Pakistan has reached a 56.2% completion rate for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Although Pakistan ranks 134th out of 193 countries, recent years have seen several developments toward achieving SDG 1 in Pakistan. For instance, planned initiatives and anti-poverty legislation are creating a substantial and meaningful impact.
Poverty in Pakistan
According to the Sustainable Development Report, which is a global measure of countries’ progress toward the SDGs, the main indicators for SDG 1 are poverty headcount ratios of $1.90 per day and $3.20 per day. As of 2020, less than 1% of the population in Pakistan lives under the $1.90 per day poverty threshold. This figure not only places the country on track for the achievement of SDG 1 but it also represents distinct progress since 2011. During that year  9% of the population lived in extreme poverty.
Reaching the threshold of $3.20 per day remains a goal for the country. Approximately 20.7% of the current population lives under these poverty conditions. This, in turn, poses major challenges to the achievement of SDG 1 in Pakistan. Large portions of the country’s population remain vulnerable to the conditions of poverty. Notably, though, poverty rates in Pakistan have consistently declined throughout the past decade.
Since the creation of the SDGs, Pakistan has taken key measures to achieve them. The country submitted its Voluntary National Review (VNR) in 2019. In this same vein, the country made the fulfillment of the SDGs by 2030 a national priority. There are now specific budget allocations, national monitoring of 46 indicators and stakeholder engagements in the country. All of these factors are clear indicators of SDG progress in Pakistan, even beyond SDG 1.
The current Pakistani government has created multiple pieces of legislation that align with SDG 1. The Balochistan Senior Citizens Act of 2017 made provisions for the well-being of senior citizens in Balochistan. Furthermore, the act implemented other financial and social measures to account for the aging population in Pakistan. The government also took steps to register and regulate charity funding through The Punjab Charities Act of 2018. These are just two examples of laws designed to help mitigate and eradicate poverty within the country. Parliamentary Task Forces have also been created to fill legislative gaps for each goal and keep track of SDG fulfillment.
The government of Pakistan has pledged to reduce poverty by 6% between now and 2023. Moreover, the government pledges to further develop social protection policies that align with SDG 1 and create a database that will “ensure better targeting of poverty reduction measures.” It also committed to increasing poverty alleviation expenditures and ensuring that vulnerable groups such as women, children and people with disabilities receive needed aid. As an example, the government currently fulfills this promise through the Ehsaas Emergency Program. This program enables organizations to deliver aid to people experiencing economic hardship due to COVID-19. With key stakeholders in the country now becoming champions of poverty eradication and committing to achieving SDG 1 in Pakistan, an end to unjust living conditions is now possible for many. While there is still much work remaining, the multi-dimensional efforts to reach this goal are promising.
– Rachel Moloney