Transforming India 2030:
Strategies for Sustainable Development Goals

15-17th February, 2017
Pune, India

Conference Tracks

Conference Tracks

Day I: Track I:

Poverty & Inequality

Indian Government and International organizations such as United Nations, World Bank have remained committed to eradicate poverty and to reduce inequality both from humanitarian approach and economic growth perspective. A reflection on the achievements of MDGs indicate that the number of people living in extreme poverty across the world dropped by more than half – from 1.9 billion in 1990, to 836 million in 2015 and India reduced the poverty rates to half from the 1990 levels. Nonetheless, India had 270 million extremely poor people in 2012 (United Nations 2015). Similarly, India remains home to one quarter of the world’s undernourished population, over a third of the world’s underweight children, and nearly a third of the world’s food-insecure people (United Nations 2015). Importantly, a large section of population remains close to the poverty line. The success of MDGs has remained unequal and uneven with poverty concentrated in economically backward states, rural India and the marginalized ‘other’ which includes religious minorities, women, Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribes leading to social, economic and political inequality within the country.

As reported by United Nations, a significant majority of households in developing countries— more than 75 per cent of the population—are living today in societies where income is more unequally distributed than it was in the 1990s. Income inequality cannot be addressed if the structural inequalities that lead to differential / unequal opportunities are not addressed from the primary and grassroots level. Increasing inequality and disparity not only promote sluggish economic growth but also slow human capital growth with lack of education, health and well- being. It contributes to increased crime rates, political and social instability leading to 7 deterioration of individual’s lives which may further contribute to unequal capacity building and outcomes adding to increase in poverty rates. India’s Gini coefficient 1was reasonably high at 33.9 in 2013.

The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) agenda for 2015 – 2030 is highlighted as “a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity...They are integrated, indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental.” The People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership model closely links Goal 1 – ‘No poverty’ and Goal 10 – ‘Reduced inequality’ and underlines a strong rationale of the development of whole societies. Inequalities are not inevitable.

The rise in urbanization and migration rate, agricultural crises and associated complexities in the rural economy are likely to change the pattern of poverty and inequality in India, among other factors. They are likely to influence the effectiveness of traditional measures to attain the development goals. Broadening policy areas beyond extreme poverty & hunger to other basic needs such as safe housing, sanitation, healthcare facilities, financial inclusion and social protections, provisions for equal opportunity for all sections of population would yield more sustainable results to the poverty and inequality eradication efforts.

The sub-themes for discussions and papers related to this track include:

  • Strategies for poverty alleviation
  • Reduction in vulnerability via access to basic services viz. housing, sanitation, safe drinking water and healthcare
  • Financial inclusion - Microfinance and financial services
  • Social protection policies (minimum wages, old age pensions)

Day I: Track II

Education & Gender

On September 15, 2015, The Hindu reported that as far as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were concerned, India’s official records show that one of the few areas that India had succeeded in, was in ensuring gender parity in primary school enrolment. The UNDP website however reflects that India’s performance has only been moderate as far as the 2 nd goal of achieving universal primary education is concerned.

On September 25, 2015, when the United Nations in a historic summit unanimously adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by 2030, its goal on education looked beyond achieving universal primary education. It looked at ‘Quality Education’ in order to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Through this track we hope to discuss strategies which will help us inch closer to achieving the required goals and targets: exploring the partnerships that can be looked at, the public – private exercise, addressing the issues related to the quality of education, increasing the number of people who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment and entrepreneurship. Ensuring that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non- violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development. And last but not the least to substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers through international cooperation.

The 10th Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2014), based on the survey of more than 5 lacs children in the age group 3-16 years from 577 districts (16497 villages) in India, showed that 25 percent of Class 8 students could not read a Class 2 level text. It implies that overall quality of primary and secondary education is extremely disheartening. We hope that the yet to be announced new National Education Policy (NEP), 2015, which is looking at parameters like quality education, social development, inclusivity, technology for knowledge and transparency, new legislation and policies as well as community engagement, will enable India to meet the SDG on Quality Education by 2030. We also look forward to the NEP to sensitize the Indian population on issues related to gender, for although UNDP studies reflect that India is on track as far as the MDG on Gender Equality and Empowerment of women are concerned, we yet have a long way to go.

The history of policy for women’s development in India has been subject to detailed scrutiny by academicians and activists involved in action for gender equality. These discussions have problematised both the ‘gender-blind’ approach of policy in the post-independence stage, as well as the conception of women primarily as policy-receptacles rather than active agents of work, growth and development. The women’s movement that emerged in urban locations in India following the release of Towards Equality- the Report of the Committee on the Status of Women in India (1974) called for a re-evaluation of the centrality of the state in gender-sensitive development. However, the massive reorientation of policy direction in the last decade of the twentieth century and the entry of new agents into the development sector has resulted in shifts in the articulation of goals with respect to women’s participation in development as well as gender equality. This period has thus seen the entry of novel strategies like self-help groups and microfinance along with newer players like international NGOs and corporate bodies into the terrain of development. Coexisting with these are critiques calling for a thorough assessment of these interventions, the decreasing role of the State and their combined impact on the millions of poor and property-less women across the country. Given this historical context, what should our approach to gender and development be? The discussions on gender equality in this track seeks to participate in these debates with a special focus on the following: recognizing and valuing unpaid care and domestic work, undertaking reforms to give women equal rights to economic and other resources, and ensuring women’s full and effective participation at all levels of decision making in political, economic and public life.

The sub-themes for discussions and papers related to this track include:

  • Strategies for poverty alleviation
  • Reduction in vulnerability via access to basic services viz. housing, sanitation, safe drinking water and healthcare
  • Financial inclusion - Microfinance and financial services
  • Social protection policies (minimum wages, old age pensions)

Day I: Track III:

Sustainable Cities

"Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody."

- Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961)

Urbanization world over has crossed the 50% threshold in 2008 and is likely to inch up to 70% by 2050 (WUP, 2014). In the Indian context, the largest democracy presently has the second largest urban population in the world at 377 million (31.7 %)2, after China (749 million, 2014), with the urban numbers having increased up to 429 million, and has been further projected to rise to 600 million (40%) by 2031 (High Powered Expert Committee Report , 2011). This is likely to result in an increase of nearly 200 million over the period, rendering a daunting image of the future of urbanisation in India.

A comparison of urbanization in India, with the emerging and neighbouring economies reveals a much slower pace with Brazil (84.6%), Mexico (78.1%), Russia (73.8%), Malaysia (72.8%), South Africa (62%), China (50.6%), and Pakistan (36.2%). The 2011 Census observed that the urban population (91 million) exceeded that of rural population (90.4 million).

A World Bank Report (September 2015) characterises India’s urbanization process as “messy and hidden” - messy because 65.5 million Indians live in slums and 13.7 million below the poverty line (Census, 2011) and hidden because the share of India’s population living in areas with urban- like features in 2010 stood at 55.3 % (according to the Agglomeration Index)3 in contrast to the official urban data. India may thus be far more urban than what is revealed by the Census Report.

This uncontrolled and expansive urbanisation has been marked with significant gaps in urban infrastructure resulting in pressure on land, water supply and its quality, sewerage network services, disposal of solid waste, lack of open landscaped spaces, air and water pollution, public transport, resulting in environmental degradation and poor quality of urban life. 94 % of the cities/ towns in India do not have even a partial sewerage. 64 % of urban population is covered by individual water connections and stand posts in India, compared with 91 % in China, 86 % in South Africa, and 80 % in Brazil. A considerable number of people in urban India defecate in the open every day having environmental and health implications. Waste collection coverage ranges from 70% to 90 % in major metropolitan cities, and is less than 50 % in smaller cities
Public transport accounts for only 22% of urban transport in India, while it accounts for nearly half of the public transport in lower middle income countries (e.g. the Philippines, Venezuela, Egypt) and 40 per cent in upper middle income countries (e.g. South Africa, South Korea, Brazil). There is also inadequate focus on urban housing- there was a shortage of around 19 million dwelling units as per the 12th Plan.

With crucial and strategic urban infrastructure yet to be built in India, it is imperative that we include in our framework, the stipulations as laid out in the 11th SDG goal and targets to create inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities.

The sub-themes for discussions and papers related to this track include:

  • Urban Governance and Policies
  • Urban Finance and Infrastructure
  • Strategies to address vulnerability (ecology, environment, disaster management and climate change)
  • Civic Innovation and citizenry
  • Institutional capacity and capabilities for addressing the urban woes

Day I: Track IV:

Jobs and Growth

'Growth does not just happen. It must be consciously chosen as an overarching goal by a country’s leadership .... In all fast-growing economies policy makers understand that successful development entails a decades-long commitment, and a fundamental bargain between the present and the future .... This bargain will be accepted only if the country’s policy makers communicate a credible vision of the future and a strategy for getting there. They must be trusted as stewards of the economy and their promises of future rewards must be believed.'

[The Growth Report: Strategies for Sustained Growth and Inclusive Development (2008)]

Economic growth may be looked upon as a function of growth of employment and productivity: increase in either or both of these augments growth. However, it’s necessary to strike a balance between the two, especially in a labour abundant low productivity economy like India, i.e. growth of employment in the economy should not be at the cost of productivity and vice versa. So far, the contribution of employment has declined and that of productivity increased in the growth of GDP, such that during the last decade, 80 per cent of growth was accounted for by productivity increase and only 20 per cent by growth in employment. Long term employment growth in India has been about 2 per cent per annum but has declined to about 1.5 per cent during the last decade, when GDP growth has raised to around 7.5 per cent. A steep rise in export has also not delivered on employment front as anticipated. Also, in the recent years, exports have taken a hit, further adding to the woes of the economy (in 2014 exports grew at a rate of -0.76% vis-à-vis the average annual growth rate of 12.28% from 2010-2013).

In the Indian economy, where surplus labour looms large, employment augmenting growth is of absolute necessity - ‘jobless’ growth is certainly not the desirable form of growth. Acting towards generation or creation of employment with no heed to productivity and wages of workers would hinder growth and development of the economy, especially when productivity and income levels in India are generally low.

Emphasis has to be on ‘productive’ and ‘remunerative’ employment: the new employment that is generated has to be at increasing levels of productivity in order that it does not assume poverty‐ perpetuating or poverty-generating nature (Papola, 2013).

The 8th goal of the SDG – Jobs and Economic Growth, prompts the economies to achieve this very nexus. The objectives of the goal strive to attain sustainability in the economic growth rate by achieving higher level of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation. This needs to be supported with development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises by providing greater access to financial services. At the same time, Indian economy need to focus on 11 resource efficiency in consumption and production in order to stunt environmental degradation. Equality in gender, disabilities and wages with respect to employment is also to be targeted. Eradication of forced labour and child labour should help in pushing a greater part of the population towards education and skill development programmes which will further contribute in building a stronger pool of human capital that will lead to the enhancement of the economy. Enhancing the quality and safety of work environment is another crucial objective of the goal to ensure that the employees can deliver their best for the economy. Protecting the labour rights will create a sense of belonging and efficiency. Promotion of local culture and products, strengthening domestic financial institutions and increasing trade-aid are some of the other factors that should help in creating more jobs for the economy. All of these taken together should enable the economy to create productive employment which will be able to support the minimum rate of growth set at 7 per cent.

The sub-themes for discussions and papers related to this track include:

  • Strategies for broad based employment oriented economic growth – entrepreneurship, SMEs, renewed role of Public Sector Undertakings, etc.
  • Strategies to enhance productivity– R&D, innovations and formalisation of informal employment
  • Targeting sectors and policies with potential for job creation

Day II: Track V

Partnerships for the Goals

Interconnectedness and interdependence which are the dominant characteristics of the 21 st century find resonance in the internationally agreed-upon seventeenth sustainable development goal. The cornerstone of this goal is the multi-stakeholder process whereby governments, civil society and the private sector will come together and partner for the proper articulation and efficient implementation of the goals. Concerted efforts by partners at all levels- international, regional and national, is key to the achievement of the SDGs by 2030.

This track will therefore critically examine and analyze the targets set under SDG 17 and discuss the challenges and opportunities for their achievement by 2030. The track would also present an opportunity to discuss India’s position vis-à-vis the targets under this goal as well as propose a blueprint for the way forward both in terms of medium and long-term planning. As India looks to expand its global footprint, deliberations under this track could also examine the country’s role in development cooperation which would include amongst other mechanisms and frameworks, the North-South-South and South-South cooperation frameworks.

The sub-themes for discussions and papers related to this track include

  • Resource mobilization – domestic and through enhanced international support (to achieve the target of 0.7 per cent of ODA/GNI to developing countries, including debt financing and investment promotion)
  • Technology sharing and capacity building- enhance North-South, South-South and triangular regional cooperation (with respect to science, technology and innovation and enhanced knowledge sharing – ensuring environmentally sound technology dissemination and diffusion)
  • Rule based Trade Promotion (enhancing share of LDC’s exports by 2020)
  • Systemic issues (Policy and institutional coherence, Multi-stakeholder partnerships, Data, monitoring and accountability)