ISLAMABAD (Agencies): In a significant move aimed at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, lawmakers on Thursday urged the expansion of Article 140-A of the constitution to establish a strong, empowered, and permanent local government system across Pakistan.

This call was made during the National Meet on SDGs 2023, themed “From Global Goals to Local Impact: Empowering Local Governments for SDG Success.” The daylong event, jointly organized by the National Assembly’s SDGs Secretariat and the EU-funded Mustehkam Parliamaan and GIZ-Participatory Local Governance Programme, featured prominent speakers including MNA Romina Khurshid Alam, the Convener of the SDGs Task Force and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister, Sven Ruesch, the Acting Head of Cooperation at the European Union Delegation to Pakistan, and Helene Paust, the First Secretary of Development Cooperation at the German Embassy in Islamabad.

During the event, lawmakers proposed and finalized amendments to Article 140-A, advocating for the devolution of powers and authority to local governments, empowering them to function as self-governing institutions with regular elections to ensure continuity. The proposed amendments were subsequently handed over to Minister for Law and Justice, Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar.

Convener National Parliamentary Taskforce on SDGs/SAPM, Romina Khurshid Alam, emphasized the critical role of the local government system in a well-functioning democracy. She highlighted the potential of local governments to play a pivotal role in localizing the SDGs, which is crucial for meeting the development agenda by 2030. Alam stressed that local governments have a direct impact on sectors like health, education, economics, and social welfare, contributing significantly to poverty alleviation, gender inclusivity, and industrial innovation. To facilitate this process, the National Assembly SDG Secretariat is actively engaging with provinces to align SDG targets with local development plans and ensure an autonomous and inclusive local government.

Throughout the event, participants engaged in four breakout sessions, each focused on the role of empowered local bodies in achieving SDGs, with specific themes relevant to the respective provinces. These themes included empowering local governments in Punjab, addressing climate change and mitigation through a bottom-up approach in Sindh, fostering local leadership in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to reduce inequalities, and promoting collaborative governance in Balochistan by involving communities.

Sven Ruesch, from the European Union Delegation to Pakistan, highlighted the vital role of effective local governance in fostering democracy and citizen well-being. He emphasized the EU’s commitment to supporting sustainable and inclusive development in Pakistan and acknowledged the country’s efforts in promoting democratic local governance.

Helene Paust, representing the German Embassy, praised the National Meet on SDGs for its focus on empowering local governments. She underlined Germany’s strong diplomatic ties with Pakistan and its dedication to sustainable economic development. Paust also emphasized Germany’s support for provincial and local governments in capacity development and governance.

In his closing remarks, Minister for Law and Justice, Azam Nazeer Tarar, emphasized the significance of local governments in serving the citizens and assured the participants of the National Meet that he would present the proposed amendments in the Senate, expressing his readiness for further discussions on the matter.

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