After the expiry of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), the United Nations (UN) introduced the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015. These consist of 17 global goals, 169 targets and 230 indicators which are to be achieved by 2030 by its member states. The central pillars to these SDGs are social inclusion, economic development and environmental sustainability. The environment, which takes into account water, energy and climate change is a crucial area which was not covered in the MDGs. These SDGs are based on comprehensive development agenda which sets important milestones ranging from ending poverty to global and regional partnerships for enhancing of regional and international cooperation, particularly in terms of access to science and technology and knowledge sharing, particularly from North to South on mutually agreed terms.All these 17 goals are aimed at improving the socio-economic status of billions of people in a sustained way. The SDGs framework provides an opportunity to the world at large and developing countries like Pakistan, in particular, to put in coordinated efforts and divert all energies and resources to meet international development goals for the greater good of humanity. There is a need for these initiatives when poverty dominates large swathes of the globe, especially in Asia and Africa, where safe drinking water is still a luxury. Only some privileged children have access to quality education. Gender equality is a distant dream and a decent living is far from reality. Pakistan stands at the lowest rung of the development ladder in terms of poverty alleviation, literacy, water and sanitation, maternal and child health and climate change to name a few problems. So SDGs are needs-based and provides a holistic agenda to be pursued in real spirit. Before devising the national strategies for these SDGs, Pakistan will do well to do some stock taking to assess its performance in pursuing the MDGs. It fell way too short on almost all the targets. The expected outcome of this exercise will be identifying the loopholes at different levels and developing improved strategies to plug these gaps. The most fundamental flaw with regards to MDGs was the absence of mechanisms for collection of accurate and time bound data for tracking the progress against certain indicators. Furthermore, awareness on MDGs — even among parliamentarians, policy makers and the media — was far too insufficient. There was not a single debate in parliament or on mainstream media to discuss the goals, framework, progress, challenges and addressing mechanisms that should have been taken. Additionally, line items were not allocated for expenses incurred for MDGs related activities making it difficult to ascertain the value for money.SDGs must be part and parcel of mainstream political and economic discourse for this has potential to change the social milieu of our countryAt this time Pakistan cannot afford to lag behind the international race because it already ranks low on SDG’s global index according to a July 2017 report. It ranked Pakistan 122th out of 157 nations while Bangladesh ranked at 120 and India 116 on the index. This indicates that there is something terribly wrong with Pakistan at a policy level owing to misplaced priorities and a myopic development agenda. There is a need to bring in a paradigm shift to turn the country from a security to welfare state. Though all the goals are interconnected, goal number five, ‘gender equality’ lies at the centre of this framework. In Pakistan gender inequality is the primary cause of keeping a large chunk of population out of social, politics and decision-making processes. This results in the restriction of their economic empowerment. According to ‘Global Gender Gap Index 2018’, Pakistan ranked 148 out of 149 countries. This is an appalling record and must be taken as a wakeup call. If Pakistan desires to achieve meaningful progress along the way to SDGs than state institutions must come up with an effective plan for the implementation of women-friendly laws and fighting against regressive practices. There must be zero tolerance for child-marriage, forced marriage, honour killing and violence against women. A common man must be sensitised to the level that they begin to perceive these things as crimes rather than private matters.It is a positive sign that Pakistan has chalked out a national development agenda based on SDGs and linked it to vision 2025 of Pakistan. In this way, SDGs will be in-built in programs in a systematic way. Moreover, it will go on to increase the ownership of SDGs among the representatives of state machinery. One of our biggest mistakes when it came to the MDGs was considering them an agenda imposed by the UN. The MDGs were meant only for submission of four-yearly progress reports. But this time around a bottom-up approach is needed to localize the SDGs with people at a grassroots level. An effective and efficient local government system is key to progress here. Another fact, after the 18th amendment powers in certain subjects have been devolved to the provinces and then to districts. Therefore, in absence of a local government system, chasing the targets will remain a hard nut to crack. SDGs must be part and parcel of mainstream political and economic discourse for this has potential to change the social milieu of our country. For this, all the stakeholders including parliamentarians, political parties, media, civil society organisations, NGOs, academia and others must be taken on board with the necessary capacity building initiatives. Some indicators of it may be that; SDGs are included in the manifestos of political parties, national and provincial policies designed and implemented are the essence of SDGs, there is a proper monitoring mechanism for setting periodic benchmarks and tracking the progress against social indicators and the curriculum covers the basic outline of SDGs.The incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has a solid window in the shape of SDGs to change things for the better by taking concrete actions rather than chanting hollow slogans. Under this program, a lot of financial and technical support is available. The only thing needed is political determination and a pragmatic approach. The writer is a development practitioner and working with South Asia Partnership Pakistan as Manager Published in Daily Times, February 14th 2019.