Government officials, donor representatives and civil society leaders from South Asian countries discuss ways to build a SAARC Perspective on SDG

Sept. 12, 2014, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol: 08 No. -7 September. 12- 2014 (Bhadra 27, 2071)

Despite making enormous progress in the MDGs, including poverty reduction, South Asian countries remain a region with the highest number of people living below the poverty line.
As 2015 is coming closer, the debate has already started in the capital of South Asian countries, which have already started the debate as to what common development goals to adopt for Post 2015 after MDGs.
With a region of over one and a half billion population, South Asia is culturally, economically and ecologically diverse.  As the countries of the region are yet to develop the capabilities to sustain their achievements, the progress made during the last 15 years can crumble at any time.

Home to one fourth of the global population, South Asia will determine the success or failure of Post-2015 Development Agenda: Sustainable Goals and means of implementation.
All the eight countries in South Asia Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, India, Maldives and Pakistan are almost closer to achieve  most of the MDGs goals.  As there grow disparities, the challenges remain to eradicate poverty. In this broader context, the recent discussions held in Kathmandu are significant.
Attended by over 50 senior government officials, representatives of regional and sub-regional governmental organizations, civil society and private sector organizations and  United Nations Funds and specialized agencies, the 3-day sub-regional advocacy discussed South Asian Perspectives on  the Post 2015 Development Agenda, including on the new global partnership for development and the means of implementation for the post 2015 Development Agenda and discussed the role of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) for effective implementation of post 2015 development agenda.

Jointly organized by South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Asian Development Bank, ESCAP and UNDP, the workshop also shared the findings and recommendations of the Asia-Pacific MDG Report, Asia-Pacific Aspiration Perspective for a Post 2015 Development Agenda.
At the function inaugurated by vice chairman of National Planning Commission Dr. Govinda Raj Pokharel, the participants proposed the resolution following three days intensive discussions.
Poverty eradication is the greatest global challenge facing the world today and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. We are therefore committed to freeing humanity from poverty and hunger as a matter of urgency.
“This workshop is important for the region as this is the region with large number of people still living below the poverty line,” said Jamie Mcgoldrick, UN resident coordinator and UNDP resident representative Nepal. “Struggle against poverty and making progress in health, education and sanitation remain challenges.”

“As five hundred days target still remains, many of the goals are very much within the reach. There is the need to take something for the implementation. Despite remarkable progress in MDGs and other development catches. South Asia is now biggest concentration of poverty and hunger in the world. It has to do a lot,” said Dr. Nagesh Kumar, Director UN ESCAP, South and South West Asia Office.

In two and a half day deliberation, experts expressed concern on rising income gap and sustained the progress. “We need to think how to generate the resources and there is the need to have a collective imagination.  Along with promoting the Public-Private Partnership, ODA will be still critical for the overall development agenda. As climate change is likely to create more problems, climate finance is also important,” said  Anuradha Raghvan, Asian Development Bank’s advisor in Strategy and Policy Development.

“South Asia has made greater achievements. There still remain many agenda needing to address. Without achieving in South Asia, we cannot achieve it in the world.

Post 2015 agenda needs more data than MDGs. If poor and marginalized need to be reached, there is the need of more accurate data,” said Caitlin Wiesen, manager UNDP Asia Pacific Regional center.

Given the importance of the workshop SAARC has shown greater interest. "South Asia has many challenges and opportunities as well. Poverty eradication is the challenge for South Asian countries but presence of young population is opportunity as well,” said Arjun Bahadur Thapa, Secretary General of SAARC.

As Nepal is in the process of graduation to developing countries, coming decades will still be challenging.  “Government of Nepal formally began a plan to upgrade the nation from LDC to developing countries. Nepal has already prepared a plan. We need to address the problems faced by the people living in the region,” said Govind Raj Pokharel, vice chairman of National Planning Commission.  “We all need to work together to settle this. Our interest, agenda, voice and plan need to address the poverty. We have already highlighted regional plans for effective implementation of post 2015 agenda."

Along with poverty, challenges before the South Asian countries are transforming the economy. The issue of redistribution of benefits within the countries and  amongst the countries and the inclusion of future generation.

“SAARC Secretariat has been actively involved in implementing the poverty reduction strategy in the region,” said  Dhan Bahadur Oli, Director of  South Asia Association of Regional Cooperation.

Highlighting the importance of achievement of MDGs in South Asia and priorities for Post 2015 development agenda, Alessandra Casazza, policy advisor MDG and Inclusive Growth of UNDP said along with pursuing more inclusive economy policy the countries of the region need to sustain the MDGs achievements.  

In the coming decades, all South Asian countries will have to deal with various development challenges, including aging population, reproductive health, quality of education, gender issues, job and employment, water and sanitation, renewable energy, hunger and food security, healthy lives and energy for all.

Along with others, participants discussed financing for post 2015 Development Agenda, Technology Access and data monitoring and accountability.

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