Inclusive approaches to leaving no one behind: learnings from Pakistan

Munazza Gillani, Sightsavers Pakistan Country Director

Pakistan is committed to fulfilling the vision of the 2030 Agenda and is the first country in the world to localise the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) after a unanimous parliamentary resolution was passed in February 2016. Despite this commitment, there are still gaps in data systems that adequately collect, monitor and report on the needs of marginalised groups, especially at provincial and district level. To tackle this challenge and strengthen the reporting, monitoring and implementation of the SDGs in Pakistan, the federal government set up a special section in the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives to support and augment SDG implementation in the country. .

Against this backdrop, Sightsavers, an International Development Organisation (INGO) committed to promoting equal opportunities for people with disabilities, began to collaborate with the federal government of Pakistan on the country’s 2019 Voluntary National Review (VNR) submission. Over a two-year period, Sightsavers Pakistan worked with stakeholders and national partners to develop a VNR report that focused on disability inclusion in SDG implementation, encouraging the active and meaningful participation of persons with disabilities in the VNR reporting process.

Inclusion and participation of people with disabilities and civil society

Sightsavers Pakistan’s stakeholder engagement efforts led to the establishment of a formal partnership with Ministry of Planning Development and Special Initiatives. We co-hosted national level consultation workshops, connecting the ministry with key national disability stakeholders – especially organisations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) – to gather their feedback for the national VNR report. Sightsavers also arranged a series of capacity building workshops with national and provincial level OPDs and other disability champions along with ministry’s key officials. These aimed to increase a collective understanding of the existing SDGs monitoring and implementation strategies and the importance of including voices of persons with disabilities in these processes.

Sightsavers Pakistan also sensitised the largest CSO network, the Pakistan Development Alliance, to include the voices of people with disabilities in their district level consultation nationwide for collecting voices of civil society in the national VNR process and report. The consultation engaged hundreds of people with disabilities championing inclusion in different spheres of life, as well as OPDs, national and district level disability networks, and key stakeholders from civil society and government. As a result of this rich consultation process, the key recommendations for a disability inclusive VNR report were adopted by the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms. The 2019 Pakistan VNR report submission made strong references to people with disabilities – a total of 15 times in different sections of the report.

The disability-inclusive VNR consultation process was appreciated by the Working Group on the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities at its fifth session held in Bangkok in February 2019, and was highlighted as a case example of disability inclusion for VNR reporting. The government of Pakistan was asked to share its work at the Regional Workshop for VNR preparation

Strengthening disability data indicators in Pakistan

Building on the successful engagement with CSOs and OPDs for the 2019 VNR reporting, Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives stakeholders were keen to continue to explore ways to strengthen disability disaggregated indicators for Pakistan’s SDGs implementation monitoring dashboard. In 2020, Sightsavers Pakistan co-hosted another consultative workshop with the ministry to explore the existing data sources and mechanisms for disability-related information to better understand the gaps to be addressed. During this workshop, participants agreed that a detailed mapping or situational analysis of all data sources nationwide would be done, led by Sightsavers Pakistan, in collaboration with the ministry. The mapping study identified all the relevant ministries, provincial departments and NGOs from which data about disability-related SDGs could be collected for the SDGs implementation monitoring dashboard, including types, sources of data, and mechanisms of data collection and its dissemination. Sightsavers completed this mapping study in early 2021 and the report was subsequently formally endorsed by the ministry.

Looking ahead and learnings

Since the completion of the mapping study and report, the collaboration between the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives and Sightsavers Pakistan to strengthen disability data in the SDGs monitoring has continued. We are now further delving into the data sources for disability-related indicators for each SDG, starting with SDG 4: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. This will be done in consultation with relevant government and civil society organisations in the education sector to develop mechanisms and tools for disability-focused data reporting for SDGs monitoring. If this pilot on SDG4 is successful, it will be replicated for the rest of the SDGs in Pakistan at federal level, with plans to also support the disability disaggregation of provincial level SDG frameworks.

The ‘leave no one behind’ promise of Agenda 2030 compels us to identify and address inequalities so that the needs of groups that have been marginalised can be better understood and addressed. Producing and using better data must be at the heart of those efforts. Disability data is often perceived as complex and therefore can sometimes be overlooked in development efforts. But the learnings from our work on disability data indicators in Pakistan show that these challenges can be overcome by partnership and collaboration across different sectors. This collaboration must include the meaningful participation of people with disabilities and their representative bodies for a truly inclusive process.