Main Challenges for the SDGs for Pakistan
The world agreed in 2015 to implement the agenda of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which consisted of 17 goals, 169 Targets and around 230 indicators ( see Fig.). This Post 2015 agenda calls for actors to move away from business as usual (BAU) approaches towards the sustainable use of resources and peaceful and inclusive societies. The SDGs seem ambitious but significant progress in the MDGs have increased the confidence for achieving the SDGs. MDGs ignored environmental aspect altogether and so did not cover human induced climate effect on wellbeing of people. SDGs agenda integrates social, economic and environmental aspects in its development.
Pakistan has not made much progress in the MDGs as compared to many other developing countries. Besides many other factors, one of the main aspect was lack of ownership of the MDGs. In post-2105 agenda, Pakistan was quick in its response and has declared SDG agenda as its national agenda. However, declaration is one thing while achieving these goals is altogether a different story. Since these goals are very broad in nature and ambitious, there is need for collective effort from government, academia, civil-society, private and business sector, parliamentarians and local government leaders for making it happen. One has yet to see how much progress it makes in achieving the SDGs.
Among many challenges in achieving the SDGs, I shall discuss three main challenges here. These are related to data availability for the SDGs, prioritization of the SDGs and role of various institutions for the implementation of the SDGs. Data is the first and foremost requirement for the SDGs. Without availability of reliable, accurate and timely data, it is not possible to assess what is current situation and how long it will take to achieve these goals. Data will help to design evidence-based strategies for achieving these goals. Data will help to monitor, evaluate, report and implement the progress. Moreover, one main objective of the SDGs is to have inclusive development by “Leaving No One Behind” which is possible only if we have data for the most marginalized segments of our population. By using data, one can assess which goals can be achieved through Business as Usual (BAU) and which of the areas demand some innovative strategies.
In the absence of data, it is not possible to have evidence-based interventions. This may mislead priorities and one might miss those who need maximum attention. It may cost millions of lives, millions of children may suffer badly due to lack of vaccination, millions of children may miss schooling opportunity, and may cause many other miseries. Therefore, relevant data are the first and foremost requirement for right kind of interventions to make progress on the SDGs.
Second important aspect is localization of the SDGs. SDG agenda is global in nature but achieving these goals will not be possible by having uniform policies across all the countries. In addition to great variations in indicators from one country to another there are also huge diversities within a country. Therefore, Pakistan needs to implement the SDGs as per its local requirements which even may vary at sub-national level. For this there is need to prioritize the SDGs as per local needs. Prioritizing does not mean preferring one by ignoring the others. People living in rural area of Sind may need different focus than people in urban area of Sind and this even may vary from one district/Tehsil to another. SDGs are not in Silos but interwoven so making progress in one area in isolation is not possible. Prioritization means to identify targets which needs immediate and maximum attention. Progress in the most vulnerable areas will help to make progress in other areas as well due to integration of the SDGs.
Thirdly without strong institutional backing it is not possible to make any meaningful progress in most of the areas whether we talk about financing requirements for timely, accurate and quality data or funds for achieving the goals after right kind of prioritization. There is need for strong parliament, active involvement of local government leadership, role of bureaucracy, private sector engagement etc. There is need to make all the parliamentarians and local government leaders realize how important it is to achieve the SDGs. Parliamentarians can help in setting development priorities in the right direction and can ensure implementation of policies on the SDGs. They are better placed to make different tiers of government accountable for assessing development on the SDGs. Many countries of the world have made significant progress in the case of MDGs. Pakistan can also make significant progress provided it shows strong commitment and adopts some out of the box solutions instead of following business as usual approach.
 Author is faculty member at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. Twitter: @zahedasghar