Statement by Ambassador Mohammad Aamir Khan, Acting Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations at the 58th Session of the Commission for Social Development
(13 February 2020)

Mr. Chairman,

At the outset, let me congratulate you on assuming the Chair of the Commission for Social Development. We wish you and your Bureau a successful session and assure you of our full support and cooperation.

Pakistan aligns itself with the statement delivered by Guyana on behalf of the G-77 and China.

Mr. Chairman,

The goal of social development and economic growth and prosperity are indivisible and mutually reinforcing. Development cannot be sustainable if it is not broad-based and inclusive. The World Summit for Social Development, held in Copenhagen in 1995, first enunciated this inextricable linkage.

During the past 25 years, countries have consistently reaffirmed their will and commitment to implement the Copenhagen Declaration. This commitment received a big boost when the international community adopted the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, and again in September 2015, when the world leaders adopted the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

Despite the tremendous progress made in reducing global poverty, significant disparities and challenges remain across regions and within countries. Poverty and inequality are multifaceted challenges that need multi-pronged solutions. It is only through realistic and determined social and economic policymaking and implementation that we can combat poverty.

Mr. Chairman,

In Pakistan, we have mainstreamed the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The priorities of the new Government are fully aligned with the SDGs.

Revitalizing the economy, youth employment, sustainable and affordable housing, institutional reforms, mitigating the effects of climate change, universal access to health services and quality education are some of the top priority areas of the new government.

In line with this vision, the government has launched a national poverty alleviation program – Ehsaas (Compassion) to expand social protection, safety nets and support human capital development throughout the country. The largest ever national poverty eradication programme complements and expands the on-going robust social protection programs. The Government has also launched the largest-ever skilled development programme for youth empowerment titled Hunarmand Jawan. It will be carried out in the next four years at a cost of Rs. 30 billion and will facilitate youth through easy loans, professional capacity-building, start-ups and internships.

Steps are also being taken towards financial inclusion through policies that facilitate an investment friendly environment; encourage sustainable inclusive growth by investing in our human capital, empowering women, and formalizing the undocumented economy.

Mr. Chairman,

The selection of priority theme for this year’s session is quite timely. Homelessness and lack of access to affordable housing is indeed a global problem, affecting people with diverse socio-economic backgrounds, in both developed and developing countries.

According to Secretary General’s report, globally 1.6 billion people live in inadequate housing conditions, with about 15 million forcefully evicted every year.

Addressing homelessness is therefore essential for Member States in implementing various SDGs, in particular, SDG target 11.1 to ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services.

Mr. Chairman,

Like many other countries, Pakistan is also facing an acute shortage of housing units. The annual housing deficit is estimated at around 12.5 million units and growing.

In order to meet this daunting challenge, the Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr. Imran Khan has placed affordable housing at the centre of his national development agenda. An ambitious affordable housing scheme titled “Naya Pakistan Housing Program” has been launched which aims to build 5 million low cost housing units in the next five years.

The hallmark of the program is public private partnership. The government will provide under-utilized state land for construction of affordable housing units. Dedicated federal and provincial housing authorities have been established for this purpose. The construction would be financed by the private sector and through commercial banks’ lending, for which state land would be used as collateral.

The Government is also introducing new financial regulatory initiatives which are expected to facilitate promotion of low cost housing finance in the country. Some of these measures include relaxations to banks/DFIs, tax exemptions, strengthening of foreclosure laws, introduction of housing finance targets to banks and subsidized fixed rate financial facility for low cost housing for special segments.

The government has also entered into an MoU with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) for building at least 500,000 new affordable homes under this flagship program. As part of this agreement, the government will provide land and basic infrastructure facilities whereas UNOPS will establish a framework to manage financial aspects, and ensure that project activities are completed in a timely and efficient manner.

Mr. Chairman,

As we learn from each other’s experience in reducing social inequalities, it is important to acknowledge that there is no “one size fits all approach”. National capacities, including institutional and financial capacities, to fight inequality significantly differ. Therefore, it is essential to respect each country's policy space and priorities to implement measures for reducing inequalities and poverty.

In conclusion, my delegation would like to reaffirm the critical role of the Commission for Social Development in advancing action for social progress and the eradication of poverty through promoting the Program of Action of the Copenhagen Summit. Likewise, we fully appreciate the contribution of the Commission in follow-up and implementation of the SDGs within its existing mandate. We believe that the discussions and recommendations of the 58th Session of the Commission will greatly contribute to the 2020 High-Level Political Forum.

Finally, Mr. Chairman,

We would like to expresses deep appreciation and full support to the high-level political commitment and extraordinary efforts made by the Government of China to contain the outbreak of novel coronavirus.

We have full confidence in China’s capacity to control the outbreak as fast as possible.

The international community should work together in a spirit of responsibility, solidarity and cooperation to contain this outbreak.

I thank you.