KARACHI: Development policy makers and practitioners stressed the importance of fostering people’s own organisations and providing them with suitable resources to act as the social pillar to complement and supplement the government’s political and administrative pillars. All national and provincial local development policies and budgets must mainstream the social pillar for effective poverty reduction at the household level. They were addressing the participants of the National Convention of Local Support Organisations (LSOs) organised here on Tuesday by the Rural Support Programmes Network (RSPN) with the support of European Union Delegation to Pakistan. Sindh’s Minister for Planning and Development Mir Hazar Khan Bajarani was the chief guest at the convention. Mir Hazar Khan Bajarani, while addressing the convention, said that it was pivotal to include rural communities in decision making processes of their respective local areas. “Their commitment to their villages and towns is very strong. If they become part of decision making process, they can deliver miraculous results,” he stated. He acknowledged and appreciated the efforts of the Rural Support Programmes (RSPs) for poverty reduction and transforming the lives of the rural communities, especially rural women. RSPN serves as a strategic platform for 11-member RSPs that support economic and social empowerment of the poor rural communities through the social mobilisation based approach to Community-Driven Development (CDD). Federal and provincial government officials, European Union representatives, donor organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), RSP senior leaders, and representatives of the LSOs participated in the convention. The convention provided organised communities a forum for strategic coordination, experience sharing, networking, and showcasing new initiatives by LSOs. Representatives of the selected LSOs from all provinces and areas of the country also presented their achievements. In his welcome address, Chairman RSPN Shoaib Sultan Khan said that the centre-piece of the RSP approach is social mobilisation of the poor in order to enable them to participate directly in decisions that affect their lives and prospects. He said, “The concept is to build capacities of people to enable them to organise, manage their own organisations to improve their own lives and livelihoods.” He said that the three institutional pillars are necessary for making transformative change in the lives of the rural poor households. These pillars include the administrative pillar, political pillar and socio-economic pillar. “Since the poverty is at the household level and is felt by the suffering households, these poor households have to be organised into community organisations (COs), village organisations (VOs) and union council level local support organisations (LSOs), and they jointly form the third social pillar which should work with the administrative and political pillars to address the rural poverty and development issues, Shaoib Sultan Khan maintained. Deputy Secretary Economic Affairs Division (EAD) Kalsoom Hai said that the organised communities should work with the government and politicians to highlight their real development potential. She appreciated the work done by the organised communities with the support of RSPs. Additional Chief Secretary Punjab Shumail Ahmad Khawaja, while addressing, and informed the audience that the Punjab government was seriously considering the launch of the first phase of social mobilisation-led poverty reduction programme in selected districts. He also desired that a similar LSOs’ convention should be organised in Lahore in the near future. Earlier, Chief Operating Officer RSPN Khaleel Tetlay highlighted the approach and work of the RSPs and how they were creating an enabling and nurturing environment for the rural poor. He told the convention that RSPN through its member RSPs have so far fostered 6.6 million rural households into three eighty-six thousand community organizations and more than twelve hundred local support organisations to become part of the sustainable development process. Dr. Amaury Hoste, Head of Rural Development and Economic Cooperation, European Union Pakistan, said poverty was a serious unresolved issue of Pakistan. He said the EU has observed the proven results of RSPs’ approach for poverty reduction and sustainable rural development. Dr. Amaury stressed that organised communities must interact and hold dialogue with the policy makers and the government to scale up development process through CDD.