UNDP – Investing in the Nation

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    View about Pakistan

    I found Pakistan an exciting country in terms of both challenges and opportunities for development. I have served Bhutan having a population of less than a million and China which has more than a billion people. Pakistan has a population of 180 million which is still growing rapidly. It is a dynamic country with diverse nature and culture. When I was managing a human development program in rural Myanmar, we used to send our staff to Pakistan to learn from the innovative community development programs run by the Pakistani NGOs. Working in Pakistan today has shown me a new development paradigm with complex challenges from multiple crises and humanitarian response to achieving MDGs and enhancing democratic governance.

    UNDP (major projects)                                                         

    UNDP has 177 offices around the world including our Country Office in Pakistan. In Pakistan, the number of our office staff is close to a hundred whereas in the field the number of project staff is over one hundred. We also have more than 500 project staff supported by UNDP through our implementing partners. It is a large office with strategic and comprehensive programs.

    UNDP’s program portfolio s has recently expanded particularly in the area of crises prevention and recovery. We have a mandate of promoting human development and supporting national efforts in achieving Millennium Development Goals and other priorities such as strengthening democratic governance and promoting environmental sustainability and climate change mitigation and adaptation. Apart from the ongoing projects, we are working on present challenges like early recovery of the floods of 2010 and also the current floods in Sindh. We have been working in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA for IDPs and are trying to make sure that we support sustainable solutions for the local people to improve their livelihoods. One of our main focus is on peace and development, working with the community to create csocial cohesion, mutual-support/trust and hope for the future.

     

    Local communities of Pakistan

    I am very impressed by the people of Pakistan for being so hospitable to their guests like us and ready to give hands to those unfortunate victims of disasters. The rural Pakistani people I met in villages have shown a high level of commitment and readiness to work towards improving their socio-economic status. All village leaders say that they are ready to help themselves to come out of poverty and educate their children, both girls and boys. They welcome organizations like UNDP to provide new ideas, technologies, capacity building support and be their partner of the change which they wish to see in the nearest possible future. The need of the hour is information, education/training, and opportunities to realize their fullest potential.

     

    Challenges

    One of the key challenges of development in Pakistan is the low level of education, particularly in rural areas and among women and girls. There is an increasing level of disparity among regions, rural and urban, as well as widening gaps between the rich and the poor.  UNDP strategy is to invest in people, women and men, at the community level and strengthen the governance system including policy and public service institutions to be relevant, accountable, transparent and participatory.

    If we succeed in promoting good governance and reducing inequality, there will be more sustained and accelerated development in Pakistan. We need strong political commitment and concerted efforts of all walks of life to make this a reality.

     

    Workforce

    As I mentioned before, our direct workforce is over 200 and indirect workforce through national counterparts is around 500-600. It is a large team and our strategy is to enhance local ownership and sustainability through capacity building of the local community enabling and empowering them to continue carrying out the similar development works on their own. Human development putting the people first and at the  center of the development, empowering people with information, skills and knowledge, promoting their participation in decision-making affecting their future, and essentially enlarging people’s choices.

     

    Poverty Reduction

    Poverty reduction is an overarching goal of the Millennium Development Goals.  Evidence suggest that the number of people below the poverty line is increasing in Pakistan due to the multiple crises including economic, food, energy and security as well as repeated natural disasters. We are increasingly working with the private sector to address the issue of poverty as the private sector is the “engine of growth” of the economy. We have been promoting public-private partnership creating jobs and income opportunities, poor households with special attention to youth and women.

     

    We are also monitoring the poverty and Pakistan’s progress towards Millennium Development Goals. We work with the Planning Commission in preparing MDG reports at both national and provincial levels. The analysis and findings of the reports will be useful for development planning as they will illustrate the specific areas of deprivation and the status of poverty at the district level.  It is important to have well targeted strategies to make the development program effective and relevant.

     

    Democratic Governance

    Democratic Governance is a way of people’s life and the foundation of the state. We are working with parliaments on development advocacy, gender equality, and enhancing effectiveness as well as strengthening accountability.

    We are also working with the provincial governments particularly after the 18th amendment and providing them technical support for augmenting institutional and human capacity building. Parliamentarians and governance institutions can play a major role in determining the development  pathway of the country through policy and institutional reform, pro-poor budgetary allocation, enhancing public trust and rule of law. I see an increase in the focus of attention and efforts among the decision-makers and politicians on the key development issues including MDGs, gender, climate change, disaster management, institutional reform and capacity building.  It is important for Pakistan to put the derailed path back on track to achieve its development goals including MDGs.

     

    Major Issues in the Economy of Pakistan

    Security is one of the major issues in the country. The high level of population growth is of a major concern affecting all dimensions of development: social, economic, political and environmental. Higher economic growth required to keep pace with the growth in population is a huge challenge. In terms of solutions, the new Economic Growth Framework proposes to make private sector “engine of growth” and creative cities and urbanization process to help generate the growth. Every citizen in the society should work together and solve these issues according to their local and regional priorities. Everyone should become part of the solution as opposed to being an observer. Youth (under 30 years of age) forms around 68% of the total population of Pakistan. They can play a major role in bringing peace and new ideas for the development of the country. Regional cooperation with neighboring countries particularly with India as well as with Afghanistan and Iran is also important and can help develop an enabling environment to bring about  sustainable and prosperous Pakistan.

     

    Potential to solve the economic issues

    We have been observing high level of resilience of the nation and the strength of the people in Pakistan. Unfortunately, we cannot prevent natural calamities from taking place and climate change impacts from affecting most parts of the country and across sectors.  However, local people on the ground have ample potential and ability to prevent and mitigate the impact of economic downturn and external shocks.  Once in the district of Balochistan, the village leaders and elders asked me why is Japan so successful today? I tell them that I consider three key factors behind the success of Japan: (1) all parents put education of their children as the first priority of their life; (2) hard work, which has been an accepted norm and the way of life of Japanese society; and (3) almost everyone in Japan have had  shared value and common goals to pursue.  My country with a population of around 130 million has thus achieved a miracle through these 3 factors: education and learning, hard work and shared value, goals and responsibility.

     

    These 3 factors can be applicable to any developing country. I have met with many impressive and capable people in Pakistan. There is no lack of human resources and potential talents in Pakistan.  There are, however, limited opportunities and services to access by a sizable segment of society.  There are some deep rooted barriers and difficulties among various groups of diverse background to agree on the common agenda and take joint actions with shared responsibility.  We need actions both from the community to provincial/national levels as well as from national to provincial and community levels.

    Best Things about Pakistan

    I am amazed by the beauty and diversity of this country in terms of nature, culture and people. It has ancient civilizations, unique cultural and religious sites and preserved nature to visit. Unfailing hospitality is a salient characteristics of the Pakistani people. People are very cooperative when it comes to difficult situations and family values remains high, which is admirable.

    Future Plans

     

    We will continue to work in similar areas such as MDGs and inclusive growth, democratic governance, environment/climate change and crisis prevention/recovery where UNDP has expertise and made substantive contributions with enhanced accountability and policy dialogue. For example, in democratic governance, we plan to support the elections, rule of law and local governance. We will also focus more on climate change issues and disaster risk management. We are supporting the Planning Commission on the implementation of the economic growth framework and partnering with the private sector to generate job and economic opportunities. Together with other UN agencies, we are to place special focus on the youth, women, the poor and the vulnerable groups such as refugees, internally displaced people, minorities, people with disabilities among others to reduce inequality, nurture social cohesion, and bring human development for all.

     

    Advice to the Youth, NGOs, Private Sector and Government

    My advice to everyone in Pakistan is that it is YOU who can make a change at your households, community, local and national levels. No one from outside will be able to take the responsibility of solving the problems which you are facing in daily life and in future. At the same time, many problems have their roots in the way the social fabrics and norms are established. Political, economic and institutional governance are being structured and managed at various levels, domestically, regionally and internationally.   Some suggest that “Think Globally and Act Locally.  Youth in Pakistan is the largest growing segment of the society which is capable of influencing today’s decisions and owns the future of Pakistan. I would urge everyone especially the youth, regardless of serving for NGOs, private sector or governments, “Not to stay in the world of hopelessness where you remain either observers or victims of the vicious cycle of problems.  Let’s live in the world with hope where you all are part of solutions. Let’s have a look at the reality and think where you hope to be.  Plan and take one action a day within your reachMedia can also make a significant difference in creating awareness among the masses and decision-makers. Together, and only together, we can make our world a better place. UNDP is committed to continue working together with the government, NGOs the private sector, media, academia and all especially youth and women, in the efforts to create peaceful, sustainable and prosperous Pakistan.     

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