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ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar has said that COVID-19 pandemic has “unearthed an opportunity to recast the role of the welfare state, which needs to be a major part of the re-commitment to agenda 2030.”

“In Pakistan, we believe the social protection of today is the human capital, the resilience, and the economic inclusion of tomorrow. Investing in social protection is both a response to current needs as well as preparedness for and insurance against future crises,” she said while speaking at the United Nation’s High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on sustainable development in New York.

The HLPF session (July 5-16) has been convened by the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) under the presidency of Pakistan.

Ambassador Munir Akram is the current President of ECOSOC.

“We are humbled that through Pakistan’s social protection programme, Ehsaas, led by our Prime Minister Imran Khan, a strong acceleration towards this goal is underway,” Dr Sania said.

Referring to Ehsaas Emergency Cash (EEC) Programme, she shared “three lessons” with the international audience.

“Firstly, our experience has taught us that data innovations, delivery systems, and a commitment to integrity, transparency and accountability are crucial to address the long-standing fault lines that have plagued the public sector delivery. Today, Pakistan’s reform hinges on these attributes. Secondly, gaps in financial and digital literacy must be addressed to bridge the digital divide and it is with this in view that we have built financial inclusion into the overall design of expanded social protection. Thirdly, we must protect human capital from negative coping strategies that are inevitable as a result of the pandemic. Pakistan is amongst the first few countries that acted concretely,” she stated.

The session took stock of the overall progress into Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while taking into account the impact of the pandemic and the experiences and responses of countries at various development levels.

According to an official statement, the session focused on exchange of experiences on policies and integrated approaches that are being implemented to address the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, while ensuring that recovery from pandemic is sustainable and resilient, putting countries back on track to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The high-level political forum on sustainable development is the core UN platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 SDGs.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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