‘War hysteria on social media made us oblivious to SDG targets’

‘War hysteria on social media made us oblivious  to SDG targets’

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has no alternative but to plan for achieving the targets set in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to avoid imploding under the weight of exploding population, climate change, environmental degradation and steeply falling health and education standards, said Senator Farhatullah Babar.

He said this at a seminar organised by the Shaheed Bhutto Foundation in the auditorium of SZABIST in Islamabad. "The absence of alternatives must make the mind clear", he said.

Babar said that as the nation's attention was riveted on prime minister's speech on Kashmir at the UN and on fighting and winning nuclear war on twitter and social media, we failed to take notice of the UNICEF report released on that day in New York on the miserable state of social development indices in Pakistan.

According to the UNICEF report, Pakistan ranked third highest in the number of stunted children under five years of age. More than 44 percent or nearly 10 million Pakistani children suffer from malnutrition and stunted growth, it said.

The report placed Pakistan at 149th among the 188 countries in the first global assessment of progress towards the health-related SDGs.

The senator said that not only 25million children are out-of-schools but nearly half of those in schools cannot read stories in Urdu, Sindhi and Pashto taught in grade two, whereas in addition to the crisis of out-of-school children, we have crisis of learning.

He said the climate change is a hunger multiplier and ill health multiplier adding that it has caused recurring floods on the one hand and water scarcity on the other in the politically stressed Balochistan.

The people of Balochistan would be demonstrating against enforced disappearances and vanishing water resources more than holding protest demonstrations against Indian PM Modi, he added. Babar said Pakistan has graduated to be among the top 10 countries threatened by climate change, while the subject is not on the radar of the parliament, government and the parties yet. He warned that by ignoring human development and SDGs, we are only allowing ourselves to slide further down the steep slope of self-destruction, he warned.

"We are destroying our future by remaining unaware to the stunted growth and illiteracy of our children", he said.

He called for setting out a trajectory for achieving the social sector-related SDGs. Most of the targets in the SDGs in health, education, drinking water, sanitation etc were placed exclusively within the domain of the provinces and the local governments, he said.

Therefore, our approach must be participatory and based on incentives and not on punitive action, he added.

"The SDG targets cannot be achieved without effective local governments in all provinces and tribal areas. Therefore, the first step should be institutionalisation of local governments with administrative and financial autonomy", the senator said.

A participatory approach was required so that the issues in SDG targets should be regularly discussed in the Council of Common Interest (CCI) so that all the provinces should have a say in this regard, he added.

He said that unfortunately we have left issues in climate change and environmental degradation to the resilience of the people and foreign donors only.

Babar further said there was great potential for both India and Pakistan to cooperate in the areas of environment and climate change through comprehensive dialogue adding that this requires political will and wisdom that recognised the principled position on Kashmir and support to their cause.