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Concept Note


The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) held its Eighth Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) from 7—9 December 2005 in Islamabad, Pakistan. Each SDC is designed to be a forum for sharing and exchanging dialogues on sustainable development with practitioners, civil society and policy-makers. Some 136 panelists from 11 countries participated in the Eighth SDC held in December 2005.

The previous Conference covered issues such as globalization; migration and urbanization; food and water security; health; environment; energy; resource rights; gender issues; human trafficking; and, literature and development. Policy dialogues proved fruitful where speakers from Pakistan were able to share their ideas with counterparts from South Asia and other regions of the world.

The Sustainable Development Conference series has been established as a prime Conference in South Asia on development issues due to which it attracts leading intellectuals and policy-makers to come together.

An anthology, based on reviewed, approved and edited SDC papers, is published and launched at the succeeding Conference. The published books form part of curricula on development of some of the educational institutions within Pakistan and are also quoted in research publications. ‘Troubled Times: Sustainable Development and Governance in the Age of Extremes’ was the title of the anthology launched at the occasion of the Eighth SDC.

The Eighth SDC examined the multiple facets of sustainable development in the contexts of South Asia. The speakers discussed how problems and issues in South Asia can be dealt effectively at various levels based on prior experience of successful policy interventions. The Conference brought together from South Asia and other regions of the world theorists, researchers, activists, policy-makers, and academicians to debate the issues of sustainable development in an era of globalization.

The following six major themes were planned for the SDC held from 7—9 December 2005:

I. Women’s/Gender Issues
II. Livelihoods
III. WTO and Governance
IV. Health
V. Peace and People’s Rights
VI. Child labor

Details of the themes and sub-themes are discussed below. Each theme constituted one or more sub-themes and panels. Each panel ran for about two hours. Three to four presentations of 15-20 minutes each were followed by a dialogue with the audience at the end.


I. Theme: Women's/Gender Issues

The sub-themes addressed dispossession and empowerment of women in the South Asian context. Juxtaposing South Asian women’s gendered experience of both structural and direct violence, panels sought to explore examples of positive masculinities in South Asia as a means of countering the violence women experience.


1. Displacement, livelihoods and rights: Gendered experiences

This sub-theme addressed the multiple contexts and forms of displacement (internal/national versus regional; rural/urban; development-induced displacement and conflict-induced displacement) and the search for sustainable livelihoods in an era of economic globalization and supposedly pro-poor national policies. It discussed sustainable solutions for issues of citizenship and legality for economic migrants from other countries in Pakistan, access to resources as a right (especially water related displacement and livelihood threats) and the right to decent work, especially for women.

The purpose was to invite papers from within South Asia that address how the issues we raise here might have been effectively addressed at the community, local or national levels in South Asia, either through government policy or through effective resistance movements.

Panel Organizer: Saba Gul Khattak, Executive Director, SDPI
Email: saba@sdpi.org

2. Gendered violence and positive masculinities in South Asia

This sub-theme explored the increasing incidence of violence against women and its changing forms, and argued for an exploration of positive masculinities as a practical means to counter the trends in violence against women. Context-specific papers were sought from gender specialists and gender networks that provide a way forward to policy-makers, activists and practitioners.

At the conceptual level, it was also explored how to engender the different human security frameworks so that they could capture the structural and direct violence that women in South Asia experience in their daily lives. Thus, indices such as the gender empowerment matrix would need to take account of violence against women (structural violence such as laws and customs, and direct violence such as rape, stripping naked or honor killings) as a key indicator of women’s empowerment. The purpose was to debate how different UN and country-specific frameworks can become reflective of these realities and the practical steps that government can take to indicate their commitment to women’s empowerment.

Panel Organizer: Saba Gul Khattak, Executive Director, SDPI
Email: saba@sdpi.org

3. Linking our past to the future: Women, education and social reform

Late 19th and early 20th centuries witnessed the changing social positions of Muslim women in South Asia. A couple of studies have already tried to address a few aspects of the above-mentioned theme. However, certain gaps still exist and have to be addressed thoroughly. The panel, while looking into the historical roots of women education in late 19th and early 20th centuries' South Asia, tried to link it up with present and future problems/prospects of female education in Pakistan and other countries of the South Asia.

Panel Organizer: Ahmed Salim, Director Urdu Publications/Research Associate, SDPI
Email: salim@sdpi.org

4. Women mystic/sufi poets: Dissenting voices from South Asia

The women saints in medieval Indian society emerged in an atmosphere of discrimination and suppression but blossomed into thinkers, scholars and spiritually advanced and emancipated beings. Their lives and works constitute the supreme forms of self-expression. Sharply breaking away from the traditional role assigned to a woman as wife, daughter and mother, these women saints consciously or unconsciously departed from the established norms of social behavior and spurned the limitations imposed on them by their families and society. Not only did their compositions carry the overtones of protest, their emergence was in itself a social revolt.

If the hatred between India and Pakistan is viewed from a gendered perspective, then all the conflicts including Kashmir seem to be overshadowed by attempts to dominate each other, which stem from the concept of ‘mardangi’ (manliness).Women reformers, especially those connected with the Sufi Movement, deeply affected the social patterns, widening the mental horizon of people and establishing greater tolerance and inter-communal harmony. Indian society being largely patriarchal, the position of women has for long been regarded as inferior. Significantly, the Bhakti Movement saw the emergence of women saints on an unprecedented scale.

The panelists of this sub-theme examined how the spiritual path helped a woman to break out of stereotypes, the chains of tradition, orthodoxy and convention, which sought to control her sexuality.

Panel Organizer: Ahmad Salim, Director Urdu Publications/Research Associate, SDPI
Email: salim@sdpi.org

II. Theme: Livelihoods

The 8 October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan that killed, injured and made homeless thousands of persons, and 2004 tsunami catastrophe that affected hundreds of thousands in Sri Lanka and India; heavy winter snow falls and summer floods leading to destruction and death in Pakistan; influence of international financing institutes (IFIs) on job securities; effects of globalization on marginalized people; and the many forms of displacement and the search for sustainable livelihoods exemplify the vulnerability of livelihoods in South Asia. One dimension of this is to look at sustainable solutions for issues of citizenship. Another dimension is that of social sustainability and vulnerability, and the ability to cope with stress and shocks as well as assuring livelihood continuity. The Eighth SDC aimed to identify factors of vulnerability and resilience of livelihoods in South Asia.


1. South Asian livelihoods at risk

Social vulnerability and sustainability refer to the ability of individuals, households, or families not only to gain but also to maintain an adequate and decent livelihood. One dimension of social sustainability is reactive, which is the ability to cope with stress and shocks, and positively, enhancing and exercising capabilities in adapting to, exploiting and creating change, and in assuring livelihood continuity. The panel’s objective was to identify these factors in South Asian contexts.

Panel Organizers: Karin Astrid Siegmann, Junior Research Fellow, SDPI;
Email karin@sdpi.org

Abid Qayyum Suleri, Assistant Executive Director, SDPI
Email suleri@sdpi.org

2. Earthquake: Disaster management in the context of Pakistan

The October 8, 2005 Earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale badly hit the North West Frontier Province and Azad Kashmir areas of Pakistan where over 80,000 people died leaving millions without shelter and thousands physically handicapped and emotionally traumatized. Research says that some 10 million people are still at a great risk from a single earthquake of the same magnitude. Potential of great earthquakes in developing countries, particularly in the South Asian region, require teams of international experts to advise policy makers on geology, social psychology and mitigation in order to reduce the loss of human life. As the natural disasters and earthquakes have various geological, environmental and social dimensions, the Eighth SDC organized panels with multiple themes related the earthquake disaster including the geological perspective of earthquake and human settling patterns in Pakistan; the social dimensions of earthquake and future challenges; and the linkages between environmental degradation and natural disasters.

Panel Organizers: Shahid Minhas, Training Associate, SDPI
Email: minhas@sdpi.org

Shahbaz Bokhari, Survey Coordinator, SDPI
Email: shahbaz@sdpi.org

3. Sustainable Natural Resource Management: The Way Forward

Sustainable Natural Resource Management: The Way Forward
Access to natural resources and benefit sharing for local communities are perceived to be a must for secured income sources, livelihood security, and human security in contemporary thinking on sustainable natural resource management (NRM). The Eighth SDC aimed to assess the opportunities and challenges offered by “Access” and “Benefit-sharing concept” in NRM as introduced by Convention on Biological Diversity (section 8J) for improving the lives and living conditions of the poor, marginal and vulnerable sections of societies, and foster local development.

Panel Organizer: Abid Qayyum Suleri, Assistant Executive Director, SDPI
Email: suleri@sdpi.org

III: Theme: WTO and Governance

Global governance of trade under the World Trade Organization (WTO) made a quantum leap in 2005. Several WTO agreements are required to be implemented more strictly in developing countries. Liberalisation of trade in textiles and clothing, a major industry and major employer in the developing world, progressed manifold through the abolition of the system of country-wise import quotas. The deadline for WTO member countries' suggestions for further opening of their services’ sectors lapsed in May 2005. These developments may lead to economic growth for those who can tap the opportunities; however, they are still not able to reduce the gap between rich and poor. The Eighth SDC attempted to explore linkages of multi-trading system with sustainable development to make liberalization of trade and investment people-friendly.


1. Is privatisation of basic services in favor of human development in South Asia?

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has embarked on a major liberalization of trade in services in the context of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). WTO member countries are requested to submit their GATS offers, i.e. the suggestions for opening up of particular services sectors. In the latest statements, for example, the Government of Pakistan (GoP) has declared its intention to include the liberalization of basic services, such as the privatized provision of health care and education in its offer to the WTO.

No doubt, the provision of basic services in South Asia is woefully poor and a major obstacle to human development in the region. One-fifth of the Sub-continent’s children are not even sent to primary school, and a third of the population does not access safe sanitation facilities. Expected benefits of liberalization of trade in services might address these problems. It is assumed that liberalization of services in trade leads to increased competition and thus to improved service quality, lower prices, technology transfer, less corruption, as well as employment creation.

However, developing countries’ previous experiences of trade liberalization and privatization casts doubt on these hopes. Concerns are brought forward that the GATS threatens the principle of universal access to public services, the ability of the government to regulate, and that the negotiation process is heavily influenced by corporate interests and lack parliamentary and public scrutiny.

This sub-theme brought together assessments of the human development impact of the GATS. Policy concepts to guarantee that services liberalization is in service of Pakistan’s development was at the core of the sub-theme.

Panel Organizers:Karin Astrid Siegmann, Junior Research Fellow, SDPI
Email: karin@sdpi.org

2. South Asian textile trade in the post-quota era: Human development implications of the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC)

In January 2005, the quota system for imports of textiles and clothing under the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC) was phased out and gave way to a more liberalized global trade in textiles and clothing. The labor-intensive textile and clothing sector has been the classical start-up industry for developing countries to export on their own account. It is the employment intensity of the textiles and clothing (T&C) industry in developing countries--in particular of female workers–that makes the running out of the quota regime in January 2005 a hotly debated issue for human development.

The T&C sector is the biggest exporter for several South Asian economies and a large industrial employer of those countries. The panel’s objectives were to explore the impact of the ATC expiry on various dimensions of human development in South Asia, including exports, employment, and gender equality. Policy conclusions were drawn regarding the distribution of cost and benefits of trade liberalization under the WTO regime.

Panel organisers: Karin Astrid Siegmann, Junior Research Fellow, SDPI
Email: karin@sdpi.org

Foqia Sadiq Khan, Visiting Research Associate, SDPI
Email: foqia.khan@gmail.com

3. Linkages of trade with development and poverty reduction

There are various dimensions to the linkages between trade, development and poverty reduction. Both theoretical and political economic dimensions are changing as well as unfolding (i.e. the emergence of new ones) in this new trade and investment regime. Some efforts are being made to look into the various dimensions of the issue, and making trade and investment liberalization work for the poor. But, unfortunately, many such efforts do not attempt to look into the issue holistically, i.e. in both theoretical and political economic terms, supported by civil society’s (Northern as well as Southern) understanding. Furthermore, issues relating to the effects of trade and investment liberalization on the poor need to be looked into in a positive manner, and an overarching purpose of all the activities would be to find out the conditions necessary for mainstreaming international trade into national development (poverty reduction) strategy (keeping in mind issues relating to policy coherence).

Realising this vacuum and pursuant to its mandate of building consensus on issues affecting the livelihoods of the poor, SDPI is organized this panel to discuss linkages between trade, development and poverty in the present scenario.

Panel Organizer: Abid Qayyum Suleri, Assistant Executive Director, SDPI
Email: suleri@sdpi.org

4. Environmental/Green Accounting

Environmental accounting is an important tool for understanding the role played by the natural environment in the economy. Environmental accounts provide data, which highlight both the contribution of natural resources to economic well being, and the cost imposed by pollution of resource degradation.

To raise awareness of the economic value of environmental resources and the significant role they play in economic growth and poverty reduction, a panel on Environmental/Green Accounting was organized during the Eighth SDC.

Panel Organizers: Abid Qayyum Suleri, Assistant Executive Director, SDPI
Email: suleri@sdpi.org

Mohammad Yasin, Advisor, Capacity Building, SDPI
E-mail: yasin@sdpi.org

IV: Theme: Health

The importance of health in the overall sustainable development can be looked at in many ways. The most important being individual’s capacity and then a nation’s capacity to transform physical health and mental well-being into economic productivity, growth and sustainable development. However, achieving this goal is not simple. Many causal factors affect people’s health and hence the process of sustainable development. The Eighth SDC highlighted such health and health care issues in the following panels:


1. Critical issues in Pakistan’s health and health care

Under the first theme, three consecutive sessions were organized. The first session addressed critical issues arising out of the recent catastrophic earthquake in Pakistan that had a huge impact on the physical and mental health of Pakistani people, especially, the children and women. The session addressed issues related to injuries, disabilities, traumas and rehabilitation. It looked into funds allocation for health and especially provide gender aware appraisal.

The second session addressed issues relating to health services delivery and health policy reforms. The session brought together researchers, policy makers and academicians to share experiences and provide consultation to audience on these critical issues. The third session was devoted to pharmaceutical industry, drug pricing and efforts aimed at narcotics control. Altogether, nine papers were presented in three sessions and concrete findings have a chance to be published in the next SDC anthology in a chapter on health.

Panel Organizer: Shafqat Shehzad, Research Fellow (Health), SDPI
Email: shafqat@sdpi.org

2. Children’s health and environment

Three pillars of the sustainable development are society, economy and environment; the “Heart” of the sustainable development is the future generation. Children represent the future of our societies, and therefore it is essential to protect the health of children and ensure that children live in safe environment, allowing them to reach their full potential. However, children happen to be the most vulnerable group to adverse health consequences of environmental factors such as polluted air, contaminated and polluted water, food and soil, radiation risks, chemicals, unhealthy housing, environmental noise, risks related to transport, and the consequences of armed conflict and environmental disasters and poverty. According to the WHO (2003) report, approximately 3 million children under the age of five years die every year due to environmental hazards. In South Asia, the average infant mortality rate (IMR) is about 70 per 1000 live childbirths (UNICEF 2000). The governments and stakeholders have a responsibility to take action to reduce the sources of chemical and other risks and prevent childhood exposure.

The Eighth SDC will looked at the ways in which governments cooperate and exercise power over natural resource management (NRM) in their respective countries and in the region. The participants of the Conference shared their experiences and discuss national and regional environmental and health issues with a focus on the children’s health. These, among others, included monitoring and situation evaluation of children of different age groups and toxic chemicals, preventive and educational activities for promoting safe use of chemicals and national environmental and health policies.

Panel Organizer: Mahmood A. Khwaja, Research Fellow, SDPI
Email: khwaja@sdpi.org

V: Theme: Peace and People’s Rights

The uniqueness of Pakistan's political history is widely appreciated. The country's political history has had a direct bearing on the day-to-day life of the common man, as well as on its stability as a country. The sub-themes under this theme focused on the impact of Pakistan's political structure on violence since independence; treatment of religious minorities; and other related issues as discussed below.


1. Religious Minorities: 1947 violence and relief work

Minorities in Pakistan have been quite proactive in their approach towards serving the society, the roots of which can be traced back to the pre-partition days. Various accounts of minorities’ generosity and support are available but have never been documented. In the period of bloodshed and massacre in 1947, Christian priests walked in front of Muslim and Hindu clusters in order to save their lives. The services of Christian doctors, nurses and welfare in the refugee camps cannot be forgotten. Upon Quaid-e-Azam’s request, the Parsee community opened up their educational institutions for the Muslims. History books are filled with tales of mass murder of Hindu and Muslim communities which has poisoned the minds and cultivated hatred and prejudice between these communities. However, the wonderful records of harmony have never been penned down.

The panel aimed to bring together scholars from the majority and minority communities to provide insight and acknowledge the contributions of the minorities’ positive role during the dark period, and their function in the societal development in various fields.

Panel Organizer: Ahmad Salim, Director Urdu Publications/Research Associate, SDPI
Email: salim@sdpi.org

2. Religious minorities: Post partition struggle and contributions

The religious minorities live in Pakistan with incomprehensible insecurities and under the hegemony of 97 percent Muslim majority. However, if one goes by the dictionary definition of minorities and include other small racial and cultural groups, then the spectrum becomes even broader. For them, intolerance is bred through negation of pluralism, creation of strong negative images and refusal to acknowledge diversity of views.

In either case, the country of 140 million has not been able to become a melting pot accommodating diversities of faith, culture and language. Instead, it remains a disturbed plate of ethnic, religious and intellectual minorities where weak fear extinction.

The panelists of this session examined the issues and conflicts, structural and policy responses, and policy recommendations regarding the religious minorities of Pakistan.

Panel Organizer: Ahmad Salim, Director Urdu Publications/Research Associate, SDPI
Email: salim@sdpi.org

3. Linking our past to the future: The regional voices (Pashtun, Baloch, Sindhi, Punjabi)

As Pakistan was created on the basis of Muslim nationalism, any assertion of regional or linguistic identity was regarded as treason. However, the charm and attraction of Muslim nationalism, which united the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent, could not sustain its power and collapsed as a result of uneven economic development and political injustices to the smaller nationalities.

The panelists from the four provinces analyzed how Pashtun, Sindhi, Balochi and Punjabi nationalisms are the products of the failure of the political system, which could not absorb the demands and adjust the aspirations of these nationalities.

Panel Organizer: Ahmad Salim, Director Urdu Publications/Research Associate, SDPI
Email: salim@sdpi.org

4. Linking our past to the future: The concept of ‘other’

The territorial division of India and Pakistan in 1947 is significant as it marked the beginning of a global trend towards de-colonization. Unfortunately, it also resulted in extreme violence and a level of genocide, and one of the largest migrations in human history. Violence being the most dramatic repercussion of the Partition inaugurated inter-communal tension.

After partition, Pakistani was termed as enemy or the ‘other’ by India. Similarly Indian was termed as an enemy/other by Pakistan. It also let to the distortion in the history of South Asia. The panel attempted to analyze the situation and raise new questions.

Panel Organizer: Ahmad Salim, Director Urdu Publications/Research Associate, SDPI
Email: salim@sdpi.org

5. Students in political mobilization

The territorial division of India and Pakistan in 1947 is significant as it marked the beginning of a global trend towards de-colonization. Unfortunately, it also resulted in extreme violence and a level of genocide, and one of the largest migrations in human history. Violence being the most dramatic repercussion of the Partition inaugurated inter-communal tension.

After partition, Pakistani was termed as enemy or the ‘other’ by India. Similarly Indian was termed as an enemy/other by Pakistan. It also let to the distortion in the history of South Asia. The panel attempted to analyze the situation and raise new questions.

Panel Organizer: Ahmad Salim, Director Urdu Publications/Research Associate, SDPI
Email: salim@sdpi.org

6. Human security issues in South Asia--Concept and realties

At the world level, the concept of human security emerged as a forceful idea after the end of the Cold War, challenging the conventional concept of security that was confined to and focused on state security concerns. Japan and Canada have recognized human security as the key component of their foreign policies and are at the forefront to promote and protect the ideals of human security. Nonetheless, the event of 9/11 and its aftermath have adversely affected its growth and ideals at the international level. International terrorism, occupation of the weaker states, support for despotic regimes, state terrorism, suppression and legislations for legitimizing access against human liberties are a few examples. However, these trends have also maximized the importance and necessity to get legality and recognition at international and state level. Establishing the Human Security Unit at the United Nations in September 2004, after formation of an independent international commission, ‘Commission on Human Security’ in January 2001, could be considered as response to the above threats and issues encompassing human security across the globe.

At the South Asian level, the region is considered to be most vulnerable one under the concept(s) and standards of human security. The issues and questions of human security in South Asia are politically important, intellectually debatable and challenging, both at the governance and the civil society level. Hunger, suppressions, state sponsored violence, discriminatory laws, communal violence, diseases, natural disasters, ethnic and gender discriminations and poverty within the boundaries of the nation state, and threats of regional conflicts, foreign interventions, interference, wars, economic domination and globalization from outside the boundaries are weakening the already fragile human security situation in South Asia. In fact the newly emerging concept of human security and people of this region are under tremendous pressure on all fronts, within and out side the state boundaries.

The basic aim of this panel was to discus and envision the future of the concept at the world level, to explore various dimensions of the issues of human security at the South Asian level, to look into the successes elsewhere for replication in South Asia, and to give recommendations for future course of action to promote and protect human security standards in South Asia.

Panel Organizer: Saleem Shah, Research Associate, SDPI
Email: saleemshah@sdpi.org

7. History through the lens: Cinematic depiction of people’s rights

In South Asia, there exists a compelling tradition of highlighting socio-political discourses through the medium of cinema. From great cinema legends like Satiyajit Ray to modern time's filmmaker Sabeeha Sumar, the tradition lives on in one form or other. Historical issues such as the British rule of the Sub-Continent, freedom movement in India and Indo-Pak Partition have been creatively captured and documented through the lens of the camera. Moreover, it is the plight of the common people, their struggle against the injustice and oppressive systems that have come out so remarkably in Indo-Pak cinema. On the other side, Iranian celluloid, and their documentary films on social themes are rated among the best in the world.

Under this sub-theme, renowned documentary and film-makers of South Asian origin presented and discussed their movies. The panel aimed to highlight the role of cinema/film-making in depicting peace and people's rights.

Panel Organizers: Uzma T. Haroon, Conference Coordinator, SDPI
Email: uzma@sdpi.org

Shamil Shams, SDC Consultant, SDPI
Email: Shamil@sdpi.org

VI. Theme: Child Labor

Child labor constitutes a grave violation of human rights as it negates the principles of human dignity. Its existence in any society poses a serious challenge not just to the persons or families directly involved in child labor but to all individuals and institutions. Child labor deprives children of their unalienable right to education, health and a carefree childhood. Moreover, child labor also affects the level of human resource development the country aims to achieve in the future. The panel under this theme, therefore, examined the violation of human rights of the vulnerable groups, especially children.

Panel Organizer: Shahbaz Bokhari, Survey Coordinator, SDPI
Email: shahbaz@sdpi.org


The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) acknowledges the financial support of the following institutions for the Eighth Sustainable Development Conference:

  • Department for International Development (DFID)
  • The Delegation of the European Commission to Pakistan (EU Delegation)
  • Heinrich Boll Foundation (HBL)
  • Action Aid Pakistan (AAP)
  • Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES)
  • Gender Equality Project (GEP) managed by the British Council and funded by the DFID
  • South Asia Watch on Trade and Environment (SAWTEE)
  • PAK/03/013 UN-Trade Initiatives from Human Development Perspective (TIHP)

For further information on the Eighth Sustainable Development Conference, contact:

Ms Uzma T. Haroon
SDC Coordinator
Shamil Shams
SDC Consultant

Sustainable Development Policy Institute
# 3 UN Boulevard, Diplomatic Enclave-1, G-5
Islamabad, Pakistan
Tel: (92-51) 2278134; 2270674-6
Fax: (92-51) 2278135
Email: uzma@sdpi.org

To read about SDPI and updated information on SDC series, kindly visit the SDPI website: www.sdpi.org


Department for International Development (DFID)
Delegation of the European Commission to Pakistan (EU Delegation)
Heinrich Boll Foundation (HBL)
Action Aid Pakistan (AAP)
Gender Equality Project (GEP)
South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE)
PAK/03/013 UN Trade Initiatives from Human Development Perspective (TIHP)


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