South Asia: UN, World Bank Agenda for Sustainability in the Region

By Srimal Fernando Global Editor, The Diplomatic Society

9 August 2016

South Asian countries have followed different patterns of development during the last several decades. Yet the World Bank and the United Nations (UN) development aid played a major role in social, economic, and political progress in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was an overwhelming part of the United Nations (UN) agenda.  In the context of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) s the state capacities of South Asian countries operated in an effective manner to achieve the MDGs of the respective countries.

Photo: World Bank President Jim Yong Kim meting the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Although the poverty ratio has declined since the onset of development aid from these two major donor institutions, the rising inequality in these countries threatens to derail the agenda of human development well-being. On the economic front, despite the well-known political constraints in these countries, the World Bank stabilizing efforts focused on macro goals aimed at reducing volatility and reducing the balance in the economy.  

Many successful projects in South Asian countries attest to the expertise of the World Bank. Especially, the World Bank provided India a total of US$ 106.3 billion in funding to support 604 projects, another US$ 6.1 billion accounting for 141 projects, a total value of approximately US$ 31. 4 billion was raised for Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan had received over US$ 4 billion each covering various aspects of projects compared with rest of the other countries in the region. Bhutan received 0.3 billion for 25 projects (World Bank, 2015). Around US$25.7 billion for 297 projects was disbursed in Bangladesh (World Bank, 2015). Once a conflict has ended, it is essential that peace-building be carefully integrated into broader post-conflict efforts during post-war period. 

South Asia provides an essential and noticeable contribution to the United Nations efforts to maintain peace made up of military, police and civilian contingents. Deployment of over 32,000 United Nations (UN) peacekeeping troops made up of military, police and civilian contingents from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka has been actively involved in peace operations for several decades (United Nations Peacekeeping, 2015). India has been a leading contributor to UN peacekeeping with 7,700 personnel deployed on peacekeeping missions. As a comparatively small country Sri Lanka has contributed over 400 troops to the United Nations peacekeeping efforts.
United Nations system in India supported by twenty three organisations collectively focuses on nine priority states such as Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh under the United Nations Development Action Framework. 

The United Nations (UN) system in India program has been a wonderful source of encouragement over the years. As a result, the country has set ambitious targets to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in the coming years. The River Ganges, also known as the Ganga, flows 2700 km from the Himalaya Mountains to the Bay of Bengal. The Ganges, sprawling basin accounts for one-fourth of the country's water resources and is the lifeline for more than 400 million Indians. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with India’s Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation in India aims to improve the quality of water and rejuvenate the Ganga (UNDP, 2016). In Pakistan the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) country programme is a longer-term, programmatic approach to addressing the specific development needs of the country. Strengthening the Electoral Processes, Peace building, governance environment and climate change has been a major area of UNDP work in Pakistan.
Photo: Ms. Una McCauley the new Resident Coordinator for the United Nations in SriLanka and the Resident Representative for UNDP Sri Lanka. presented her credentials to  Sri Lankan  Minister of Foreign Affairs,  Hon. Mangala Samaraweera,  (Photograph  United Nations Sri Lanka)

In 1952, the United Nations began its operations in Sri Lanka. A few years later on 14 December 1955; Sri Lanka was admitted as a member state of the United Nations. Celebrating 60 years of UN presence in Sri Lanka in a message to the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka Ms. Una McCauley, said   “The United Nations Family has been working closely with the Government of Sri Lanka for over 60 years. We are committed to shared and sustainable peace and development, and we will continue to work with the Government and the people of the island to build a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka.”

In Sri Lanka the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Country Programme 2013-2017 will focus on ‘Governance for Empowerment and Social Inclusion’ and ‘Environmental Sustainability and Resilience’ based on the United Nations Development Assistance Framework  (UNDAF). Total UNDP aid to Sri Lanka from 2008-2012 is amounted to approximately U$75 million. The UNDP in Sri Lanka is planning working on a Peacebuilding Priority Plan which presents the country's priorities in a strategic direction. In  Maldives, the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF implement a USD 2 million (MVR 30 million) programme over the course of 2016-2017 ( UNICEF Maldives 2016 ). UNDP works in poverty reduction, democratic governance, crisis prevention and recovery, environment and energy four main interlinked areas in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, and Nepal and in Pakistan. Among the many projects UNDPs has launched  the  Projects  such as  Strengthening the rule of law, building capacity in district courts in  Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan,  the six hundred transport Project  in Afghanistan, systematizing the building permit system in Nepal  and  the Tshering Penjor project in Bhutan are innovative projects that are  transforming and pushing South Asia in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)s  by  2030. In particular, South Asian region as a whole has performed reasonably well and is in much better shape than it was several decades ago. Each of the governments in the eight South Asian countries has a national development plan. World Bank assistance and aid backed by UN agencies increasingly shaped the socio, economic and political development addressing common concerns in South Asian countries.