic discussion to achieve SDGs amidst the triple-C crisis, i.e., conflict, climate change, and COVID-19.

Over the years, SDPI has taken the initiatives in providing policy guidance to the various governments in Pakistan. Year 2023 is a year of elections for the country. The Institute’s mission has been to catalyse the transition towards sustainable development with a view of being a centre of excellence on sustainable development policy research, capacity development and advocacy in Pakistan. In this context, this SDC would assist the newly elected Parliament in its agenda-setting for a better tomorrow and a better Pakistan.

Under the overarching theme of “Light at the End of the Tunnel: Hope in Times of Despair”, the SDC will be holding sessions on related sub-themes.  We invite papers on sub-themes including but not limited to:

·        Poverty graduation

·        Debt sustainability

·        Political coherence and development

·        Key policies for the new government/s

·        Way ahead for climatic and environmental challenges

·        Renewable energy  

·        Building resilience in times of crisis and conflict

·        Climate action and sustainable development

·        Private sector engagement for sustainable development

·        Promoting inclusive and equitable development

·        Innovation and technology for sustainable development

·        Circular economy

·        Universal health care


Numerous other sub-themes that will be part of the overarching theme.
At SDPI’s flagship event, keynote speeches and interactive discussion panels/sessions will provide a platform for sharing and exchanging best practices, knowledge and experiences, and solutions for sustainable development in these troubled times.

Further details of the sub-themes and sessions being planned will be regularly updated at

Call for Abstracts/Papers: 21 August 2023

Speakers are invited to submit their abstracts against a relevant sub-theme of a panel. A list of panels will be shared and regularly updated on the weblink for SDC 2023 along with authors’ guidelines. Before submitting an abstract, speakers are requested to:

1.                Click on the active link of the panel title, review its focus, sub-theme, objectives, and the specific questions that the panel will address under the overarching theme of the Conference.

2.                Specify the panel title in the MS Word file of the abstract as well as in email’s subject line. The abstract should be between 150 - 200 words.

3.                Author’s name and 30-word bionote should be included in the abstract.

4.                Random abstracts not in line with the panel title will not be entertained.

5.                Email the abstract to:

All abstracts go through a software review for originality and if cleared are reviewed by an Editorial Committee. Only those speakers with short-listed abstracts will be contacted and requested to submit their draft papers and PowerPoint presentations by 15 October 2023. The paper should not exceed 6,000 words. The PowerPoint presentation should be contained within 8 to 10 slides.

For details of the panels, authors’ guidelines, submission deadlines, etc., please continue to visit the SDC 2023 weblink:  Information will be updated regularly along with the list of panels.


SDC 2023 Conference Outcomes

1.      Publications

A peer reviewed anthology based on papers presented is launched at the succeeding Conference. Keeping with this tradition, the Twenty-sixth SDC will launch the SDC 2022 peer reviewed edited volume titled ‘Sustainable Development in Unusual Times: Building Forward Better’ along with other publications. Previous SDC anthologies can be viewed and downloaded for free from:     


2.      Policy Recommendations

Each SDC is about reaching policymakers and relevant stakeholders and sharing with them key policy recommendations. As done so in the previous SD Conferences, policy recommendations from the panels and plenary sessions are communicated to the decision-makers attending the Conference at the various plenary sessions and also published in the annual anthology. Previous year’s policy recommendations can be accessed at

3.      Interactive Forum

The Conference will provide an interactive forum to researchers, experts, and scholars from different disciplines to find relevant ideas, best practices and solutions in an atmosphere of sharing and exploring. The SDC’s Keynote Plenary Sessions and parallel panels will be broadcast live on SDPI’s web-based channel ( and Facebook for wider dissemination.

Recap of the 25th Sustainable Development Conference 2022

The overarching theme of the Silver Jubilee Conference was “Sustainable Development in Unusual Times: Building Forward Better”. The mega event was held in a hybrid format where speakers/audience were able to join in person as well as online. Alongside SDC 2022, SDPI also hosted UNESCAP’s Sixth South and South-West Asia Forum (SSWAF) on the SDGs. This mega-event was jointly co-hosted by SDPI and the Ministry of Planning Development & Special Initiatives. The 25th SDC and UNESCAP’s Sixth South and South-West Asia Forum was attended by 345 panellists from 21 countries/region. Speakers joined the sessions from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Germany, India, Iran, Italy, Malaysia, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, the UK, and the USA. All the sessions had a keen and interactive audience. The President of Pakistan, H.E. Dr Arif Alvi, was the Chief Guest at the Special Plenary at the last day of the Conference. Altogether a total of 46 sessions were organized of which 11 were plenary sessions and 35 concurrent sessions. An audience of over 5,000 attended the four-day hybrid Conference.

SDC 2023 Team

For further details, please contact the Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) team:

Ms Uzma T. Haroon, Director SDC Unit; Ms Tayyaba Hanif, Associate Coordinator SDC; Ms Romila Qamar, Associate Editor SDC at




[3] ChatGPT, personal communication, March 27, 2023