Development Matters - June 2014

 Civic education event, part of an ongoing series, focused on civic education in Pakistan, with respect to women and youth. (From left) James Littleton, Chief Technical Advisor Electoral Support to the Election Commission of Pakistan, European Union Ambassador Lars-Gunnar Wigemark; Marc-André Franche, UNDP Pakistan Country Director; Sono Khan Baloch, KP Provincial Election Commissioner; Zafarullah Khan, Executive Director, Centre for Civic Education

by Marc-André Franche, Country Director, UNDP Pakistan - @MAFundp

“I belong to a province where development indicators have not shown any substantive progress, so I intend to go back and work on social development as I know the priorities of the area,” says Zia Ud Din. Born in the small town of Pishin, Zia Ud Din worked part-time to make ends meet while he pursued his M.Phil. He learned about the UNDP-Higher Education Commission fellowship award supported by UNDP and immediately decided to apply to support his continuing studies. His winning thesis topic was “Fiscal Decentralization and Economic Development Pre- and Post-7th National Finance Commission Analysis."

Zia plans to go back to Balochistan when he completes his degree and he requested that such fellowship awards be increased since they provide people coming from underprivileged backgrounds an opportunity to accomplish their objectives.

Pakistan is a young country, with one of the youngest electorates in the world. The youth are extremely dynamic with a lot of potential. They are determined to find ways of being actively engaged citizens – a critical ingredient for sustainable democracy, and a dynamic that underlines the importance of civic education.  UNDP recently hosted the first in a series of events on the role of civic education in strengthening democracy in Pakistan. The seminars are part of a broader program to promote civic education and democratic values – a critical component for improving the quality of democracy in Pakistan.

Subsequent events, aim to explore the state of civic education in Pakistan, hearing perspectives from a broad range of stakeholders – government representatives, civil society, political parties, the media and of course, the key target audiences for civic education initiatives – women and youth and prioritise concrete future investment.

This edition's featured partner, the Government of Australia, is one of many partners which came together to promote civic education in Pakistan as part of UNDP’s electoral cycle program to provide women and other marginalized groups with the skills and capacity to play a more active role in civic life. 

The participation of women and youth is also critical to achieving the Post-2015 Development Goals. Women parliamentarians actively took part in the first National Parliamentary Conference on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that was held earlier this month. Parliamentarians from across the country came together to develop National Action Plans supporting the achievement of each of the MDGs. This marks the first time that the National and Provincial MDG Task Forces have met to agree on a nationwide, non-partisan approach for achieving the development targets in Pakistan.  The members of these Task Forces serve as legislative advocates for the achievement of the MDGs throughout the country, monitoring progress and recommending corrective measures where needed. Any progress will require an active parliament holding the executive accountable.

Work on the MDGs has been stymied by natural and man-made disasters and political instability in the past, but popular awareness of the Government’s development plans is growing. At the same time, this collaborative effort between the national and provincial levels is a tremendous step in achieving Pakistan’s development targets, providing elected representatives with the knowledge and tools they need to closely monitor the implementation of development plans and assist the Government in its endeavours to improve the lives of the people of Pakistan.

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