Vice chairperson of NITI Aayog, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, India, shed light on ways to achieve SDGs in plenary session of S. Asian Speakers’ Summit.
Indore : India’s growth story can be a source of inspiration for South Asian region, said expert panel of the first preliminary session of the two-day South Asian Speakers Summit on Saturday.
Addressing the session titled ‘identifying resources for SDGs implementation in South Asia: opportunities for parliamentary cooperation’, experts’ panel, including NITI Aayog vice-chairperson Dr Arvind Pangariya and UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Yuri Afanasiev said that higher fund allocation for developmental schemes juxtaposed with scientific and technological innovation can help achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In his presentation, Dr Pangariya elaborated India’s growth story. He said that great headway in modern ways of financing helped the country achieve growth rate of more than 7.5% in 2015-16. Referring to the education sector, he said country’s Gross Enrollment Ratio or Gross Enrollment Index (GER or GEI), a statistical measure to determine number of students enrolled in schools at different grade level, was 109% in 2014. He said that GER empowers people with better health and education.
Stating that SDGs were a part of national growth, he said, “National growth needs to be adequately financed to achieve SDGs targets.” A change in social attitude is a pre-requisite for eradication of gender inequality, he added. He also called upon collective dialogue between developing and developed countries to fulfill obligations related to Paris Agreement.
UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in India Yuri Afanasiev appreciated India’s initiatives in modernising financial sector. “India is internationalising its SDGs agenda by prioritising its needs and policies. Parliamentarians should explore Interconnectedness and follow the ‘philosophy of continuity’ as pointed out by Mahajan,” he said. He also suggested the concept of pool financing and called for more public-private partnerships to bring about a change in the structure of economy and the country.
Stating that more than one billion Indians had access to banking through Aadhar, he described it as “a big initiative towards digitalisation of financing.” He further said that UN has pinned its hope on South Asia, especially India. In the next 10 years, lots of solutions will be tested, proven and disseminated around the world from this region.
Later, Parliament Speakers of various countries too shared their experience on the topic.
Wrapping-up the session, IPU president Chowdhary stressed on proper utilisation of domestic resources. “Standard investment in medical education should be 6% of GDP. However, none of the South Asian countries is doing so,” he said emphasising on the role of science, technology and innovation in empowerment of people.
Mahajan’s initiatives of appreciated
Local MP and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan’s concept of Speaker’s Research Initiative (SRI) came in for appreciation during the session on follow up of Dhaka Declaration-2016. During the session, each country presented a detailed report of year-long activities undertaken for the implementation of SDGs.
Session on Gender equality held
Chairing the session on ‘Gender equality as a critical factor for sustainable development’ , Bangladesh Parliament Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury said that women were an integral part of any nation’s human resource. “Women rights are human rights too,” she added.
“Discussion on ways to achieve gender equality reflects that gender imbalance still exists and there is an urgent need to address it,” she said.
Deliberating on the theme, National Centre for Human Settlements and Environment, Bhopal, chairman Nirmala Buch talked about heightened awareness of gender issues. However, it is yet to translate into actions and commitments, she rued.
Stating that policies and legislations on women bring about a change in men’s attitude towards the fairer sex, she said that special attention on women’s education and healthcare policies is a pre-requisite for an empowered society. Political political commitment and leadership too play a significant role in bridging gender inequality, she concluded.
UN Women’s Duty Representative in India Dr Asa Torkelsson too shared her views along with presiding officers.
The sessions concluded with the launch of IPU Self-Assessment Toolkit for Parliamentarians on SDGs by IPU President, Saber Hossain Chowdhury which is designed to help Parliamentarians assess how ‘fit for purpose’ they are in helping to implement the SDGs in their respective countries.
Pakistan’s absence severely criticised
Indore : Pakistan once again came under severe criticism as it refused to participate in South Asian Speakers’ Summit being held in city. Heart of Asia conference held at Amritsar in last December had also criticised Pakistan for supporting and exporting terrorism.
On the first day of two-day summit, Pakistan was criticised by speakers for abetting terrorism. Since the neighbouring country is also a member of the South Asian forum, an invitation was sent to the Speaker of Pakistan National Assembly. But it refused to participate in the summit. Addressing the plenary session of the summit, Abdul Raouf Ibrahimi, Speaker of National Assembly of Afghanistan, said his country is also a victim of cross-border terrorism. Like India, cross-border terrorism is very serious threat for Afghanistan, Ibrahimi said.
“Pakistan is not here; the reasons are best known to them. As a neighbouring nation we would have felt better if they were here,” the Afghanistan Assembly speaker said. Naming Pakistan, Ibrahimi said that that nation is exporting terrorism to all over the world.
Similarly, talking to this correspondent, president of Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Saber Chowdhary said that by keeping away from the summit, Pakistan has showed that it is afraid of criticism on abetting terrorism. The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the summit in its first meeting held in Dhaka last year had discussed the issue of cross-border terrorism.
Senator of Afghanistan National Assembly Jomadin Giyanwal, talking in Hindi said over 30% part of Afghanistan is still under the possession of Pak supported militia, which holds power in Helmond, Kandhar and Khrut. He said that his country is forced to spend a large amount of revenue to fight the militants, while there is need to increase expenditure on basic issues like poverty, healthcare, education and infrastructure.
‘Development must have a human face’
Quoting BJP ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyay, LS Speaker Sumitra Majhajan said integral humanism is the basis for development as it espouses indigenous economic model that puts the human being at the center stage. “First and foremost is the citizen. No development is possible and sustainable unless it has a human face,” Mahajan said.
Stressing on the role of parliamentarians as the bridge between people and their government, the Indore MP said, “As elected representatives, it is our duty to ensure that our respective governments take concrete measures for realising these sustainable development goals.” She was happy to note that in the Indore Summit, an effort has been made to capture three themes – resources for implementation of SDGs, gender equity, climate change and disaster management.
On the issue of discrimination against girl child, she said there is an urgent need for continuous efforts to promote the welfare of the girl child. Elimination of child marriage, access to reproductive healthcare facilities and overall emphasis on hygiene and personal care of women are some of the critical areas which are needed to be focused on, she added.
Earlier, delivering the welcome address Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha Speaker Dr. Seetasaran Sharma hoped that delegates would have fruitful discussions and significant and progressive steps would be taken in achievement of SDGs.
The Summit is being attended by IPU president Saber Choudhary, Afghanistan National Assembly Speaker Abdul Raouf Ibrahimi, Bangladesh Parliament Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, Bhutan National Assembly Speaker Jigme Zangpo, National Council of Bhutan’s Deputy Speaker Tshering Dorji, Sri Lanka Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, Maldives Parliament Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed, Nepal Parliament Speaker Onasari Gharti and members of Parliaments of participating nations.