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National Activities: Pakistan

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National Workshop on Indicators of Sustainable Development
12-13 October 1998

Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

In cooperation with the Ministry of Environment, Local Government and Rural Development, Government of Pakistan



1. The National Workshop on Indicators of Sustainable Development was jointly organized by ESCAP and the Ministry of Environment, Local Government and Rural Development, Islamabad from 12-13 October 1998 in Pakistan.

A. Attendance

2. Seventy-seven participants representing various federal ministries and departments of provincial governments, research centres and institutes, academia, NGOs and private sector attended the Workshop. A list of participants is attached at Annex 1.

B. Opening of the Workshop

3. The Honourable Ahsan Iqbal, Minister of State and Deputy Chairman Planning Commission, Planning and Development Division, Government of Pakistan, inaugurated the Workshop. He emphasized that sustainable development is a key to the future of Pakistan and this could be achieved only through a commitment, sustained efforts and perseverance of every individual in the society. Sustainability, he stated begins at household and moves to national level in an organized and properly articulated manner. Living beyond means, living for today and not caring for the future are some of the attitudes that have to be rectified. There are a very large number of indicators that can be used in the context of sustainable development but many of them only indicate symptoms rather than the root causes of policy failures. The realistic approach to articulate a set of sustainable development indicators for Pakistan would, therefore, be to identify indicators that could ascertain the root causes of failures and trigger actions for solving the problems.

4. The Representative of UN-ESCAP in his statement pointed out that in response to the call of Agenda 21, many countries and international agencies have under taken indicator initiatives. In order to coordinate these efforts in Asia and the Pacific and link these to global efforts, ESCAP is undertaking a project on the indicators of sustainable development. It was under this project that a regional meeting was organized to review the progress achieved so far. It is indeed, gratifying that after the meeting four countries of the region - China, Maldives, Pakistan and the Philippines are actively participating in the process as the testing countries. He stated that ESCAP greatly valued Pakistan's contribution and support to these efforts mandated by the Commission on Sustainable Development and pursued by 21 countries of the world at present. He welcomed the experts present in the Workshop and hoped that the outcome of this Workshop will pay a major role towards developing, adopting and implementing a plan of action on the indicators of sustainable development in Pakistan.

5. The Secretary Ministry of Environment, Local Government and Rural Development in his welcome address pointed out that in the modern world information is critical for decision making. Modern science and knowledge has enabled humankind to develop and use data on a very large number of issues. As a consequence, the decision-makers have a vast array of statistics, which alone can confuse or misguide. In such situation, tools like indicators are called for. Appropriate indicators can lead to informed decision making and make data collection cost effective and need driven. He stated that holding of this first ever National Workshop on Indicators in Pakistan was an effort in that direction which hopefully would pave the way to identify appropriate indicators of sustainable development which can be used for measuring sustainability within the available financial and institutional capabilities in Pakistan. These indicators, he hoped, will be tested in the field and modified with time.

C. Election of Officers

6. The Workshop elected Mr. Mahboob Elahi, Director General (Environment) as the Chief Coordinator of the Workshop.

D. Adoption of the agenda

7. The Workshop adopted the following agenda:

  1. Opening of the workshop
  2. Election of the officers
  3. Adoption of the agenda
  4. Overview of indicators of sustainable development and the significance of their testing
  5. Testing of Indicators of Sustainable Development in NWFP
  6. Current social and economic indicators and status of their data availability in Pakistan
  7. Methodology for testing selected indicators of sustainable development in Pakistan
  8. Programme of testing of indicators of sustainable development in Pakistan: Recommendations
  9. Other matters
  10. Adoption of the report
  11. Closing of the workshop.

8. Under this agenda item, the significance of indicators of sustainable development and an overview of the programme of the work of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) was explained, along with the ongoing regional and national efforts at their development and field-testing. The diagnostic, monitoring, planning and implementation roles of indicators were also outlined by giving the example of the Netherlands.

9. The importance of having good information available for decision-makers was stressed, while noting the paradoxical situation that although information and information sources were proliferating, decision-makers often found it difficult to obtain the right kind of information. Indicators provided a means to help bridge the information gap. The Workshop was also cautioned that although indicators had many advantages in terms of providing concerns and aggregated information, they also had various pitfalls that one needed to keep in mind while using them.

10. The criteria used in selecting the core set of CSD indicators and the processes of consensus building that was used in selecting them was also described. The Driving Force-State-Response (DSR) framework was explained as a means of organizing the indicators and providing an appropriate analytical framework. Current status of implementation of Commission on Sustainable Development work programme on indicators was explained, including completion of the methodology sheets for each indicators that was contained in the publication entitled "Indicators of Sustainable Development: Framework and Methodologies". The various elements of the methodology sheets were also described in a concise manner.

11. Strong emphasis was placed on the actual selection of a core set of indicators. The difficulties in selecting issues, matching them with indicators and in obtaining supporting data were explained. The method used for selecting a menu of possible indicators suitable for the Asian and Pacific region in the document "Towards indicators of sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific", was outlined. It was pointed out that the menu was based on the issues identified in the Regional Action Programme adopted by the Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development held in 1995 in Bangkok.


12. Under this agenda item, a case study was presented on the testing of indicators of sustainable development in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan. It was pointed out that Sarhad (NWFP) Provincial Conservation Strategy (SPCS) was developed to operationalize the National Conservation Strategy at provincial level. The SPCS had a list of issues, which were prioritized under the study for the development of indicators in NWFP. It was pertinent because the Chief Minister of NWFP had officially launched the SPCS in November 1997 as the principal strategic planning framework for the sustainable development of the NWFP. The Provincial Planning, Environment and Development Department was the lead agency for the implementation of the SPCS in the public sector through several key line departments including Agriculture, Industries, Local Government, Education, Culture and Tourism, Forest, etc. In addition, various civil society organizations (NGOs/CBOs, media, academia and ulemas, etc.) were also participating. The study's immediate objectives were to prioritize issues, identify matching indicators and determine the data needed to be collected and data available for measuring those indicators. It was also to identify measuring methodology, the actors/institutions needed to measure and assess the data, as well as the institutional mechanisms to sustain the process and the frequency of reporting on the progress.

13. The main objective of the exercise was to establish indigenous capacity of measurement, assessment and reporting. The exercise was initiated by the review of relevant work already undertaken in the field. In this regard, meetings were conducted with key individuals representing the government, IUCN, other NGOs, donor agencies, media experts as well as grass-root individuals. The relevant documents related to policy framework were assembled and information on data being currently measured in the NWFP was also collected. Moreover, a 2-day multi-stakeholder workshop was convened to prioritize issues and solicit recommendations for the development of indicators.

14. Considering the large number of issues covered by the SPCS, an interactive process was adopted to select 31 key issues for the development of indicators. Out of these 31 issues, 15 were environment related. Using a consultative process indicators were selected for the above issues. Further, depending on existence (or, otherwise) of primary data, measurement methods were also proposed.

15. Since the basic set of 31 issues (including 15 environmental issues) were still considered too large to focus, it is proposed to select the most critical among these through the involvement of a broader range of stakeholders. This would hopefully lead to crystallize specific indicators or indices. The process may entail collection of primary data for very critical issues for which no data currently exists or is being collected (e.g., air pollution). It is envisaged that this phase of the study and future work would be conducted and overseen by a Core Group of experts, housed in one of the existing relevant government institutions in the NWFP, to ensure its sustainability and to promote local capacity building.


16. Under this agenda item, the Workshop reviewed the economic and social indicators that have been used in Pakistan and elsewhere as well as the status of data availability for those indicators. A presentation was made on the environmental accounting and its use in Pakistan. The Workshop felt that the concept of Net Domestic Product (NDP) and inclusion of loss of natural resources in national accounting would be very useful. They felt that although the current method of valuation of environment was tedious for adoption at present, yet the work on it should continue. The availability for statistical data related to environment and sustainable development was also reviewed by the Workshop and suggestions were made on the issues for which data would be required in future. It was noted that the Ministry of Women Development, Social Welfare and Special Education is developing indicators to monitor the institutional sustainability. In this connection, 20 indicators had already been developed to monitor NGO performance (Annex 2) . The Workshop felt that institutional sustainability was crucial for achieving sustainable development and it was therefore, extremely important to incorporate such indicators in the list of indicators of sustainable development prepared under the work programme of the Commission on Sustainable Development.


17. Under this agenda item, the Workshop discussed the framework to be adopted and issues of concern for which indicators needed to be developed and tested. After considering numerous frameworks, it was decided to follow the P-S-R framework and that provided by chapters of Agenda 21.

18. Some of the priority areas highlighted included food security, population, trade and environment, health, human settlements, environmental technology and integration of environment and development. The Workshop noted that while developing indicators for sustainable development in Pakistan, it was important to keep in mind the institutional capacities, manpower and the resource availability in the country. The discussion in the Workshop was concluded by a decision to divide the participants into four working groups to consider the priority issues and identify preliminary indicators on environmental, economic, social and institutional dimensions.

19. The working groups identified specific issues within the dimensions allocated to them as well as indicators that would match them. As a result of working group deliberations, 77 preliminary indicators were identified; 23 related to economic, 26 to socio-cultural, 25 to ecological/environmental and 2 to institutional/political dimension. Annex 3 shows the listing of these indicators.

20. The outcome of the working groups' deliberations was presented to the Workshop, which felt that the exercise had resulted in extremely useful set of preliminary indicators of sustainable development in terms of various dimensions of sustainable development. It was pointed out however, that those needed further refinement to enable the identification of root causes of deteriorating state and development of appropriate response strategies. The Workshop also made recommendations on institutional support to build capabilities of agencies in data collection, compilation and analysis. It also advocated the need for training to develop skills in the use of indicators.

  1. A steering committee may be set up in the Planning and Development Division to finalize the list of indicators of sustainable development in Pakistan and programme of testing in association with the Federal and Provincial Government agencies and other stakeholders. The Committee may include representatives of the Ministry of Environment, Local Government and Rural Development, Statistics Division, Provincial Planning and Development Departments, IUCN, Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry and of Women.
  2. The indicators may be tested keeping in view the national, regional and local level priorities, needs and concerns.
  3. The selected indicators may be aggregated into indices where appropriate.
  4. As far as possible, existing data should be used and generation or collection of new data may be avoided.
  5. At an appropriate time, a follow-up Workshop may be held to further elaborate the issues and finalize a set of indicators of sustainable development.
  6. Work on natural resource accounting should be developed.
  7. Funds should be requested from donor agencies for the continuation of work on indicators of sustainable development.

21. No issue was raised under this agenda item.


22. The Workshop adopted its report on 13 October 1998.


23. Mr. Mahboob Elahi, Director General of Environment, Ministry of Environment, Local Government and Rural Development delivered the closing remarks. He expressed his gratification and appreciation for the active participation of all stakeholders in making the Workshop a success. He also thanked the Chairs of various sessions and working group for effectively steering the discussions. He acknowledged the cooperation and generous support extended by ESCAP and the Government of Netherlands in organizing the Workshop. In conclusion, he emphasized the need for continued work on indicators for sustainable development.

Additional Reports