25th Sustainable Development Conference (SDC)

The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in collaboration with SCCI organized a session on “Business Cooperation and Political Will: The Way Forward for SAARC” at the 25th Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) from 5 – 8 December 2022 in Islamabad, Pakistan.

The theme of the Conference was “Sustainable Development in Unusual Times: Building Forward Better”.

Hon’ble Mr. Ahsan Iqbal Chaudhary, Minister of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives for the Government of Pakistan inaugurated the conference with his opening remarks. The President of Pakistan, Hon’ble Dr. Arif Alvi graced the event with his presence as the chief guest of the conference.

The session in collaboration with SCCI was chaired by Dr. Rajan Sudesh Ratna, UNESCAP, whereby the speakers comprised of Mr. Zubair Ahmed Malik, Executive Committee Member SCCI, Mr. Shafquat Haider, Chairman ICT Council SCCI, Dr. Posh Raj Panday, Chairman SAWTEE Nepal, and Dr. Lakmini Fernando, Research Economist, Institute of Policy Studies.

Mr. Zubair Ahmed Malik, Executive Committee Member SCCI, during the session stated that due to the limited trade complementarities, South Asian nations may not be effective trading partners, resulting in a pessimistic outlook regarding formal trade. He elaborated that in this situation, a significant amount of informal trade is being carried on, for which economic and non-economic factors are responsible. He stressed that the regional cooperation in South Asia has been hampered by a variety of factors, including tariff and non-tariff barriers, physical connectivity, asymmetric power relations, and security concerns. He added that in order to make room for regional growth and economic development, states in South Asia must remain adaptable when addressing highly political issues.

Mr. Zubair Ahmed Malik, Executive Committee Member, SCCI speaking during the session

Mr. Shafquat Haider emphasized that the internet has made the world flat. He further stated, “In South Asia, the growth of information and communications technology (ICT) is a significant step toward giving people more control over their lives and reducing poverty. Be it for bridging the digital divide or re-positioning the countries in the new digital inter-connected economy, and guaranteeing that minimized networks and societies are not limited in that frame of mind to embrace ICT, countries need to step back furthermore, assess where they stand. They must ensure that national e-strategies and ICT policies address development at its core.”

Dr. Rajan Sudesh Ratna, UNESCAP, deliberated that 11% of the global population lacks access to energy and intra-state energy sharing. He suggested focusing on economic diversification in terms of trade and market, disaster and climate change, and information communications technology. He further said that regional cooperation remains paramount to finding solutions to common challenges in the region.

Dr. Rajan Sudesh Ratna, UNESCAP, chairing the session during SDPI conference

Dr. Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director SDPI, said that the objective of the forum was to foster an in-depth and shared understanding among the member states and stakeholders on strategies and opportunities at the state, and sub-regional level to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 agenda.

The conference provided an interactive forum to researchers, experts and scholars from different disciplines to explore relevant ideas, best practices, and solutions in a rapidly changing atmosphere.

The conference was also attended by government officials, civil society, think tanks, academia, subject-matter experts, the private sector, UN and related development partners, and other stakeholders.