ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi Wednesday stressed upon enhanced cooperation between the parliamentarians and the locally elected governments to further accelerate pace of Sustainable Development Goals.

Speaking at the concluding session of an international conference, “Think Globally, Act Locally-SDG Implementation through Local Governments,” organised by the United Cities and Local Government Asia Pacific Region in cooperation with the Local Council Associations of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa about the role of the local governments, the prime minister stressed upon maintaining a balance between resources and priorities of the parliamentarians and the locally-elected representatives.

“The intent and purpose of the public representation at the parliament or at the local government is to achieve the development targets,” he added. The prime minister said elected representatives in the parliament and at the local government level were expected to deliver and their duties with regard to development projects in health, education, sanitation, infrastructure etc, were inseparable.

He appreciating the local government system said it served as a nursery for grooming future politicians and enabled the elected people to deliver. The prime minister said Pakistan had experienced with different systems of governance in the last few decades.

All the provinces had their separate local government systems functional under their respective legislations, whereas the country had a parliamentary system at the centre, which was an indication of the success of democratic system, he added. The prime minister said politics were also based on local issues and referred to a recent survey in which 42 per cent views were attributed to the development projects as one of the main factors to attract voters.

Delegates from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) countries, different development agencies, the NGOs and a large number of representatives from the local governments from all the provinces attended the event.

The prime minister said that the intent and objective of those systems were to achieve development at the local level, which would yield results with the passage of time. He also observed that the system could create some pockets of excellence and also few areas of neglect, however, it could be termed as personalised system.

The prime minister said such priorities for development at the local level also gave way to conflict among the parliamentarians at the national and provincial levels, and the local government representatives.

He stressed upon maintaining a balance between local requirements and the political ones.

The system would deliver with political dividends reaching the local level, if balance was created, he added.

The prime minister said with collective efforts and cooperation among the public representatives whether in parliament, the provincial assemblies or the local governments, it would result in high level of development. The prime minister stressed that the intent of the system must always be optimal utilisation of resources.

Public representatives had compulsions and pressures and if they agreed among themselves, the basic facilities to the public would be provided irrespective of the party, which was in the government. The prime minister said that he represented an area with difficult terrain, but the party had decided the allocation of resources in health, education and infrastructure.

Despite political changes, he could claim that they had achieved 100 per cent targets, as a result leading to achievement of SDGs in his constituency. He also emphasized upon finding solution to the issues associated with SDGs.

He said the world was fast shrinking and even use of coal by one country could affect others.

Earlier, speaking on the occasion, United Cities and Local Governments Asia Pacific (UCLG) representative, Swiss ambassador and German deputy ambassador credited Pakistan for adoption of SDGs as part of the national development agenda.  They also highlighted the importance of the local government system to help achieve the development agenda.

Meanwhile, other participants at the conference vowed to play their role as public representatives with their responsibilities to the voters as enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals.

“'We shall accelerate this journey and reach the destination by synergizing our role as public representatives with our responsibilities to our voters as enshrined in the SDGs,” said a joint statement issued by mayors, chairmen, chairpersons and nazims of different cities throughout the country.

“The path to a true people-centred, environment-friendly and participatory national life lies in the local governments. The SDGs are milestones on this journey to national progress,”' said the joint statement read out by chairman District Council Sheikhupura and Member Local Councils Associations of Punjab (LCAP) Rana Ahmad Atteeq Anwer.

Speaking on the occasion, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission Sartaj Aziz said achieving the SDGs was only possible with mutual cooperation between federal, provincial and local governments as well as community organisations.

A parliamentary committee has been established to implement SDGs, he said.

President Local Councils Associations of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (LCAKP) and District Nazim Mardan Himayatullah Mayar said the local governments in Pakistan were still in their infancy and therefore could learn significantly from international experiences.

“We hope that by the end of this conference, we will collectively be able to contribute effectively to 2030 Agenda and forge partnerships and cooperation to achieve our future vision,” he said.

Dr Bernadia Irawati Tjandradewi, secretary general – UCLG ASPAC said the current development challenges facing the countries in the region were inequality, unemployment, poverty, climate change, rapid urbanisation and those required the local governments to play a more developmental role for policy-making.

“Think Globally, Act Locally – SDGs’ Implementation through Local Governments” is extremely relevant to the sustainable development discourse in the region, she said.

Country Director UNDP Ignacio Artaza, speaking on the occasion, said the global mandate of local governments, irrespective of region and country, was to serve the people locally.

Later in the day, the delegates submitted their recommendations to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi who chaired the closing session.

On the sidelines, sessions were held to discuss the importance of SDGs implementation through local governments and map out ways and means accordingly, separately chaired by Punjab’s Finance Minister Ayesha Ghaus Pasha, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Local Government Minister Inayatullah Khan among other figures.

More than 60 delegates from over a dozen countries worldwide attended the conference.