The Future of Development Sector in Pakistan post COVID-19

May 20, 2020
Posted in blog
May 20, 2020 Hira Mansoor

The global health crisis caused due to the outbreak of COVID-19 has created devastating socio-economic impacts especially on the vulnerable population of Pakistan. With nearly one third of the population subsisting from daily and piece-rate wages, the COVID-19 response has necessitated an urgent and immediate strategy to protect those living in extreme poverty. With imposed lockdown to curb the spread of virus, millions of people have lost jobs. Pakistan needs to immediately prepare, respond and recover from the crippled economic conditions that has faced post pandemic. International donor organizations have started to redefine their missions to eradicate poverty, reduced inequalities, and building resilience to the crisis and shocks for the upcoming year and combat the aftereffects of COVID-19. Most important component of development sector in Pakistan is to uplift marginalized people through poverty eradication and create opportunities for equal access to education. This is where development sector’s role has flare-up its significance in a developing country like Pakistan. Globally, development professionals are connecting with each other through webinars to discuss the challenge of ‘The New World post COVID-19’. In these unprecedented times where unemployment is drastically rising and more people are moving below the poverty line, higher funding is required for the development sector to actively address these issues. National development organizations – well known for its outreach mechanism, shall play an effective role to prepare Pakistan in responding to the economic hardships and help communities rise out of abject poverty. It is evident that COVID-19 will have lasting health and economic effects beyond the effects of damage caused directly by the virus itself. It is the need of hour for development organizations to conduct more impact assessments on most vulnerable, design policy recommendations and propose program interventions, to feed into the national action plan for COVID-19.

During this pandemic, it will be undue to not mention that major international donor organizations such as World Health Organization (WHO), The World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) have significantly provided funds to the developing and underdeveloped countries in the form of COVID-19 Relief Fund. But moving forward more funds will be required to economically uplift marginalized communities and creating potential job opportunities. With physical distancing to be the ‘New way of living’, distant learning and self-employment awareness and opportunities needs to be created for unemployed population. Mostly organizations have started to digitalize business in order to live with the virus. Keeping this in mind, development organizations require ‘Innovation Challenge Funds’ for designing and implementing digital solution programs for marginalized communities. This technique will not only provide self-employment opportunities to unemployed population but will also connect them digitally to markets by ensuring social distance protocols. Interventions for mass awareness and access to digital literacy for underprivileged people will help them create income generating opportunities. While continuing to work from home, I got this opportunity through Kaarvan Crafts Foundation, to design a ‘Coronavirus Impact Survey’ and assess the current socio-economic conditions of Kaarvan’s beneficiaries. The survey specifically assesses the acceptability of marginalized women towards online learning, digitalization process and use of E-commerce platforms to continue income generation. I believe this impact assessment will help Kaarvan to design more robust and digitally enabled programs in coming days and prepare its beneficiaries to ‘live with the virus’ and continue earning a dignified livelihood.

Just as needs across our communities multiply with the strain of new emotional, financial, and healthcare challenges, nonprofit organizations themselves are revolving from both operational constraints and imperiled funding streams. Clearly, many of these nonprofits have been focused on their very own survival. In Pakistan, private sector is generous enough in willing to contribute in developmental programs through allocated CSR budget. But private sectors face challenges in utilizing the CSR budget due to lack of infrastructure that could possibly carry out community programs. Due to lack of implementation infrastructure within private sector, a potential bridge can be created for closing the gap between private and development sector. Whereby emphasis should be laid on collaborating MNCs and other private sector organizations with various NGOs and community development organizations. In this way, private sector will also set foot in the community to help people adversely effected by the pandemic. In near future, this Private-Development sector linkage will create opportunities for national development sector organizations to attract funds for carrying out programs helpful for the unemployed and poor population.

COVID-19 pandemic has also added extra difficulties onto humanitarian access, contact with vulnerable populations, operational capacity followed by travel restrictions for many countries including Pakistan. Yet the number of community workers is likely to continue increasing during and after the coronavirus crisis. New humanitarian actors will be created, and new sectors will be integrated into the humanitarian ecosystem for social development. International and national NGOs will need to work against the current incentive structure to shape their new role in the evolving system. This will require a double focus: continuing to deliver much needed humanitarian aid in the near term while concurrently challenging themselves to make the investments necessary for a successful strategic shift toward the impact of COVID-19 crisis. Community-based interventions and empowering local staff will be among the main themes of new cultural and operational shift that the pandemic is causing. There will be additional roles for local NGOs and community organizations in service delivery, and more local staff as program managers, site managers, coordinators, and senior members in leadership positions within these organizations. Development organizations will need to be proactive in pursuing their own structural change to exert leadership and explore new ways of working with different social actors.