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Despite challenges, India is a story growing up: UN

Jul 10, 2017

Civil society in India should work beyond mere criticism and help the government in finding solutions to developmental problems, said the UN resident coordinator in India.

New Delhi: Despite challenges India is a story growing up both on the social and developmental front, said Yuri Afanasiev UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in India. He was addressing a large gathering of representatives from various Indian nonprofits at the launch of a civil society report on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in New Delhi.

The Civil Society Organisations working on SDGs have prepared a report to highlight the status of SDGs in India. The report, Civil Society Report on SDGs : Agenda 2030, focuses on ten goals and is prepared by a large number of civil society organisations and networks through desk research and consultations with local communities, particularly the marginalised communities.

The civil society representatives highlighted various challenges that could have a bearing on the success of SDGs in the country. Some of the challenges like most schools in India not yet being compliant to the Right To Education Act, the pending Women’s Reservation Bill and the provision of clean water not reaching the last mile person were also highlighted from the newly launched report.

Talking about the smart city concept in India, civil society activists rued that eighty percent of smart city funds are being introduced in already developed areas like the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC).

Warned against a completely watchdog approach, Yuri advised the civil society in India to shift from 90 per cent criticism to ten per cent positive approach. He underlined that the civil society report sadly failed to applaud a unique law on disability that was passed by the Indian government last year.

Yuri said that the civil society should hold the government to the account by helping towards constructive engagement. The nonprofits don’t need to just find gaps but also help fulfill goals.

Talking about the progress on SDGs, Yuri noted that a lot of Indian states in India were embracing the SDGs’ framework more actively compared to the past. Highlighting about the challenge in measuring success of SDGs, Yuri said that tracking the success of goals is a challenging task. “ We don’t really know how to measure all the goals,” he said.

Highlighting the role of people’s partnership, Yuri said that SDGs are all about citizen engagement. “We cannot talk about agriculture without talking to farmers,” he said.

With the main focus on the theme ‘Leave No One Behind’ and ‘A Life of Dignity for All’, civil society presented a shadow report on SDGs in the run up to India submitting its Voluntary Nation Review Report at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), New York, in July 2017.

The civil society organizations also have been regularly engaged in popularising, monitoring and advocacy of the SDGs. Therefore, Wada NaTodo Abhiyan along with the larger Civil Society organisations has released a shadow report on SDGs.

Revealing its findings on third year of Modi's governance, the report documents the progress achieved so far in reducing poverty, increasing standards of education and other parameters of the development.

Amitabh Behar, Executive Director, National Foundation for India, regretted that there was no way to measure the progress of SDGs. He added that SDGs are not social goals but are a result of social, economic and development framework.

Behar said that empowering people by ensuring equality still remains a challenge. “If one per cent holds 58 per crent of country's growth, how can we think of leaving no one behind,” he said.

Citing an example of Malkangiri, where 150 tribals have been reported to have died due to hunger and malnutrition, he said that the civil society in India was going through difficult times. “The space of dialogue is shrinking along with the space of debate and dissent under the current regime,” he said.

Divyata from Action Aid, a nonprofit, talking about goal number one of SDGs said that the national indicators are narrow as they talk only about reducing the number of people living below poverty line without any special focus on women.

Talking about goal number 10, the report hightlights that inequality cannot be measured only on economic terms. “Women form a large force for tilling land but they have very less ownership. There is a need of database for social groups to reduce inequality,” said a civil society representative.

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