islamabad - The two-day conference of Islamabad National University titled Emerging Challenges and Opportunities for Pakistan organised by the Higher Education Commission concluded at former Prime Minister House here on Saturday.

The conference encompassed 4 thematic areas including governance, development, climate and technology, a press statement said.

The conference was attended by a large number of field experts from across Pakistan as well as expatriate Pakistani and foreign academicians. Chairperson Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) Dr Sania Nishtar was the chief guest at the closing ceremony. Dr Tariq Banuri, Chairman HEC, and Lt Gen (R) Asghar, executive director HEC, were also present on the occasion.

The INU is envisioned as an apex institution designed to support research-based policy formulation. It will initially consist of an Institute for Advanced Studies, which will be charged with providing a science-based annual report to the government on emerging challenges confronting Pakistan and the world, and the menu of options for addressing these challenges.

Addressing the gathering, Dr Sania Nishtar said that the moot was of great importance as it provided a discourse about knowledge, learning and policy. She said that knowledge and evidence had a critical role in driving decision-making process of a country. She added that the conference kicked off the launch of a new university charged with analytical thinking and foresight to identify and help address challenges. “A forward-looking academia will provide evidence-based research solutions for policy formulation,” she said.

She revealed that decision making in public sector used to be guided by Millennium Development Goals, adding that it had turned out to be a worldwide consensus that it was imperative to analyse threats and opportunities and develop own capacities.

She hoped that the HEC would take the foresight exercise forward while directing the same to outcomes based on strengthened system, transparency and economic gains. She emphasised on incentivising and taking private sector on board while framing the research agenda.

In his vote of thanks, Lt Gen (R) Asghar assured that the HEC would take tangible measures to fulfil the tasks assigned to it. He extended gratitude to international partners who contributed to the success of the conference either in individual capacity or representing institutions. He also thanked VCs, scholars and partners from across Pakistan for their valuable outputs.

Earlier, presenting recommendations of the conference, Dr Aslam Chaudhary, professor at Department of Economics, University of Utah said that in all sessions, experts reviewed the quantity and quality of knowledge already developed and applied to policy innovation and implementation, and identified the persistent gaps in knowledge development, exchange and application.

He said that the HEC would serve as a point of collaboration to support the mapping of recommended research actions with what is going on in other leading International and Pakistani institutions and would facilitate partnerships by providing access to wide variety of knowledge and research.

The participants of the conference emphasised the need to create capacities to capitalise on various opportunities, and accelerate efforts for knowledge creation through applied research and its sharing.

Deliberations under the governance theme focused on transparency, administrative efficiency, security and devolution. Improved governance was viewed as a pre-condition for successful implementation of socioeconomic development agenda.

The discussion under the development focused on addressing issues related to expansion and provision of social services such as affordable housing quality education and improved health facilities, all of which have to be insured through improved urban planning and economic management.

The Climate theme covered discussions on impact of climate on water and food security, glaciers, energy and managing climate change induced disasters. The participants identified several challenges emanating from climate change. The experts emphasised the need for more research and knowledge both on the prediction side and on the adaptation front.

The 4rth thematic area was technology. The participants noted that there were tremendous applications of technology in different sectors and hence could provide solutions to major problems the country is facing in areas including health, energy, agriculture and environment.