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Negotiating the path towards sustainable development is not easy for any country acting alone. Pakistan’s experience is evidence of the challenges given that levels of foreign investment, trade and development assistance have fluctuated over the years — both assisting and hampering development. Future success or failure when meeting the targets set by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will ultimately depend on Sustainable Development Goal 17 that aims to revitalise global partnerships for development by building domestic means to implement the SDGs. Global partnerships must have varied elements: more development assistance, debt relief, trade agreements that help developing countries find markets and better conditions for foreign and domestic investment. Funding – public, private, national and global – has to be substantial to meet the demands of development. Equally important is the country’s ability to ensure science and technology serves all segments of society, including the poor, so that lasting, equitable development for all becomes an achievable target.
Partnerships matter when lifting people out of poverty, when protecting the environment and when building peace — partnerships between governments, the private sector, civil society and the international community. Countries that have fostered partnerships over the last 35 years have transformed their social and economic indicators — the Asian Tiger economies of Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand first, and, more recently, China, Vietnam and Indonesia. This understanding lies at the core of SDG 17.
Pakistan has made significant progress when it comes to economic prosperity: national income per capita that has doubled since 1990 and income poverty has declined nearly three times since 2000. The human development index has increased by nearly 50pc. All this ranks Pakistan as a lower-middle income country. However, the growth in income is less in comparison to that of those countries where stronger partnerships exist (Indonesia and China). And, when measures of health and education are also included, as they are in the Human Development Index, Pakistan’s progress is slower when compared to other countries in the region.
This could be partially attributed to fluctuating partnerships. However, consistent progress has been made on reducing debt as a percentage of income. It is now twice as low as it was in 1990 and at levels lower or similar to comparable countries. The level of remittances that Pakistanis send home when working abroad is more than four times what it was in 2000. However, the amount of official development assistance as a share of income has declined over the last few years (as it has in most regional countries). Similarly, the share of exports and imports in national income has declined since 1990 and is at least 25pc lower than in comparable countries. The share of Foreign Direct Investment in the economy has fluctuated over the last 30 years, but in 2013 it was back at the level of 1990, which is 0.6pc in comparison to Indonesia where it is 2.7pc or Bangladesh which is 1pc.
If Pakistan is to meet the SDGs, there is considerable scope to improve the role of partnerships. The government has recognised the need of collaborations because it has prioritised regional peace and integration through South-South cooperation, as shown by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the Central Asia South Asia (CASA 1,000) electricity power project, the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) natural gas pipeline, and the TUTAP (Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan) electricity transmission line, and also through Pakistan’s role in SAARC initiatives. Similarly, internal partnerships – with the provinces, civil society and the private sector – will be of considerable value. It will require such partnerships, for instance, when meeting the needs for finance and technological progress. One measure is the level of internet usage, which has increased multifold in ten years. However, Pakistan’s level of use is relatively lower than most countries in the region. The percentage of the population using the internet in China is nearly four times that of Pakistan. Another priority area is for the government to carry out a census as planned for next year. Reliable data is essential for socio-economic planning and for the benefits of development to reach all.
To meet the SDGs, Pakistan does not require international institutions. Instead, it must transform the way current institutions do business. It must continue to shape those institutions — and one way is through effective cross-sector partnerships, which also indicate that resources are efficiently used, solutions stick and people benefit. To add, building partnerships requires a conducive environment. For too many countries it remains hard to find those open doors, and this is perhaps reason why Pakistan and other countries did not get the support needed from 2000 to 2015. But because Agenda 2030 provides a stronger sense of common purpose and common responsibility than ever before, it would be easier to get those partnerships rolling. The challenge will be maintaining this common purpose when the world is ever more politically complex. Given the UN experience of the past 71 years, it teaches that when partnerships worked, the world became a better place. When they frayed, development stalled. For Pakistan, SDG 17 lays out a trajectory for partnerships to work better and provides an opportunity to contribute to and benefit from global and national partnerships. This kind of collaboration in an ever-connected world is essential,if the basic goal for 2030 is to be met — creating a world where no one is left behind.