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ISLAMABAD: Speaker of the National Assembly Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has said that regional cooperation is key to finding solutions to the socioeconomic challenges of South and South-West Asia region, particularly climate change, hunger and malnutrition, promoting quality education and decent work for youths besides ensuring equitable access to health.

He was speaking at an evening plenary titled: Sub-regional perspectives and Review of cluster of SDGs, on the second day of 25th Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and jointly held alongside UNESCAP's 6th South and South-West Asia High-level Political Forum and Policy Dialogue on SDGs.

He said that it is indeed a timely opportunity for us to reassess the national and regional strategies towards achieving SDGs in the face of unimaginable scale of loss and damage caused by unprecedented climate induced floods. He reiterated that National Assembly of Pakistan will continue to perform a proactive role for SDGs Agenda through joint and diverse legislative and parliamentary mechanisms.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister Romina Khurshid Alam said that Pakistan is confronted with unprecedented climate crisis and other South Asian countries have similar vulnerabilities to climate change and other challenges. She informed that the Parliament of Pakistan has been committed to make the world realize the gravity of climate challenge and the devastation the recent floods have caused across Pakistan.

Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, the Executive Director, SDPI said that Pakistan’s parliament is among a few parliaments across the region which has first adopted SDGs as national goals and set up a dedicated SDGs Task Force.

He said that the presence of Speaker National Assembly in this conference demonstrates his strong commitment to SDGs Agenda. He said that we are passing through unprecedented times, inflation, rupee devaluation, recession. However, Pakistan is not alone confronting the Triple-C crisis.

Dr Rajjan Sudesh Ratna, UNESCAP – SSWA, said that delegates from countries during the conference sessions deliberated about respective countries’ Voluntary National Reviews and discussed challenges and way out particularly in terms of SDG 6, 7, 9 and 11.

He said that 11% of global population comprises this region which lacks access to energy, and there should be a focus on clean, affordable renewable energy and intra-state energy sharing. He suggested focusing on economic diversification in terms of trade and market, disaster and climate change, and Information communications technology. He stressed that regional cooperation remains paramount to find solutions of common challenges.

At an evening plenary titled: ‘Closing the Loop - Policy Solutions for Achieving SDG 12: Ensuring Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns’, Tariq Bajwa, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister for Finance, has said that the private sector in Pakistan has a huge potential to advance the agenda of sustainable production and production practices.

He added that although the government is having a very thin fiscal space, it has taken measures to revive agriculture and industry, especially in the post-flood scenario. He said that free seeds, interest free loans, and subsidized energy prices are expected to help farmers to come out of the crisis and revive their livelihoods.

To ensure financing for the emerging businesses, a policy is in the pipeline that would be pushing the banks to lend more to the private sector, he added.

Syed M. Abdul Hassan Kazmi, Senior Director Supply Chain and Sustainability Lead Pakistan, PepsiCo, asserted that the private sector and the government need to work together to create a positive circular economy in Pakistan. He said that the business ventures to promote recycling, especially plastic waste, should be incentivized as it would not only reduce the import bill but also contribute to a better environment.

Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, SDPI Executive Director, said that Pakistan is currently going through numerous economic challenges. Therefore, it is a pertinent question today that how Pakistan would sail through the challenges such as high inflation, and shrinking fiscal space. He added that sustainable production and consumption is also an area of serious concern and the corporate sector of the country has to play a crucial role in it.

Zafar Masud, CEO, Bank of Punjab, suggested that we need to come up with short term, midterm, and long-term strategies do deal with the menace of the plastic waste and evolve recycling systems. He says in financial sector, the State Bank of Pakistan is going to introduce rating system for industries for taking eco-friendly measures and it is a good example to emulate in the other sectors as well.

Jahangir Piracha, CEO, Engro Polymer & Chemicals Limited, said the incentives for the industry are very important to persuade the industry to venture into recycling projects.

At another evening plenary titled: Building Resilience in Crises: Adaptive Social Protection-A National Priority for Pakistan, Federal Minister for Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Shazia Atta Marri said the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) has emerged as a model intervention towards achieving social adaptive protection for vulnerable communities facing multifaceted risks due to increased propensity of disasters and threats. She said social protection is the core and crux of everything whereas our society has faced different shocks in various crises one after the other from the pandemic to floods.

She added that the BISP is a social vehicle created back in 2008 whereas her political party (Pakistan Peoples Party) is the architect of this social vehicle and every political party owned it.

Sebastian Paust, Head of GiZ, said SDPI is one of the most important think tanks of Pakistan which is raising information on many areas of interest. He added that the recent crisis period reveals that there is a serious need to protect people’s incomes and economies from crises like pandemic, Ukraine Russia war impacts and food security crisis.

Muhammad Tariq Malik, Chairman, National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) said the problem with Pakistan is adapting new technology transforming governance. However, Pakistan has foundation of developed social protection systems and national ID system layer, which is the key to achieve successful electronic governance development index indicators.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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