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ISLAMABAD: Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Ahsan Iqbal has been appointed the United Nations Development Programme’s ‘champion minister’ from the Asia Pacific region in recognition of his efforts to promote the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

The title was conferred on him during the UNDP’s 50th anniversary ministerial meeting at the UN Headquarters in New York, the planning commission announced here on Thursday.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Iqbal said that Pakistan had signed a long-term agreement with the UNDP, under which the national SDGs initiative had been launched to provide effective governance mechanisms for policy mainstreaming, coordination and monitoring.

The government plans to transform the current Millennium Development Goals fund into an SDG fund for community-based interventions, he said.

Title recognises planning minister’s efforts to promote sustainable development goals

The minister pointed out that Pakistan was the first country to adopt the SDGs as part of the ‘National Development Agenda’ with its National Assembly adopting a resolution to this effect. “Pakistan is leading the development agenda by creating ownership. With support from the UNDP, an SDG secretariat has been established in parliament.”

Mr Iqbal praised the UNDP for its support `without any political agenda’, adding that it was essential for the organisation to create strong and effective knowledge-sharing platforms. The UNDP is a trusted partner of the government and will remain so, he said.

The UNDP celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with ministers from across the globe in attendance, who discussed major development issues and the role of the organisation.

Addressing the meeting, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said the organisation was working in over 170 poor and vulnerable countries and must rise to the challenge of advancing a “big, new, more complex, and transformational” sustainable development agenda.

“For fifty years, UNDP has been working on the frontlines of development, advocating for change and connecting countries to the knowledge, experience, and resources they need to help people build better lives,” she said.

The 2030 Agenda and the SDGs adopted by 193-member states last September provide the framework for the next phase of the UNDP’s work. By the end of the programme, most countries will be middle-income countries, which would then change the UNDP’s role.

Representatives of several countries raised the issue of water security and scarcity and management of water resources. This is a growing problem that could aggravate in the years ahead. The UNDP has resolved to support such countries in resolving the looming crises through improved water governance and management of shared water resources.

Many spoke of how environmental degradation is hindering their ability to move ahead. Combating climate change, achieving sustainable management of natural resources, and managing the risks associated with natural disasters are some of the pressing problems of the time, they said.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2016