A two-day consultation in Shillong brought together policy makers, academicians, youth leaders, practitioners and UN agencies to deliberate on the challenges and opportunities for India’s North East in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The consultation was organised by NITI Aayog and the United Nations in India.
Speaking at the inaugural session, Mr K.S Kropha, Chief Secretary, Meghalaya pointed to the enormous potential to improve development outcomes in the North East, and urged participants to brainstorm on improving implementation and scaling-up investments to bridge the gaps. He also highlighted the struggle to reconcile economic imperatives with environmental protection.
Mr Vikram Singh Gaur, Joint Secretary, NITI Aayog noted that the North East as a region requires special attention and there are several opportunities that are available to the region for faster progress. He also noted that the SDGs are not new but that to achieve these require committed efforts from both the centre and the state governments.
Jaco Cilliers, Country Director, UNDP highlighted the long partnership between NITI Aayog and UNDP on human development. Mr. Cilliers, on behalf of the UN system in India, offered the support of the UN agencies to state governments of the North East in meeting their development priorities and the SDGs. He reiterated the need to focus on the key principles of SDGs related to inter-connectedness and reaching the furthest behind first.
The highlight of the workshop was the showcasing of seven best practices and sharing of practical experiences from the North Eastern states on service delivery. In addition, elected leaders of panchayati raj institutions from Rajasthan (Piplantri gram panchayat) shared their successful experience of convergence of social, economic and environmental initiatives at the local level with far reaching benefits to the local population and Kerala (Eraviperroor gram panchayat) that is the first gram panchayat in the country to receive a national award for public administration for prioritising e-governance at the grassroots level.
In addition, innovative examples from Gujarat (Village Profile and Taluka Planning Atlas), Rajasthan (Bhamsha) and Maharashtra (Microplanning in Chandrapur district) were shared related to using technology for monitoring outcomes at the local level. Analysis on budgets for children in the North East by the North Eastern Social Research Centre and HAQ – Centre for Child Rights was also shared, highlighting the need to focus on children by tracking investments through child budgets especially at the State level to ensure development outcomes for the children. This is particularly important in view of the recommendations of the Fourteenth Finance Commission, which increased fiscal responsibility at the state level.
The session on Voices of Youth: Shaping the Future brought together young leaders from organisations such as Commutiny, Pravah, Youthnet, Way Foundation, CAN Youth and Farm2Food Foundation. The youth leaders highlighted the need for investment in self-development of young people for sustained development and growth of the country by investing in entrepreneurship and to promote efforts to channel the energy of the youth.
The workshop ended with a high-level panel discussion on Achieving the SDGs in the North East, where representatives from the eight North Eastern states highlighted the need to reach out to the population groups that have been left behind in the development journey, create spaces for young people to be part of development programmes, emphasised the need to invest in quality education, including vocational and entrepreneurial education, and value-chain development for organic products. Issue of strengthening the statistical system to capture data at local levels to measure progress on the SDGs was also reiterated.