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Seventh Sustainable Development Conference
8-10 December, 2004, Holiday Inn, Islamabad

Troubled Times: Sustainable Development and Governance in the Age of Extremes

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Concept note
".good governance in the South Asian context has to go well beyond good politics or even the creation of a decent society. It must enable the state, the civil society, and the private sector to further broad-based economic growth and social development and increased human welfare."

A 10-year-old document of the UNDP states: "The goal of governance initiatives should be to develop capacities that are needed to realize development that gives priority to the poor, advances women, sustains the environment and creates needed opportunities for employment and other livelihoods" (UNDP 1994 Initiatives for Change)2. We believe that while various issues of concern for South Asia remain, they have taken on an urgency in view of the deteriorating indices and post 9/11 realities. Thus, while old policy documents continue to be as relevant today as they were a decade ago, it is critical to reassess strategies for good governance and sustainable development to arrive at ways of making them more meaningful. How much progress has been achieved in South Asia vis-a-vis governance? Is government more transparent today than it was a decade ago? Have governments kept their promises to the marginalized, whether the poor, women or minorities? How can we avoid repeating the mistakes of the past? What would be the effective strategies to do so?

The Seventh Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) will provide a forum for sharing and exchanging dialogues on sustainable development and governance with practitioners and policy makers. It will examine the interface and relations between various dimensions of sustainable development and governance. The speakers will discuss how problems and issues in South Asia can be dealt effectively at various levels based on prior experience of successful policy interventions.

The Conference seeks to bring together theorists, researchers, creative thinkers, writers, activists, policy makers, academicians to debate the second phase of globalization-a world that is ever more interdependent.

Questions of governance and sustainable development will be tackled at several inter-related levels: in the contexts of purely third world; in terms of the relationship with first world institutions; and, within and between third world.

The Conference will be multi and trans-disciplinary in order to open up new ways of seeing, which may lead to effective strategies for over-coming the extremes the South is facing presently.

Today we are a witness to deteriorating indices, increasing inequalities and disparities. These include disparities in incomes, shrinking sources of livelihood, increasing poverty, escalating conflicts, inter- and intra-state violence, sham democracies and abuse of religion. In this context, issues of governance and sustainable development take on distinct significance. These issues are of particular importance to the South Asian region that has been affected by the global developments and heightened conflicts.

The Conference will question whether there is sound governance around development and whether this is ensuring just development? Whether there is more sharing of resources including natural, and institutional? Is there a strengthening of regional and international institutions? Or is it a world of extremes-a world that is extremely rich but with unparalleled inequalities of income and access to resources-with the marginalized becoming even more marginalized. The Conference will provide an opportunity to discuss the global economy, the new terms of trade, the transfer of resources from the developing world to the first world and whether such moves are benefiting a few only. The discussions on governance and development will also address the new conditions emerging for labor, women, minorities and the marginal groups.

The Conference will examine whether governments are integrating national strategies for sustainable development with national policies for poverty reduction; whether the industrialized countries are adopting consistent and sound policies towards the developing countries; and whether countries are ensuring transparent democratic institutions?

The seventh SDC will highlight the crosscutting linkages between such diverse themes and the increasingly complex demands upon the policy arena to respond to these issues quickly and effectively.

Below are given some of the sub-themes to be discussed in the various panels being organized during the Conference.

Sub-themes (For a detailed look at the Conference panels, please refer to the Panel List)

Global governance in the area of trade will make a quantum leap in the year 2005. The Agreement on Agriculture under the World Trade Organization (WTO) will be implemented in developing countries and the quota regime regulating international trade in textiles and clothing will disappear. This will give way to free trade in two markets of major importance to developing countries. Trade and environment were formally linked for the first time at the WTO Doha Ministerial Meeting. The Conference will focus on the implications of the WTO system of trade and governance for sustainable development. Special attention will be given to the impact on those commonly invisible in high level meetings on trade liberalizations: women, poor farmers, and unskilled workers. Governance issues of international financial institutes would be discussed with special focus to sustainable development in developing countries.

Feudal practices in rural Pakistan are depriving many of their right to livelihood. Landless tenants and small farmers are waiting land reforms. They are further threatened by initiatives such as corporate farming. Fishing community is suffering due to non-consultative and non-participatory projects such as RBOD, etc. Fishing rights are contracted out and contractor decides when, how, and where to fish? Issue of un-sustainable water management and unwise water extraction in Balochistan are creating drought like situation. Linkages of governance and livelihood security would be explored in this Conference.

Migration and urbanization
Inter- and intra-state violence has led to displacement of people. Further, search for livelihood has led to rural-urban migration. Today the urban centers are becoming more and more crowded, stretching the available resources to the limit and challenging their governance. It has resulted in mushrooming of slums, big metropolises with lack of potable water and poor sewage system burdening the already burdened environment. Moreover, it has led to increasing unemployment, worsening of balance of payments, a strain on public finances and slowdown of labor-saving investments. How can development be sustained and cities be governed under the challenging circumstances will be discussed by the speakers in this Conference.

Food and water security
South Asia can boast of one of the world's most extensive river networks. However, uneven distribution of rainfall has led to water scarcity and droughts in countries including Bangladesh, Pakistan (Balochistan region) and India (Rajisthan). Food security depends on irrigation of the agricultural land. Some 95% of the water resources are taken up by the agriculture sector a lot of which goes waste. Population pressure increases the demand for food and water. How can the states achieve a balance and improve the governance in these areas are some of the queries to be examined in this Conference. SDPI has just compiled a report on "Food Security Situation of Pakistan" in collaboration with WFP. All districts of Pakistan are ranked for their food security. How can improved governance turn food insecure pockets of Pakistan into food secure areas will be discussed in this Conference.

Health and environment
Health is considered not only as an asset in human development but an engine of economic growth. Recent research is focused on exploring the links between health and other fields such as environment, labor productivity and growth. The causal link between health and other sectors, hence, demands more integrated efforts to achieve the global development goals. The Seventh SDC will try to unveil the links between good governance and establishing and sustaining a strong health care system in South Asia. It will examine macroeconomic aspects of health (poverty, growth and income distribution), political economy of health, health and environment, child health, economic evaluation of health care programs and global aspects of health (including disparities across regions).

Environmental regulatory enforcement and compliance Environmental regulatory enforcement and compliance continue to be the main problems in controlling the rapid depletion and degradation of segments of environment (air, water, soil, forests, aquatic life, etc.) in South Asia. Do the existing governmental structure and patterns of governance for tackling national and regional environmental issues facilitate law enforcement and strengthen stakeholders participation by adequately providing opportunities to educate and access to available information? The Seventh SDC will look at the manner(s) in which governments cooperate and exercise power in natural resource management in their respective countries and in South Asian region. The participants of the conference would share their experiences and will discuss national and South Asian regional environmental issues pertaining to all segments of environment.

Energy sector and regulation
No doubt production, distribution and access to energy and power remain a vital concern for all citizens. What has been the role of the government and private sector in the governance of the energy sector? The participants will discuss the effects of privatization of energy sector (electricity and gas) on the price of this service and how effectively can it be regulated through the constituted regulated authorities.

Resource rights and their governance implications
Historically, rights to natural resources (forests, rangelands, fisheries-both marine and inland) were grounded in customary law and it was this law, coupled with traditional management practices that ensured natural resources were used in a sustained manner. Development and modernization have displaced customary law and practices and replaced them with statutory law. However, the growing economic and commercial utility associated with the resources has led to governance lapses, resource capture and ecological marginalization. The Conference will question such key concerns including environmental insecurity and conflict over resources and its consequences.

Media and governance
Media influences the political processes and shapes public opinion. Thus, media has become central to politics and public life in contemporary democracy. Media can shape power and participation in society in negative ways, by obscuring the motives and interests behind political decisions, or in positive ways, by promoting the involvement of people in those decisions. In this respect the media and governance equation becomes important. Democracy implies participative governance and it is the media that informs people about various problems of society, which makes those wielding power on their behalf answerable to them. In such a scenario, the relationship between media and governance is laden with tensions. Some of the questions that will be examined include how the media can play an effective role in promoting human rights? How can the media play a more constructive role in reducing ethnic, religious and other conflicts in South Asia? How can it highlight the issues of governance and sustainable development in an effective manner at the regional, national and local level?

Gender-based violence
Although gender will remain a crosscutting theme in the panels at the Seventh SDC, however, some of the panels will specifically address gender concerns. A few of the questions that will be explored are: What are the underlying issues in structural gender-based violence and how can they be addressed; is this violence a result of ineffective governance on the part of the intervening agencies; what is the role of patriarchy in crimes such as honor killings; what are the different levels of violence and what are the state interventions that can mitigate; and what are the specific issues in women's security that need to be addressed? What should be the decisive factors for civil society actors working against violence against women, morality, right-based approach or both?

Conflict, peace and security
The Seventh SDC will focus on drawing upon linkages between governance, conflict and livelihoods. Conflict also has an internal dimension as well. Sectarian violence is ever-present and is by and large out of government control. How can the issue of livelihoods and sustainable development be addressed? Is there a way forward by which even if this violence cannot be controlled in the short-term, youngsters on the streets are kept away from recruiting by the terrorists' organizations? What role can the civil society play or has been playing in encouraging peace initiatives? All this has a multiplier effect and needs to be addressed.

Human trafficking has been a major problem in the South Asian region particularly since the 1980s. Although the State has made commitments and efforts are being undertaken by different governments to curb this menace, the rising graph of people trafficked in and outside these countries every year does not support these claims. Human trafficking, especially of women and children has been rampant in this region and indicates a failure of the States involved for adoption/implementation of effective and stringent measures to address the issue. Recent developments in these countries, for example Pakistan's Ordinance on Human Trafficking (2002), are seen as positive steps forward. Are these concerns genuine or are they simply another set of legislative measures to counter various pressures and appease regional and international partners, especially in the backdrop of 9/11? Or is it bad governance on the part of the bodies meant to intervene and curb such a menace? These are just some of the many queries that will be discussed concerning trafficking and the challenges of governance.

Literature and development
The SDPI's SDC series is unique in the sense that not only does it invite scholars, researchers and academics, but also fiction writers to examine and explore how they view the alternative reality. Some of the questions that will be explored are: what is the current role of fiction writers in shaping Western perceptions about East; what are the differences and similarities in Urdu and English fiction writing on 'turning points' such as 1971, or the Karachi conflict; and how can the growing importance of the 'voice' of fiction writers play a role in highlighting issues of governance and sustainable development and getting us through the troubling times.

‘Troubled Times: Sustainable Development and Governance in the Age of Extremes’ was the overarching theme of the Seventh Sustainable Development Conference held in December 2004. The Conference tackled various questions such as whether there is sound governance around development and whether this is ensuring just development? Whether there is more sharing of resources including natural, and institutional? Is there a strengthening of regional and international institutions? How much progress has been achieved in South Asia vis-à-vis governance? Is government more transparent today than it was a decade ago? Have governments kept their promises to the marginalized, whether the poor, women or minorities? How can we avoid repeating the mistakes of the past? What would be the effective strategies to do so? Or is it a world of extremes—a world that is extremely rich but with unparalleled inequalities of income and access to resources—with the marginalized becoming even more marginalized. It provided an opportunity to discuss the global economy, the new terms of trade, the transfer of resources from the developing world to the first world and whether such moves are benefiting a few only. The Conference brought together some 150 panelists from 18 countries. The gender ratio of the panelists was 64% (male) and 36% (female).

1"Human Development in South Asia 1999: The Crisis of Governance", published for The Mahbub ul Haq Human Development Centre by the Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 28, 29







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