As nations around the world grapple with COVID-19, India on Tuesday underlined that faster implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can put countries on the path of inclusive and sustainable recovery from the impacts of the pandemic.
Addressing the High Level Political Forum 2020 "Accelerated Action and Transformative Pathways: Realizing the Decade of Action and Delivery for Sustainable Development'', NITI Aayog Vice Chairperson Rajiv Kumar said the SDGs are more important than ever before.
"We all live in a world which is increasingly interconnected and interdependent. Today countries, in addition to the pandemic, are also dealing with several pressing challenges including climate change. All these challenges yet again underscore the need for multilateralism and global solidarity," Mr Kumar said.
"Faster implementation of SDGs can put countries on the path of inclusive and sustainable recovery from the impacts of the pandemic," he said and referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call that people, planet and profits are interlinked, and nations'' decisions should be people centric and planet friendly.
"As we enter the Decade of Action, India reiterates its commitment to the principles of sustainable development and the targets set under the SDG framework. We will continue to engage with multiple stakeholders for accelerating progress towards the SDGs and are determined to keep to adhere to the call of Collective Efforts for Inclusive Growth (Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas) with sustainability at its core," he said.
Mr Kumar said that the Indian government's response to the pandemic has been articulated through PM Modi's vision of an "Aatmanirbhar Bharat" or a self-reliant India. This has been operationalised through a stimulus package of 276 billion dollars, which is 10 per cent of India's GDP, and includes several reform and relief measures across numerous sectors to protect lives and livelihoods, spur investment and employment, and safeguard the interest of frontline workers.
India on Monday presented its second Voluntary National Review (VNR) at the High-Level Political Forum.
Mr Kumar said the processual feature of India's VNR entailed working with all the stakeholders - sub-national governments, civil society, academia, think tanks and business forums - to ensure that it embodies a "whole of the society" approach.
He outlined the significant progress made by India towards achieving the SDGs through consistent growth and social inclusion initiatives. He noted that India has been able to lift 271 million people from multidimensional poverty, there is near-universal access to bank accounts, expanded financial and digital inclusion, promotion of entrepreneurship and rural employment guarantee resulting in increased incomes.
Further, programmes aimed at universal access to housing, sanitation, quality education, health protection, and clean energy are improving the quality of life of the most vulnerable.
He told the forum that since the advent of the 2030 Agenda, India has expanded access to clean cooking fuel to over 80 million households in need, built over 110 million toilets in rural areas to improve sanitation and added over 385 million accounts for the unbanked, majority of whom are women.
Simultaneously, India's technology-driven "Direct Benefit Transfer'' system has been instrumental in delivering ambitious programmatic interventions and improving the efficiency of public service delivery, he said.
India's food security programmes are successfully addressing issues of malnourishment among children and women, he said, adding that India has a "robust institutional framework for protection of peoples'' rights, maintenance of peace and social justice."
For the VNR, NITI Aayog and partners from civil society, community and business organisations joined hands to curate a consultative process that saw more than 50 national and sub-national consultations led by civil society organisations from 14 population groups.
"This has become a conduit for institutionalised dialogue and engagement in the future," Mr Kumar said, adding that more than 92,000 NGOs are working with the Indian Government on the COVID-19 response.
India's VNR process also included consultations with the private sector, he said.
"With the private sector stepping up in the fight against COVID-19, India is fast developing affordable and innovative solutions to counter the impacts of the pandemic," Mr Kumar said.
Underscoring that the role of international cooperation is more critical than ever before, Mr Kumar said India is proud to be at the forefront to strengthen global partnerships and is committed to South-South Cooperation, particularly to address the issues of climate change, desertification and land degradation.
He reiterated India's commitment to tackle the impact of climate change and support efforts of developing countries especially Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States to achieve their developmental goals through necessary assistance.
India has also actively promoted the International Solar Alliance, the Coalition for Disaster Resilience Infrastructure, and is actively participating in implementing the Sendai Framework, UN Convention to Combat Desertification and the Paris Climate Agreement.
"India is supporting developing countries through the India-UN Partnership fund, and its neighbours through the SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund and the SAARC COVID-19 Information Exchange Platform," he said.