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Mainstream, Vol LII, No 15, April 5, 2014

Implementation of Millennium Development Goals by UNDP

A Case Study of Pakistan

Sunday 6 April 2014

by Portia B. Conrad

In 2002, the Government of Pakistan became one of the first countries in the world to establish a national public-private partnership devoted to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This partnership includes the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Government of Pakistan, civil-society organi-sations and private donors, both in Pakistan and abroad.

The MDGs comprised eight ambitious goals that were approved by world leaders at the Millennium Summit in September 2000.1 The goals are to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality rates; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for develop-ment. The first seven goals are meant for developing countries while the eighth goal is for the developed countries to meet their obligations.

The UNDP advocates for change and connects countries with knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. It works to assist national counterparts on their own solutions to global and national develop-ment challenges, considering rule of law an indispensable factor for the enhancement of human development and the reduction of conflict, poverty and insecurity. (Online: Web) On the other hand, the Pakistan National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) is the leading agency fighting illiteracy in 134 districts of Pakistan and helping people to find routes out of ignorance. With nationwide network of 101 Human Development Support Units situated all over Pakistan and hands-on-experience, the NCHD in collaboration with the UNDP aims at enlarging the scale and scope of the efforts made by the government in ensuring the effective provision of social services.

The UNDP partners with the Pakistan Human Development Fund and the NCHD in working on the groundin 53 districts across Pakistan, in the following areas:

• Education: To ensure that children every-where receive primary education by 2015, the NCHD has launched the Universal Primary Education Programme, establishing comm-unity-based feeder schools to accommodate children unable to access government schools;

• Health care: To improve health-care services, particularly for maternal and child welfare, the Primary Health Care Extension Pro-gramme trains local health-care workers and educates community members; and

• Civil Society: To engage Pakistanis in human development at the grassroots level, the Volunteerism Programme harnesses the potential of individuals to contribute to development in their own community.

After its commitment to the Goals, the Government of Pakistan has set up two autonomous bodies to deal with poverty issues: the Centre for Research on Poverty Reduction and Income Distribution (CRPRID)2 and the National Commission on Human Development (NCHD). One outcome of this initiation is the Orangi Pilot Project3 in Karachi offers a model for tripartite arrangement among the local community, the government, and a local civil society organisation to provide improved sanitation services and has been replicated in settlements across Pakistan. The Pakistan Government and the UNDP have worked closely to promote this agenda through a number of joint initiatives that reflect the adoption of the MDGs in public policy and their adaptation to the local context. The main focus areas that the UNDP concentrates in Pakistan can be categorised as crisis prevention and recovery, democratic governance, environment and sustainable development and poverty reduction and MDG achievement.

Challenges in Implementation 

Since around 2007 and 2008, the economy has been under considerable pressure due to the following domestic and external developments:

* Global financial crisis, which hit the country when it was already facing a balance of payment crisis stemming from high food and fuel prices in the world markets. The combined effects of the global commodity price check, adversely affected the economy resulting in unsustainable current account and fiscal deficits and unprecedented high level of inflation, which hovered at more than 20 percent in the fiscal year 2008-09;

* The deteriorating law and order situation in the country further aggravating in 2008-09 caused by the domestic costs of fighting militancy and the growing tide of internally displaced persons has put severe strains on the government’s finances.

With declining fiscal space, the government was forced to remove a large number of subsidies, and it is probable that a larger number of people have fallen into poverty, which would have negatively impacted human development and, consequently, the country’s ability to achieve the MDGs.

There seems to be considerable shortage in reaching the MDG targets for achieving universal primary education, even if there is to be a pretendedimprovement in economic activity or government spending for education and other related sectors. However, this realisation that the targets will not be met does not deter the government from working to achieve the targets, rather it spurs it on to rectify the gaps and to make the commitment, which it will move as close to the targets for 2015, as it possibly can.

* With regard to the gender equality and empowerment of women, the status of Pakistan is as follows:

- Pakistan has made steady though slow progress with regard to the Gender Parity Index (GPI) for primary and secondary education. Pakistan had missed the MDG target of gender parity in primary and secondary education in 2005. With the current pace, the MDG target of gender parity is unlikely to be achieved by 2015.

- Youth literacy GPI improved during 2004-09. With the existing pace, the MDG target of 1.00 it is likely to be unachieved.

- Women’s share in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector has increased but Pakistan is making slow progress in achieving the target. Keeping in view the slow progress, proper steps need to be taken to achieve the MDG target of 14 percent.

- With respect to the number of women’s seats in the national parliament, Pakistan has shown substantial improvement over the years. The proportion of seats in the present National Assembly is substantial, but there is still scope for improvement.

• Pakistan’s performance in achieving the desired MDG targets by 2015 is unsatisfactory particularly in case of the under-five mortality rate and infant mortality rate. Though Pakistan has managed to lower the under-five mortality rate, there is still a need to reduce it by 42 percentage points by 2015, a highly improbable outcome. If the rising trend achieved during the first four years of the MDGs could be repeated, it is still possible to achieve the MDG target by 2015, with regard to immunization, although it seems increasingly unlikely that this target will be met.

• Pakistan, while attaining some success, has a considerable distance to go to meet the MDG targets by 2015. For the maternal mortality ratio, the MDG target for 2015 still requires almost a halving of the ratio. The 2015 target for skilled birth attendants is still more than twice of the proportion achieved in 2008-09. An indicator relating antenatal care also shows low progress. In terms of family planning indicators, the contraceptive prevalence rate is considerably short of the 2015 MDG target.

Progress in 2013

Last year despite the country missing several of its development targets, the UNDP assured that it would continue supporting Pakistan to meet the Millennium Development Goals 2015. This was confirmed by Nicholas Rosellini, the UNDP’s Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific. However, the provincial MDG reports developed with the UNDP’s support (2010-2012) had revealed inter- and intra-provincial differences in the pace of progress towards MDGs, adding that the process of preparing the Pakistan MDG Report 2013 was underway in the Planning Commission of Pakistan with the UNDP’s support. The current evidence and estimates suggest that Pakistan’s progress towards achieving the MDGs is lagging. Of the 34 indicators for which data is available at the national level, Pakistan is on track on only 10 indicators. The civil society organisations say that the goalsare not on track for achievement. Aid in Pakistan has increased sharply from 126 per cent to US $ 1.4 billion in 2010.

Keeping the Elections of Pakistan (May 2013) in mind, the UNDP played a significant role. The UNDP has provided assistance to the Election Commission of Pakistan in collaboration with UN Women and the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in areas such as training, results management and voter education through a three year electoral cycle support project supported by the Governments of Australia, Norway and the European Union. With the support of the UNDP, ECP had launched a voter education campaign targeted at inclusion of youth and women, as well as a new elections results management system.


The Pakistan Millennium Development Goals Report (PMDGR) 2013, which was released on January 23, 2014 at the UNDP Headquarters, says that initially Pakistan had adopted 16 targets and 41 indicators. However, in 2013 Pakistan has managed to be on track only on 10 out of 34 indicators. There is no data available for the rest of the indicators and none of the targets have been achieved. It is the PMDGR2013 that has attempted to include a review of subnational and district level status and trends for the first time. One must note that there is very little data available from the Pakistan Government’s end. Most of the information are available with the UNDP.

The improvement in the economy and stability in the country between 2002 and 2007 have resulted in improvement in some of the MDG targets. Since provinces are responsible for many of the Goals of the MDGs, this transformation in resource allocation may be unplanned for achieving some of the MDG Goals, as long as these Goals receive their priority. However, unless there is urgency and a renewed and concerted effort to mobilise resources, both domestically and internationally, and to refocus the priorities in favour of these Goals, there is a high risk of considerable underperformances in the MDGs set for 2015. Two years may sound too short a period to fill this yawning gap between performance and expectations that exists presently, but future trends do not necessarily have to be predicated on past performance and dramatic reversals in past trends often occur when nations are faced with overwhelming challenges.

Pakistan’s stability is in the interest of India.In international relations a nation does not get an opportunity to choose its neighbours. If Pakistan manages to improve its position in implementing the MDGs then its adhoc stability could lead to strategic partnership with India. 


“About Us: NCHD”, National Commission for Human Development (Online: Web) content&view=article&id=6 &Itemid=2 Accessed on January 18, 2013

“Civil society’s contribution to the Millennium Dev-elopment Goals”, UN Millennium Project (Online: Web) Chapter8-lowres.pdf Accessed on January 18, 2013

“Health-Related Millennium Development Goals: Policy Challenges for Pakistan”, Journal of Pakistan Medical Association (Online: Web) article_id=379 Accessed on January 5, 2013

“Millennium Development Goals: Pakistan nowhere near reaching MDGs, say experts”, The Express Tribune (Online: Web) Accessed on January 6, 2013

“Millennium Development Goals: Pakistan stays stead-fast to development targets says UNDP”, The Express Tribune (Online: Web) Accessed on December 9, 2013

“National Report: Pakistan”, Commonwealth Foundation (Online: Web) Accessed on January 6, 2013

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“The Government of Pakistan and UNDP jointly working towards achieving the MDGs”, UNDP (Online: Web) Accessed on January 6, 2013

“United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Pakistan supports new initiatives at polling stations”, Reliefweb (Online: Web) Accessed on December 6, 2013

“United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)”, United Nations Rule of Law (Online: Web) Accessed on January 18, 2013

“Who We Are: UNDP Pakistan Millennium Develop-ment Goals Fund”, UN Foundations (Online: Web) Accessed on December 7, 2013


1. The Millennium Summit was a meeting among many world leaders from September 6 to 8, 2000 at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. Its purpose was to discuss the role of the United Nations at the turn of the 21st century.

2. Centre for Research on Poverty Reduction and Income Distribution has been established at the Planning Commission to monitor the Poverty Reduction Strategy in Pakistan.

3. The Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) collectively designates three Pakistani non-governmental organisations working together, having emerged from a socially innovative project carried out in 1980s in the squatter areas of Orangi Town, Karachi, Pakistan. It was initiated by Akhtar Hameed Khan, and involved the local residents solving their own sanitation problems. Innovative methods were used to provide adequate low cost sanitation, health, housing and microfinance facilities.

The author is a Post-Graduate Researcher in the Department of Political Science, St. Joseph College, Bangalore.

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