ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to reprioritize the goals to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), said Deputy Chairman Planning Commission Sartaj Aziz on Friday.

“The Planning Commission is in the process of developing a national framework for SDGs in collaboration with the provincial governments as it is important to convert SDGs into national goals,” said Aziz while addressing the national convention of Local Support Organizations (LSOs), 2017 with the theme of “Achieving SDGs by Empowering Communities,” organized by the Rural Supports Programme Network (RSPN).

The Planning Commission with the help of provincial governments will contribute through the establishment of a new national cooperation framework for local government and local non-government organizations to strengthen inherent capacity in democracy, service delivery and local development paradigm, he maintained.

He said that Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were a top-down mechanism and essentially a bureaucratic process. Therefore, many countries including Pakistan missed out on achieving MDGs.

“The UN and we all have learnt and then goals were increased from eight to seventeen in the SDGs with more focus on social sector and improving people’s lives,” he explained.

“We couldn’t localize MDGs, but since SDGs is an international standard, we need to convert them to integrate with the local context. We have started converting the SDGs into national goals. It’s equally important to convert them into provincial and local goals to enhance people’s understanding and mobilize them to achieve SDGs,” he said. Expressing great trust in the abilities of the community networks and LSOs, he said all cannot be achieved by the government and it is need of the hour that organised communities come forward and take charge of their own development to achieve SDGs.

Aziz said until the benefits of development are reached at the lower level, it was of no use, he added. Pakistan had set its own developmental goals for social development as the government believes that social development is its real target.

Under the new framework, the local governments will be empowered to formulate policy, strengthen their institutional capacity and mobilize resources. There is a need for greater linkages among national, provincial and local development goals, Aziz added.

Under pillar 1, the energies of youth are to be channelized and vulnerable segments of society are to be protected, said the deputy chairman, adding that given the capacity constraints in the local government, major effort is required from the local community organizations to strengthen service delivery.

He further said that there was a need to reflect on what tools, mechanisms, and strategies at local level will require in order to implement the SDGs at the community level. To reach close to the SDG targets requires strong support politically, financially, magisterially and technically from every stakeholder.

SDGs were adopted with ‘strong advocacy from local governments and community support organizations (CSOs)’ to make them key implementation partner. An important issue on SDGs will be selection of specific goals, which can be pursued by different communities, Aziz added.

Chairperson Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), Marvi Memon said that Pakistan is progressing towards achieving SDGs as all development programmes are now integrated with the SDGs.

She said that like LSOs, BISP beneficiary committees are also a silent revolution taking place. These networks have been empowered and particularly women are empowered through financial inclusion that is a key to sustainable development. She said that the government had included women in the development process of the country.

EU Ambassador Jean-François Cautain said the 2030 agenda for sustainable development adopted by the UN in September 2015 is the international community’s response to global challenges and trends in relation to sustainable development. The evolution from the MDGs to the SDGs reflected the changing approach to global development. He said that the EU is a major support to the civil society organizations in Pakistan.

“We believe that sustainable development can only happen if communities at local level are taking charge of their own development, because only strong and well organized communities can demand quality services from the government and make officials accountable,” he maintained. SDGs Advisor to United Nations (UN), Pakistan, Paul Dudley Martin said that MDGs could not been achieved mainly because communities were not mobilized and local context was missing. He said that public awareness and ownership is important to achieve SDGs now as mobilizing communities is essential to achieve SDGs.

He said that Pakistan is now integrating SDGs in policies and implementation process that is a step ahead. The Planning Commission has also integrated SGDs in its Plan 2025, he added. Chairman RSPN Shoaib Sultan Khan said that community institutions work as the social pillar to supplement and complement the political and administrative pillars of the state.

With the support of the federal and provincial governments, these institutions of the people fostered through RSPs’ proven three-tiered social mobilization approach to community driven development, have done miracles in combating poverty. “Empowering these LSOs is so important to achieve SDGs,” he added. Other speakers said that community institutions, led by local people, are instrumental to achieve the SDGs. Since communities living in different areas face diverse range of issues and challenges and the local knowledge and context allows them to overcome such challenges in an indigenous way, it’s fundamental that they are being made part of development planning and implementation process at local level to achieve SDGs, they added. Country Director Asian Development Bank (ADB) Xiaohong Yang, Chairman RSPN Shoaib Sultan Khan, representatives of the federal and provincial governments, chief executive officers of RSPs and management and officials of RSPN and RSPs attended the convention.