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Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in South Asia

Key Policy Priorities and Implementation Challenges

image of Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in South Asia

Global progress on the Sustainable Development Goals will depend to a large extent on the collective action of South Asia to implement them. The sub-region indeed accounts for almost one fourth of the world’s population, 36 per cent of the world’s poor and nearly half of the world’s malnourished children. The sub-region’s success in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, however, hinges on addressing current capacity gaps and strengthening the means of implementation. Recognizing the host of challenges faced by the sub-region, UNESCAP has attempted in the present Report, to unpack the 2030 Agenda at the sub-regional level, outlining tangible, high priority and relevant policy actions that are critical to achieve sustainable development in South Asia. The Report identifies seven key priorities that can help accelerate the SDG achievement in South Asia by leveraging the relationships between the Goals. Based on rigorous policy simulations and evidence, it offers insight into ways a regionally coordinated sustainable industrialization strategy could generate more than 56 million new jobs by 2030 in South Asia, and lift 71 million additional people out of poverty, relative to a business-as-usual scenario. It is hoped that this Report will be useful for analysts and practitioners of development policy in the sub-region and beyond, in stimulating a debate on the ways and means of bringing sustainable prosperity to all in the dynamic and population subregion of South Asia.

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Outlook for sustainable development in South Asia

South Asian countries’ record of MDG achievements has been mixed. The subregion has reduced extreme poverty by 54.7% from the 1990 level, overshooting the MDG target of 50% reduction (Table 1). It has also met its MDG targets on universal primary education enrolment and completion. However, at 59% in 2014, the subregion’s net secondary enrolment rate lagged behind the current global average of 65%. Girls, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and children from lower socioeconomic strata and lagging regions continue to have lower access to primary education. Quality of education has often been poor, particularly in rural and remote areas, with low student achievement levels in most of the countries. The outcomes are partly explained by low public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP, ranging from 1.7% in Sri Lanka, or 2.0% in Bangladesh, to 3.9% in India and 2.5% in Pakistan, well below the recommended threshold of 6%.

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