Dr. Sania represents Pakistan at UN’s high-level political forum on sustainable development

Bringing Pakistan’s perspective to the table, Dr. Sania highlighted that the COVID pandemic has unearthed an opportunity to recast the role of the welfare state, which needs to be a major part of the re- commitment to agenda 2030


ISLAMABAD- Senator, Dr. Sania Nishtar Federal Minister, and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Poverty Alleviation and Social protection is here at the United Nations to attend the High-level political Forum HLPF2021. Dr. Sania Nishtar was invited to speak at UN’s high-level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development. The session on, “The SDGs in time of crises: A sustainable, inclusive and resilient recovery from COVID-19 as an opportunity to realize the SDGs” had a townhall format to accommodate many high-level speakers given the importance of the topic and various dimensions that needed to be covered for a sustainable, inclusive and resilient recovery from COVID-19 pandemic. This session was convened by ECOSOC, under the Presidency of Pakistan. (Ambassador Munir Akram is the current president of ECOSOC), , says a press release received here today from New York. Ambassador Munir Akram in his capacity as President ECOSOC delivered his opening remarks: He said that: “It is through the 2021 HLPF that we can provide a further basis for a committed multilateral effort to bounce back, rebuild, and resume and accelerate SDG progress to ultimately realize the vision of the 2030 Agenda. It is through the HLPF that we can give a strong impetus to international solidarity and boost efforts to support the response to COVID- 19 in the poorest and most vulnerable countries and ensure universal access to vaccines. Let us work together and use the opportunity of this HLPF to fully succeed in this endeavor”. Bringing Pakistan’s perspective to the table, Dr. Sania highlighted that the Pandemic has unearthed an opportunity to recast the role of the welfare state, which needs to be a major part of the re- commitment to agenda 2030. “In Pakistan, we believe the social protection of today is the human capital, the resilience, and the economic inclusion of tomorrow. Investing in social protection is both a response to current needs as well as preparedness for and insurance against future crises. We are humbled that through Pakistan’s social protection program, Ehsaas—led by our Prime Minister—strong acceleration towards this goal is underway” she said. The session was moderated by Achim Steiner, Administrator of UNDP. The session brought together Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations, UNDESA; Senator Dr. Sania Nishtar, Prime Minister of Pakistan’s Special Assistant on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation; Lord Tariq Ahmad, Minister of State for the Commonwealth and United Nations, United Kingdom; Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director UNICEF; Sigrid Kaag, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Netherlands; s. Marsha Caddle, Minister of Economic Affairs and Investment of Barbados; Rola Dashti, Executive Secretary of ESCWA; Ndagijimana Uzziel, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Rwanda; Isaac Alfie, Director of the Office of Planning and Budget of Uruguay; Sofía Sprechmann Sineiro, Secretary-General of Care International; Dominic Waughray, Managing Director, Centre for Global Public Goods, Member of Managing Board, World Economic Forum; and Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Visiting Senior Fellow at Khazanah Research Institute, Visiting Fellow at the Initiative for Policy Dialogue, Columbia University. Referring to Ehsaas Emergency Cash, she shared three lessons with the international audience. “First, our experience has taught us that data innovation, delivery systems, and a commitment to integrity, transparency, and accountability are crucial to address the long-standing fault lines, that have plagued public sector delivery. Today, Pakistan’s reform hinges on these attributes. Secondly, gaps in financial and digital literacy must be addressed to bridge the digital divide and it is with this in view that we have built financial inclusion into the overall design of expanded social protection” she said further adding “Third, we must protect human capital from negative coping strategies that are inevitable as a result of the pandemic—and in this regard, Pakistan is amongst the first few countries that acted concretely”. Building on the report of the Secretary-General on, “Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals” and the relevant General Assembly and ECOSOC meetings related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the session took stock of the SDGs’ overall progress taking into account the impact of the pandemic and the experiences and responses of countries at various development levels. The session focused on the exchange of experiences on policies and integrated approaches that are being implemented to address the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, while ensuring that recovery from the pandemic is sustainable and resilient, putting countries back on track to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The high-level political forum on sustainable development is the core United Nations platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The meeting of the HLPF 2021 is taking place from 6 July to 15 July 2021 under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council. Later today, she briefed the UN media correspondents on her participation at the HLPF 2021 representing Pakistan. During her briefing she informed about a High-level side event on the sidelines of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development “An Inflection Point on Social Protection” will be commenced tomorrow on 7 July 2021. The Permanent Mission of Pakistan in collaboration with the governments of Finland and Costa Rica, and the United Nations and the World Bank are hosting this side event. “I personally feel this is a very critically important side event because COVID 19 amongst its other dire consequences, has led to unspeakable hardships and it is absolutely moral imperative for the world to expand the base of social protection globally,” according to Sania Nishtar. She spoke about Pakistan’s social protection program: Ehsaas, saying that the discourses during HLPF2021 will help “ decide the process for the way forward in terms of planning and in terms of coming to a conclusion on what needs to happen in terms of an institutional arrangement in terms of a set of norms in terms of benchmarks that countries are to agree upon with regard to the expansion of social protection” hoping that as one of the outcomes of this discourse, “we will agree upon the need to have a community of practice and a peer to peer learning platform because whilst I was going through the experience of COVID-19”. She recalled back in the country her responsibility of planning and executing programs. “I felt that there was that there really was no mechanism where I could lean on other peers for advice for or to learn from their experiences there was no community of practice where we could share our experiences as we came across difficulties”. She termed Social Protection as a provision of an economic stimulus that helps to revive economies. “Now in Pakistan for quite some time, even before the COVID 19 pandemic, social protection was a policy priority for our government, our government put in place a program called Ehsaas which is the largest social protection program ever having ever been undertaken in the history of the country”. “It {Ehsaas} has more than 280 programs, policies pillars and initiatives, structured in four thematic pillars, targeting for vulnerable 14 vulnerable groups. There are 34 executing agencies of the program. It’s a very ambitious program and in order to roll the program out, we had to create a new ministry, we had to double the budget, we had to create a digital infrastructure. So, in the year 2019, we spent quite a lot of time developing this infrastructure and the program itself. And then when COVID 19 struck, we had the institutional base to roll out a very large cash transfer program, covering 100 million individuals” she added. “In terms of the percentage of population covered, this was the third largest program in the world. In the last year, we continued with our other planned efforts to expand the base of social protection nationally. So, we expanded education conditional cash transfer program nationally, we rolled out brand new health and nutrition conditional cash transfer program, which we are now upscaling nationally, we expanded our efforts to build a new social registry, which of course is the basis for targeting. And we espouse the new program, a policy initiative called 50% plus, which means that 50% of all benefits under this program called Ehsaas would accrue benefits to women”: she said. “And therefore, my program, in collaboration with our permanent mission in New York, took the lead in convening this side event. We’re very glad that other countries are co-hosting. And we hope to have some very concrete actions for the way forward by the time we adjourn the meeting tomorrow” she concluded. Dr. Sania will be a keynote speaker tomorrow at the High-level side event on the sidelines of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development “An Inflection Point on Social Protection”. She will also speak at another event titled: How do we get on track to end poverty and hunger, and transform towards inclusive and sustainable economies? (SDGs 1, 2. 8, 17 and interlinkages among those goals and with other SDGs)

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