UNEP-SDPI Special Session: Enhancing Sustainable Development in South Asia through Innovations and Partnerships - APFED Showcase Programme

The United Nations Environment Programme (Regional Office for Asia Pacific) and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) co-hosted a Special Session which took place during the Sixteenth Annual Sustainable Development Conference 10-12 December 2013 in Islamabad, Pakistan.  This year's theme was, "Creating Momentum: Today is Tomorrow".

UNEP ROAP-SDPI Special Session:

Enhancing Sustainable Development in South Asia through Innovation and Partnerships - APFED Showcase Program

Watch the Outcome Report

 The Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) is a flagship event of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute that not only provides a forum for its own research but also invites other organizations, researchers and academics from the region to share their work and engage in dialogue with fellow panelists and the audience.

SDPI 16th Sustainable Development Conference (SDC – 2013)) on the theme  "Creating Momentum: Today is Tomorrow"  was held from December 10th to December 12th, 2013 at Best Western Hotel, Islamabad, Pakistan. The concept note of 16th SDC-2013 is given in the Annex 1.

During SDC-2013, United Nations Environment Program, Regional Office for Asia Pacific (UNEP, ROAP) and Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), jointly organized a special panel entitled, “Enabling Sustainable Development in South Asia through Innovation and Partnerships – APFED Showcase Program.

Background Information of UNEP, ROAP – SDPI Session:

 Local initiatives represent an array of available development solutions to address existing and emerging environmental challenges as well as bear social and economic impacts. Yet, these successful initiatives are not strongly linked to institutional and policy mechanisms for sustainable development throughout the Global South. The reasons being low awareness of existing opportunities, inadequate mechanisms for community-level best practices to feed into sub-regional, regional and global institutions via knowledge and information sharing and technology transfer. The existence of such barriers/gaps has interrupted the organic flow of bottom-up approaches being incorporated into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) process. In part, such gaps are responsible for developing countries’ failure to meet many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It is essential that sustainable development includes and integrates both top-down and bottom-up contrivances into the overall sustainable development governance architecture. Therefore, in order to realize sustainable development goals on a larger scale, community-level best practices should be contextualized and replicated across the Asia Pacific region and globally.

Having a variety of community-level best practices available for replication, the APFED Showcase Program may be able to utilize South-South and Triangular Cooperation to more strongly integrate bottom-up initiatives into national, regional and global processes for sustainable development. From 2005-2010, the Program provided solutions through pilot projects which aimed at inclusive innovations and green economy initiatives at the grassroots level, as well as, advocated stakeholder empowerment and access to information. The Program has also acted as the mechanism through which interactive technical partnerships have formed between the APFED Showcase Program Secretariat, regional research institutions and local project implementers. Community wisdom and involvement, optimization of local resources, investment in alternative livelihoods and technologies are just several of the identified enabling conditions, making these pilot projects important to showcase for replication and/or scaling-up in other South Asian developing countries or regions that face similar development challenges.

Objectives of Session

This special session aimed to:

  • Provide an arena for various stakeholders to expand current dialogue on creating new partnerships and building upon existing partnerships for scaling-up and/or replicating successful initiatives that underpin the value of healthy environments and well-functioning human societies to transition toward sustainability.
  • Act as an impetus to the discussions on the post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda by recognizing the achievements of demand driven innovative community actions.
  • Make a strong case for the criticality of grassroots projects for sustainable development in the region

The Session Explored Answers to the following questions:

  • How can local successes influence the sustainable development policy processes at national, regional and global levels, including the discussions on the post-2015 development agenda?
  • Does South-South Cooperation provide a faster and reduced-cost opportunity to the global South to forge a new and more inclusive paradigm that secures sustainable development options for all citizens?
  • How can the APFED Showcase Program ensure transference of knowledge from successful local initiatives and sustainable regional partnerships throughout the global South and contribute to devising an inclusive development paradigm?


Various stakeholders will come together and engage in a vital dialogue, as a follow up to brief presentations of a few selected showcase projects. The exchange of information will provide a strategic direction for programs like the APFED Showcase Program, which can jumpstart the process of achieving well-being and sustainability by incubating local knowledge, linking it to macro-economic policy transformation and uniting local people and innovations.


 Dr. Mahmood A.Khwaja, Senior Adviser, Chemicals and Sustainable Industrial Development, SDPI moderated the entire session which was chaired by Mr. Shafqat Kakakhel, former Ambassador and Deputy Executive Director, UNEP The special session was held on December 11, 2013.

The detailed agenda, describing the titles of the presentations, names of speakers, discussants and session rapporteurs,, is given in Annex-2.

Live streaming of this session was done by SD TV via  www.sdpi.tv. Special invitations for participation in  this special session UNEP, ROAP-SDPI session on APFED showcase program were also sent to Japan International Cooperation Agency and United Nations agencies in Islamabad. (Annex-3).This session was attended by 79 participants (Annex-4) and by over 165 via live-streaming.  .


Dr. Mahmood A. Khwaja, SDPI, welcomed the panel and participants on the behalf of Sustainable Development Policy Institute and informed that SDPI was established in 1992 at Islamabad, Pakistan as an independent and public interest think tank. It provides advice to all public, private and voluntary organizations and has policy oriented research and advocacy program for environment, human development, globalization, local livelihoods, climate change and economic growth etc ( www.sdpi.org and www.sdpi.tv. ). Prior to his presentation, Dr. Khwaja also introduced the chair, panelists, discussants and session rapporteurs to the audience.

Dr. Khwaja on a brief  introduction and objectives of Asia Pacific Forum for Environment and Development (APFED) program/showcase projects,  indicated that within Asia-Pacific Region, there is diversity as three of the world most populous countries, three of the world’s largest countries, thirteen least developed countries, twelve land locked countries and seventeen small island developing countries in the region. The Asia-Pacific region size is equal to 1/3rd of the planet and has 2/3rd of world’s population. As the population is expected to rise by 4 billion, economic development is dire need for the growing population. This economic development is likely to occur at the cost to the environment. Due to the rapid depletion and degradation in the segments of Asia-Pacific region, there is a need of Sustainable development and consumption.  APFED promotes the effective environment management and sustainable development in Asia Pacific region. It has been supported by Ministry of Environment of government of Japan. There are three approaches of APFED program & activities, such as policy dialogue, knowledge initiative and showcase program. Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) is the member of APFED-NetRes. In year 2007, 174 proposals were submitted by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s); 45 projects were concerning to Land, agricultural and forest. Dr. Khwaja also referred to APFED publication entitled, “Good Practices and Innovative Activities” (http://www.env.go.jp/en/ ) and encouraged participants to read it for detail information about APFED program and showcase projects.

Mr. Manesh Lacoul and  Ms. Carly Timm,  UNEP, ROAP ‘s presentation was via Skype Mr. Manesh  introduced the technical session, background, way forward and scaling up of Asia-Pacific Forum for Environment and Development (APFED). The APFED provides support to stakeholders driven projects that aim at policy development, green technology application, socialization and partnership for sustainable development. The APFED Showcase Program involves innovative ideas and practices for sustainable development through implementation of pilot projects and scale up identified best practices in Asia-Pacific region. It enables to take initiatives for poverty alleviation and sustainable development and also to provide opportunities to actors such as research institutes and civil society to realize their environmental solutions. He informed the participants that Sustainable Development Policy Institute has been one of the key partners of APFED program and activities. With 58 projects in Asia Pacific countries, we foster initiatives which are creating enabling conditions at the community level for poverty alleviation and sustainable development; providing opportunities for diverse types of actors to realize their creative environmental solutions from the ground up.The Programme makes good use of both Vertical and Horizontal Partnerships – through the inter-connections and linkages of the participating civil society, the project implementing organizations, the a Network of Research Institutes, and the APFED Showcase Facility.  This type of arrangement has proven very valuable in the sharing of knowledge gained and lessons learned. In particular, the creation of NetRes, or the Asia-Pacific Regional Network of Policy Research Institutes for Environment and Sustainable Development (a network of eight key institute from different sub-regions in Asia Pacific (including SDPI, Pakistan), has been instrumental for the program. 

 Embedding South-South cooperation  mechanism  will allow showcase program to effectively promote the RIO+20 goals and to offer the opportunity for successful project replications for easing the ability of other communities and countries to address similar environmental problems. It will provide cheap solutions to international communities for increasing the flow of emerging information, newer knowledge among developing countries.

The presentation via Skype was very well received and SDC management has already planned to encourage and invite overseas participation via Skype in future SDCs.

Introductory presentations on APFED/Showcase program and UNEP, ROAP – SDPI special session at SDC-2013, respectively by Dr. Khwaja and Mr. Lacoul, were followed by brief presentations on four selected successfully completed showcase projects in Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

 Mr. Chathura Weliwitiya, HELPO, Sri Lanka, briefly described his showcase project on the application of green Bio energy city concept carried out in Trincomalee- Sri Lanka. He indicated that with the comparison of population and waste amount in (2001/2011), it has been observed that with the rise in population, the amount of waste/day also increased. The Trincomalee Urban Council has divided area into different zones for waste collection from different sources. The concept work was to establish a committee involving major stakeholders and construction of a biogas plant in the major part of each zone. The biogas generated could be utilized for multiple purposes such as cooking, organic fertilizer for better cultivations. This green bio energy concept enabled the reduction the municipal expenses for waste management, health department and hospitals. It reduced the cost of waste collection , transport and management. It’s sustainable solution to the problem of municipal organic waste to increase the green city areas.  (Abstract -  Annex-5 (A).

Mr. Khurshid Bhatti, AHD, Pakistan, shared AHD experience of working on  access to safe drinking water via Nadi Water Filter in Remote Rural Areas of  Sindh, Pakistan. Water is life but safe and clean drinking water is a problem in Pakistan’s rural areas. The communities in Jati-District Thatta, Sindh were having Canal water for drinking purposes as they have no other choice to access water. As a result cholera, diarrhea and other water borne diseases emerged. Bio-sand Nadi filter is simple and indigenous solution for having clean drinking water, as it is simple, easy and adoptable. It is made by utilizing simple materials available locally in rural areas such as Nadi, Mutca, sand, cement and pipe. The project activities, now are being carried out by AHD from own resources.  28,000 families having now access to  safe, clean drinking water in Sindh, Punjab, Mansera and Swabi in KPK province. The rate of water borne diseases has been declined.  Nadi water filter has been promoted by means of workshops in rural areas. Abstract - Annex-5 (B).

Mr. Rabin Kadariya, NTNC, Nepal, presentation was on “Mentha cultivation for the livelihood enhancement and biodiversity conservation”. The project objectives were to explore the solution for crop depredation by wildlife and to mitigate human wild life conflicts. Other objectives were to improve the economic condition of indigenous people and awareness raising for the biodiversity conservation of national park by providing knowledge on its importance. Due to poor economic conditions of the communities, wildlife destroyed many crops of farmers. Many cases were observed in the past. Main reasons for HWC were the traditional methods which included locally made watch tower, trench, scarecrow and rope fences which can be easily crossed by wildlife. Under this project modern approaches were introduced which includes cultivation of aromatic crops, electric fencing and integrated approach. Students and communities were educated for conservation of wildlife. Farmers adopted mainly Mentha arvensis, Matricaria chamomilla, lemon grass and citronella. Remarkable reduction in HWC was observed. Alternative crops are the major scio-enviormental approach for human wildlife conflict around the habitat of wildlife. Problem solution initiative was highly accepted by the community. Local communities were involved in wildlife conservation if the conflicts are avoided. Mr. Kadariya suggested that such approaches can be replicated in the HWC prone areas of South area region. (Abstract - Annex-5C)

Mr. Zia ur Rehman Farooqi, Nida Pakistan, presented a brief about the showcase project, “ Environmental improvement and greenhouse gas reduction via use of fuel-efficient technologies and reduced woodcutting,” carried out in the area of Kohistan district. The project goal was to contribute to poverty reduction amongst rural communities of Kohistan Districts (Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, KPK), by ensuring improved access to essential Environmental Education, increased involvement of targeted communities in environmental related matters, especially focused on vulnerable groups (women), which shall result in Forest Conservation and Climate Change issues and creating higher effective income to the house-holds. The project approach was to use wood as fuel in the most efficient way, employing energy efficient cooking stoves (EECSs) which would have great impacts, resulting  in decreased deforestation, improved aesthetic view. Women health was also improved and there was a decrease in asthma, TB and eye infection diseases. Many problems were encountered due to geographical location of project area such as roads damaged by flooding and extreme weather conditions (Abstract – Annex 5D)

Prior to open general discussion on the above four presentations and APFED program/showcase projects, the two discussants were requested by the Chair for their comments. He encouraged participants to suggest ways & means for the continuity and scaling up of APFED program/showcase projects and in this regard also  respond to the 3 key questions, as given in the “Questionnaire,” already distributed among them. A number of participants, including panelists also provided their responses/comments in writing to the session rapporteurs.

Dr. Vaqar Ahmed, SDPI, appreciated the South-South Cooperation which was imbedded and  very evident from the APFED program .and emphasized on the importance of intra- and inter- Asia-Pacific regional countries partnership. He suggested for the improvement of communication, both of research and documentation, regarding the APFED/showcase projects. He was of the opinion that replication of the EECSs and cultivation of the aromatic crops need not be the final project, as demand for the same may differ from area to area in the Asia Pacific region. He proposed to explore cooperation of local, regional and world Banks for financial support towards scaling up of APFED program/showcase projects.

Faisal Haq Shaheen, Toronto Water Division, emphasized on “Think, understand and educate.”

He thought further assessment of “Impact of Work-done” through APFED/Showcase projects was very necessary, as its dissemination would further help towards scaling up of APFED and the spread of the showcase projects in the countries of Asia pacific and other regions, specially Africa. He called for “Un-packing of the completed showcase projects to translate these for further work.  He also raised some questions like where Nadi water filters would be most useful. Was the availability of implementing facility/ies ensured in project areas? Furthermore he emphasized on the implementation of jurisdiction. He suggested that there was dire need to map out incentives first.

Open Discussion:

 During open discussion, in response to the question of the need of staple food, Mr. Kadariya said that local people buy staple food from the money they earn from cash crops. In response to the question of initiator s of aromatic crops Mr. Kadariya said that farmers and poor people didn’t invest because of the fear of loss. Two hundred rich people invested first. Regarding use of plastic instead of porcelain material for Nadi water filter, Mr. Bhatti responded that plastic was not used because filtration quality was affected in that case. Sindh Agricultural University, Oxfam GB and different NGO’s tested microbe’s ability of filtration.

To a question, Dr. Farooqi clarified that in the project areas cutting trees was not at greater rate and as those communities have wood the only source of fuel, so they were made aware of using wood in an efficient way.

Mr. Shafqat Kakakhel, former Ambassador and Deputy Executive Director, UNEP, in his concluding remarks, appreciated holding of this special UNEP, ROAP – SDPI special session on APFED program /showcase projects which was very useful and generated so much interest among the participants, as was evident from the questions/answers and lively  discussion. He appreciated the outcome of APFED projects, despite a small amount funded/project and. strongly recommended the scaling up of the APFED/showcase project program. He thanked the panelists, discussants, participants, rapporteurs and organizers for their usefull contributions. Mr. Manesh expressed his gratitude to Mr. Shafqat Kakakhel for chairing the session and his valuable contributions. He also thanked Dr. Khwaja, SDC team and SDPI for their support without which the session could not have been so successfully organized.

Conclusions and Recommendations:

Conclusions and recommendation, with focus on the 3 key questions and based on the discussion/comments during the session and on the written responses received, are summarized below:

How can local successes influence the sustainable development policy processes at national, regional and global levels, including the discussions on the post-2015 development agenda?

-         Local success can help to innovative  new  ideas and bring space for indigenous people to come out and voice their issues, further local initiative can bring sustainable development and grass root level communities can easily participate.

-         Involve more think tanks and media entities. The partnership of these two under APFED can ensure greater penetration.

-         If the case study of local success stories will be published in the newspaper, journal and presented in the dialogue forum of media, development worker, politician and bureaucrat, it would influence the sustainable development policy process at national, regional and global level. 

-         The media (newspaper, e news and television) plays major role for the replication and massive extension of local success with the active involvement of stakeholders. Information sharing with media personnel and organization of media field trip will enhance the capacity of media to publish the local success. Development workers, farmers or other users will adopt the successful initiatives if the activity seems sound in term of economical, ecological and social aspect.

-         The measure of this contribution, through APFED program/showcase project, in reducing environmental degradation is a measure of the reduction in frequency of extraction and actual fuel wood ( natural resource) consumption at the household level. As a whole, the integration of output factors gives credence to the fact and belief that target community headed towards stability in the sphere of social, economic, health and environment that displayed better spirit and vowed to carry on mission given to them through education, motivation and training in a project launched.

-         Implementation of policy is the key to success.Lot of development program but proper monitoring and evaluation of their progress may helpful for achieving the ultimate goals. Local successes play vital role because ultimate objective is to improve their living standards. Therefore these local successes are very much important for sustainable development. 

-         Neglecting the local context in dealing with sustainable development does not only will have adverse consequences, but it will fail in the global level. Different regions have experienced successes and failures in dealing with environmental protection and keeping a sustainable growth. Local successes can be the most practical way of approaching towards the sustainability of programs.

-         Local success influence the sustainable development at national and regional level because, it enhance the overall GDP of country which is promoting step toward sustainable development. When successes at national level will occur it will result in success at global level because of better relationship with developing countries & moving toward sustainable development policy at global levels.

-         Bottom up approach and grassroots development through local success stories are the basis for policy change. The key is to work on advocacy through grass roots innovations on national scale.

-         Involvement and active participation by local bodies of the project site/areas of APFED program/showcase projects.

-         Local successes can influence the sustainable development policy through advocacy by conducting conferences or seminars at regional, national and global level in order to create awareness among population and at policy level.

-         Understanding and assessing the unique “Enabling Conditions” that contributed to project success as well as its sustainability, during as well as post project period.

-         Conducting successful individual APFED show case project outcome analyses of project replications, with special focus on the potential to make similar contributions to achieve green economy across Asia Pacific region in particular and developing nations globally in general.

-         Sensitizing and building strong partnerships with government, the private sector, academic and research & development organizations and media to spear head the adaptation of a resource efficient paradigm and the transition to a greener economy.

Does South-South Cooperation provide a faster and reduced-cost opportunity to the global South to forge a new and more inclusive paradigm that secures sustainable development options for all citizens?

-         Majority of the participants agree that South-South Cooperation provide a faster and reduced -cost opportunity to the global South to forge a new and more inclusive paradigm that secures sustainable development options for all citizens.

-         It is important for the South to cooperate so that costs can be reduced and economies of scale achieved.

-         South part of the world are facing same problem for the livelihood option of local communities and loss of biodiversity. The Major challenges for the loss of biodiversity are habitat degradation, poaching and recently increased human wildlife conflict. The indigenous people who live in the major biodiversity hotspots are suffering from poverty and affected by water and sanitation the number of people drinking polluted water and needs to facilitate such trainings that they can be able to learn and replicate safe drinking water solution at household level.

-         Globally, South is far behind in all spheres i.e. political, economic, social, etc. but this does not mean they can’t develop.  South needs a strong political integration and this can be done through expanding the role of regional organizations.

-         South-south cooperation provide faster and reduced cost opportunity to the global south to forge a new and more inclusive paradigm that secures sustainable development for all citizens.  Developing countries of South Asia should conserve their present resources and need to improve their economy to get the mutual benefits. So, that it would result into reduction of import export cost.

-         South to South cooperation will give way profit due to mutual cooperation and of course it will include less tax on import export.

-         Economic and political cooperation is the way forwarded. Examples/cases in point are EU; East-Asian cooperation’s which show benefits of cooperation.  Similarly, South-South will provide between countries with similar challenges, common development will reap the same inclusive growth projects.

-         South-south cooperation provides a faster and reduced cost opportunity and more inclusive paradigm that secure sustainable development option for all citizens.

-         South-South Cooperation enhance the activities more faster and reduce the cost as most of the South Asia countries are developing and they need to conserve the present resources at the same time to enhance or improve the economy.

How can the APFED Showcase Program ensure transference of knowledge from successful local initiatives and sustainable regional partnerships throughout the global South and contribute to devising an inclusive development paradigm?

-         Most of the participants believe that employing  all possible means of  “Communication” is the way that APFED can ensure transference of knowledge.

-         Involvement of more think tanks and media entities. The partnership of these two under APFED can ensure greater penetration

-         A working group with national representation may be formed and this group should then inventorize such local successes. This inventory should then be communicated to the Ministry of Planning & Development responsible for post-2015 development agenda. The working group should also consult the private sector in case any of these local successes can be up scaled and commercialized.

-         APFED NetRes & implementing organizations could play a leading role with respect to their successful showcase projects, .both intra-country and inter-countries of the Asia-Pacific and other regions.

-         Promotion of APFED program/showcase projects through the existing national, regional and global networks and also by creating (discipline specific, as possible) networks of research and development institutions at all levels. institutes which ensure the project implementation for sustainable development.

-         It can be ensured by public participation in such development paradigm.

-         There is dire need to come-up with policies that may provide basis for projects/program like APFED and are sustainable at the micro, regional and global level.

-         Review, revision and updating of APFED booklet on “ Good practices and Innovative activities,” for achieving sustainable development in Asia Pacific.


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