The second South Asia Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) opened this week in New Delhi to review progress made towards achieving the goals in the subregion.
Organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in collaboration with Niti Aayog (successor of the Planning Commission in India) and Indian think-tank Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), the Forum brought together 200 participants, including governments and civil society representatives from all eight South Asian countries.
Designed as a subregional preparatory meeting for the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD), the two-day event is focused on the theme of the 2019 High-Level Political Forum, ‘Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.’
Dr. Nagesh Kumar, Director, ESCAP South and South West Asia Office highlighted the importance of this Forum as a channel to bring South Asian perspectives to the regional and global forums. He stated that given the weight of South Asia in population and the development gaps, the world cannot achieve SDGs without the subregion. While the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were achieved due to East Asia, it is South Asia’s Turn to lead the world in achieving the global goals.
Dr. Kumar expressed confidence that although there are numerous targets, given their interactions, most of the goals can be achieved by South Asia by focusing on seven broad strategic policy priorities identified in the ESCAP South Asia SDG Report. These priorities include: productive job creation, universal access to health and education, financial inclusion, social protection, and by fostering women’s entrepreneurship. He emphasized that through these policy priorities, South Asia can achieve the SDGs and be the engine for global growth, noting that regional cooperation, along with the reinvigorated global partnership and multi-stakeholder engagement, including civil societies, are key to achieving the goals.
Prof. Sachin Chaturvedi, Director-General, RIS said the SDGs are no longer seen as the UN agenda but have been owned by the countries in the region. He emphasized that policies enhancing regional cooperation are critical to achieving the goals.
Mr. Yuri Afanasiev, UN Resident Coordinator, India, underlined that Mahatma Gandhi is an illustration and inspiration about the SDGs. Highlighting India’s achievements in reducing multidimensional poverty, gender disparities, sanitation and harnessing solar energy, he said there are many challenges, such as increasing inequality and low female labour participation rates - driven by informal economy, that need to be addressed. Regarding climate change, he highlighted that we are facing a civilization challenge and that the region must prioritize its work on these issues.
Dr. Puspa Raj Kadel, Vice-Chairman, National Planning Commission, Nepal emphasized that timely and effective implementation is key to achieving the SDGs. He stressed the importance of identifying synergies and interrelation among the goals, and highlighted the initiatives taken by the National Planning Commission in Nepal to achieve the SDGs.
Dr. Rajiv Kumar, Vice-Chairman, NITI Aayog, India reiterated that the SDGs have been completely synchronized with India’s development schemes and programmes at the central, as well as state governments levels. He noted that the goals cannot be achieved unless the service delivery is improved by the government, highlighting that South Asia needs to focus on development monitoring evaluation, real time and outcome based evaluation to the governments.
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