Wednesday, 22 June 2016

UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth: Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals

Deadline: 15 July 2016
The UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth is currently inviting applications for its Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals. 17 young change-makers whose leadership is catalyzing the achievement of the Goals. From food to fashion to finance, the Young Leaders will come from many different backgrounds, represent every region in the world and help activate millions of young people in support of the Goals.
These Young Leaders will be recognized for their leadership and contribution to a more sustainable world. The Young Leaders will come together as a community to support efforts to engage young people in the realization of the SDGs both through strategic opportunities with the UN and through their existing initiatives, platforms and networks.
  • Advocate for the Goals, in ways most accessible and relatable to young people across different contexts;
  • Promote innovative ways of engaging their audiences and peers in the advocacy and realization of the Goals;
  • Contribute to a brain trust of young leaders supporting the UN and partners for key moments and initiatives related to the Goals.
Eligibility Criteria
  • Nominees must be between 18 and 30 years old (as of August 12, 2016).
  • Successful candidates will be selected based on:
    • Their demonstrated achievements in promoting and advancing sustainable development;
    • The ability to command an audience, influence their contemporaries and inspire their constituents;
    • Their personal influence within their respective fields and reputation for inclusive and innovative leadership;
    • Their demonstrated integrity, commitment to the SDGs and core values of the UN.
How to Apply
Applications must be submitted online via the given website.
For more information, please visit Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goal.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Are you Afraid of Death? by Saeed Qureshi

June 1, 2016

By Saeed Qureshi

Are you afraid of death?  Whether you are or not, death will come any way. One usually starts thinking about death towards the fag end of one’s life. The concept of death is scary and dreadful because it’s the irreversible transformation from existence to extinction. Death is described to be “the termination of the biological functions that define a living organism. It refers both to a particular event and to the condition those results thereby”.
The fear or paranoid of dying is common to all human beings. The animals too have the fear of death but perhaps it is explained more in their defense against the danger to their survival. In a fight between the beasts when one is killed, the other leaves the fighting ostensibly perceiving that the enemy has passed to another stage where it cannot fight back.
We have seen lions, killing their prey and waiting for their death and by pressing the jugular vein of the victims. It means that besides humans that conceive death by virtue of their intelligence and consciousness, the animal too instinctively know the difference between the state of life and death.
I have seen certain individuals in life who had no fear or phobia of death. Rather they were happy and exuded satisfaction that they were passing away with no remorse or regrets that could have weighed heavily on their minds. The deeply religious people were content at the time or before death because they unflinchingly believed that in the hereafter or so called next world, they would ever live in the paradise: an everlasting abode of complete happiness, pleasure and leisure.
 The short and limited life span in this world has always posed an intriguing question and perplexing enigma to the human beings. It is an existence that ends with decline and death. Every religion has wrestled with this paramount question and has tried to answer it with its own kind of explanation.
The three Abrahamic religions namely Judaism, Christianity and Islam, talk of a paradise that can be only achieved if certain conditions are fulfilled. These conditions differ between these three main religions. The Jews, of late, are moving away from the dogma of paradise after death and maintain that such a paradise would be created by the man himself on the planet earth. The Christians identify the path to paradise in the belief of Jesus Christ as the son of God.
The pre-requisite for Muslims’ to earn the blissful paradise is to follow the path of God revealed and illustrated in the holy Quran through Prophet Muhammad and marginally in the previous scriptures. But for all these religions the picture of paradise is similar: a place of perfect joy, limitless entertainment and endless both spiritually and in worldly pleasures.
 As German author Gerhard Herm stated in his book “The Celts-The People Who Came from Out of the Darkness: “Religion is among other things a way of reconciling people to the fact that some day they must die, whether by the promise of a better life beyond the grave, rebirth, or both”. All the religions invariably believe that the human soul is immortal and that after death “it journeys to an afterlife or that it transmigrates to another creature”.
In comparison to heaven or the paradise, the hell is a dreadful place with all kinds of torments and pains that one can think of in this world. That abhorrent place is for those who are sinners in religious terms. A sinner is that who defies, violates or breaks the canon teachings sent to the humans through the God’s emissaries called prophets. For non Abrahamic religions, it is only the soul that survives and gets into the cycles of rebirths and finally joins the soul of God. For Buddhists it dissipates after purification of sins.
 Islam presents a graphic and well laid out sketch from man’s final wisp of breath to the first step into the paradise. It’s a long journey. For Christians the concept of limbo, purgatory or a temporary sojourn for the souls of dead is mentioned but they also believe that the dead lay in the grave both with flesh and soul. Muslims believe that while man’s body is in the grave, his soul waits in the limbo (Barzakh) to return, on the Resurrection Day, to rejoin the body for judgment.
For Muslim believers the Day of Judgment is very rigorous followed by crossing over a hair thin bridge to reach paradise or fall into the hell down below. So the elements of fear and enticements are central to the explanations of respective religions about the life after death.
The fear of death stems from the inevitable yet harrowing compulsion that despite one’s will and wish, no one can escape this unavoidable end. It is perturbing to leave one’s joys, wealth, kith, families and the phenomenon of life full of sound and fury for an unknown destination from where no one has ever returned. The myth of separation of soul from body leaves no possibility, how infinitesimal it might be, for a man to relive again. The body and his physical shell decays and cannot be revived.
As for returning from the next world back to the previous one, there is no evidence that such a world, as man perceives, exists. To return from the unknown world, it is first necessary that the soul and body must unite together. A dead man or his remains have no consciousness to recall the soul and be resurrected again. Therefore, this realization of permanent departure from a world of so much fun is at the root of man’s horrific view about death.
The second reason that causes man to be terror-stricken about death is the horrifying stages through which one has to pass through after his demise from this world. If there were no such graphic depiction of gruesome events and horrendous phases a person has to go through after dying, he would not worry a bit, what he presently shudders to think of? If one knows that no torment is going to follow after his death and he would dissipate like other things, he would not be afraid to die as he is with these horrific eventualities.
For instance in Islamic belief, after he is laid in the grave, a faithful Muslim will face two fearsome angels who would question him about certain elements of his faith. They would bludgeon him repeatedly if answers are not right. It is not known how long they would thrash him and finally leave him in that mauled situation. A pragmatic and scientific mind would not believe how in a small dark grave that kind of interrogation can take place. If there is going to be a “Dooms Day” for final award of hell and heaven, then why this preliminary questioning was necessary.
Then it is the torment of sinners’ soul in the purgatory, to continue till the Day of Judgment. Finally comes the mayhem of the “Judgment Day” with description of unbearably hot environment and God himself dispensing justice to the resurrected people according to the nature of their good or bad deeds. But this scary episode doesn’t end here. He has to cross over a bridge thinner and sharper than a razor’s edge. This is an ordeal that is most daunting as still there is a chance of misstep and one can plunge into the deep stinking ditches of hell with leaping fires.
In hell he will be roasted and would be fed on boiling water and cyst and constantly flogged. There is a long list of spine chilling punishments. For Muslims and Jews and to some extent for the Christians, life after death is not a smooth sailing. It is replete with sufferings, distress, agonies, torture and trial of most brutal nature. As for non Abrahamic religions, it is not the body but the soul that undergoes unrelenting torment till salvation.
In nature everything is bound by an abiding and fixed cycle of birth and death. Everything that exists whether living (humans, animal’s birds etc) or non living (stones, trees, soil etc) is subject to an inescapable and inexorable principle of creation and extinction. Human race too is captive of that immutable law.  But because human have intelligence, they also possess investigative and curious impulse to find out what happens after the man dies. Hence all explanations!
Nevertheless, the one that is conclusive or bears logical evidence is yet to come. But in a nutshell, like a fallen tree that remains on the bank of river for hundreds of years without any movement or a rock silhouetting for millenniums till it wears down, man too is born and withers away. The dead body is immune from any feelings or vagaries of nature.
The concept of grave primarily devolves on those humans who are buried. It doesn’t apply to those who are blown into pieces in war, buried in desert, drowned in the sea, draped by rocks or swallowed by volcanoes.
In the universe, things undergo a constant process of transformation from one form to another. The soil turns into rocks after billions of years and vice-versa. All existence from an atom to space is in a state of flux. There is the simultaneous process of births, extinction and rebirths taking place.
The death of one thing is the birth of another like a flower blossoms when the bud wilts. Humans think self- delusively that they would be treated differently after death. But the nature cannot apply its principles selectively. Once a man is gone, he is gone forever. The human progeny, however, continues in different human formations. Rebirth after death with punitive or gratifying connotations is therefore all speculation, irrelevant and figment of mind.
The writer is a senior journalist, former editor of Diplomatic Times and a former diplomat.This and other articles written by him can be read at his blog www.uprightopinion.com.

Monday, 23 May 2016

USAID Global Development Alliance: Partnering with Private Sector for Sustainable Development Impact

Deadline: 18 November 2017
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in partnership with the private sector is seeking concept papers from eligible entities for Global Development Alliance (GDA) Annual Program Statement (APS) which is designed to catalyze, facilitate and support such collaboration.
This APS is an invitation to co-creation that USAID extends to the private sector and other organizationsinterested in working closely with the private sector to achieve significant and sustainable development results and impact.
§  Focus on Development Impact
§  Based on Complementary Interests and Objectives
§  Market Based Approaches and Solutions
§  Extensive Private Sector Collaboration: Co-Creation and Shared Responsibility
§  Significant Private Sector Contributions for Increased Impact
§  Increased Scale, Efficiency, and Effectiveness
Eligibility Criteria
§  USAID welcomes applications from many types of organizations including U.S. and non-U.S. private businesses, business and trade associations, foundations, U.S. and non-U.S. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), faith-based organizations, international organizations, U.S. and non-U.S. colleges and universities, civic groups, regional organizations, etc.
§  All applicants must be legally recognized organizational entities under applicable law.
§  An individual cannot apply as an applicant.
How to Apply
§  The application procedure consists of two phases:
§  Concept Papers
§  Full Applications
§  Based on the Concept Papers, USAID will determine whether to request a full application from an appropriate partner in a proposed alliance.

For more information, please email to goodgovernanceforum@gmail.com

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Transparency International welcomes Anti-Corruption Summit pledges and calls for immediate action

(Note by NK: There is very little if any discussion on media in Pakistan about this summit and it is not known to people who represented Pakistan in this summit and what he said.)

Transparency International welcomes the many commitments made today by the governments at the Anti-Corruption Summit as a positive step forward in the fight against corruption and calls for concrete actions to start immediately.
“This is a good day for the fight against corruption, but there is more to do. Well done to the countries that have shown leadership; but it is hard to credit those who still fail to make sufficient progress. We need to build on trust and a common agenda between governments, business and civil society so that we deliver more than words. We need actions to create change,” said Jose Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International.
Major gains include 12 additional countries signing up to public registries containing information on the real people who own and control companies or committing to explore doing so. An international centre to share information between law enforcement agencies tracking corrupt money and an international forum to speed up the return of stolen assets are welcome initiatives to get the money back into the countries it was stolen from.
Transparency International called for ambitious and concrete commitments from leaders before the Summit. We have seen that some have risen to the challenge whilst others seem content with the status quo.
While 11 new jurisdictions have agreed to share information on beneficial ownership behind closed doors, key countries are missing, including major economies such as the US.
José Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International, said:
“Exposing corruption is not enough. We need to stop impunity for corruption. The corrupt need to face the consequences of their crimes. 
“We called on countries to be ambitious and concrete in their proposals to prevent and punish corruption and protect those who stand up against it. Some countries have risen to the challenge and others have not.
"As of today, six more countries will publish public registries of the real owners of companies, with another six committing to explore doing so. This would make it harder to hide, transfer and benefit from corrupt money.
"We also welcome the fact that some governments will tackle secrecy in government activities by making information on procurement and contracting open by default.
"The UK has shown great leadership in gathering together more than 40 countries and the heads of key institutions. However it has not managed to get its own overseas territories to sign up to the same standards of transparency on company ownership that the Prime Minister has rightly so championed.
"The Summit has galvanised global attention on corruption and how to fight it. The real issue of how corruption works  -- secrecy -- is being tackled. More governments have committed to ensuring that information is made public making it harder for the corrupt to hide their illicit wealth. But we will need to see the laws in place and enacted before we can claim any victories.”
Transparency: The Anti-Corruption Summit was the first of its kind to bring leaders together to tackle corruption. Significantly, the Summit was filmed in its entirety and was inclusive of governments, business and civil society. This is a standard that all Summits should try to adhere to.
Sport: Sports bodies have woken up to the need for reform and realised corruption can no longer be swept under the carpet. The initiative to launch an International Sport Integrity Partnership in 2017 must include all sports stakeholders from sponsors to athletes to international bodies to independent civil society groups.
International Centre for Law Enforcement collaboration: Corruption is a cross border crime that requires a joint-up response. This centre has potential to pool expertise, resources and knowledge to collaborate on investigations and punish perpetrators. The Centre must be open to receiving information submitted by whistleblowers and civil society groups in a safe and secure way.
Beneficial ownership transparency for real estate and public contracts: We strongly welcome the UK initiative to require full transparency of the companies who currently own or will purchase property in the UK, helping to close the door to corrupt cash. We welcome the fact that other countries also intend to shore up their own property markets so they don’t open the door to corrupt cash from overseas.
Press contact(s):
Chris Sanders
T: +49 30 34 38 20 666

Contributed by Shah N. Khan

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Technology management in Pakistan military: Dr Mahmud Awan


"Need to Know" is a good maxim but it does not inspire any confidence or trust in people who are excluded. It is practiced by the military but also by civilian 
organizations and it always creates contradictions. A good example is the reaction to my earlier post on Ojhri Camp disaster and its impact on the political and military history of Pakistan. Some readers have jumped to the defense of the military without even understanding the content of the Post. With friends like these, Pakistani military does not need any enemies. I have an old relationship with Pakistan army that dates back to my childhood. My ancestors fought both in the First World War and the Second World War and my direct relatives have fought in every war since the creation of Pakistan. Quite a few of them have died defending the country. That is why when I talk of the Pakistani military having a colonial outlook, I am talking about my own family. I never joined the military but I have received more awards from Pakistani military than many generals, admirals, and air marshals put together. The reason is I have made my expertise and technologies available to the military in more ways than one. The love is mutual. That is why I have called for more openness and transparency in military affairs. Soldiers and masses were kept in the dark in ancient times because they would not participate in combat if they knew the ground realities. 21st century is different because warfare now is global even if the combat is between two neighbors. My trainees in GHQ and JSHQ are often surprised to see my presentations that my children prepare for me about technology management in Pakistan military from publicly available sources because this information is suppressed inside Pakistan. Foreigners know more about Pakistani military than Pakistanis do. This has to change. Instead of attacking critics, Pakistani military has to learn to embrace divergent points of view. My son Abdur Rehman Awan (shown in the attached photos) joined me in my last lecture series at GHQ and JSHQ and now he considers himself incorrectly as an "expert" on Pakistan.
Dr. M. Mahmud Awan 5/12/14

Action – not rhetoric: By Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif

May 13, 2016
As the PML-N government, led by Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, nears the completion of its third year in public service, some of the landmark achievements of the government should be shared with the nation.
There is no denying the fact that the past three years have been a time of monumental challenges. Resuscitating Pakistan from the abyss of daunting crises after years of misrule and bad governance was never going to be an easy task.
A combination of three challenges – terrorism, energy and economy – not only impeded Pakistan’s progress but also threatened its survival. We knew that the challenges were great but greater was our resolve to overcome them. Right from the word go, we got down to business in all earnestness. We never looked back and continued to march on.
During the last three years, significant successes have been achieved on each of these fronts. International think-tanks and publications that previously wrote Pakistan off are acknowledging her turnaround today.
While I leave the comment on our marvellous achievements on security front for another day, I want to walk you through an amazing story of dedicated public service, wherein new benchmarks of transparency, openness and unwavering commitment have been set.
Today the government’s success in achieving macroeconomic stability has won global acknowledgement. This is testified by a recent report published by Moody’s Investors’ Service; the report retained Pakistan’s credit outlook at B3 stable. It is for the first time in the past decade that Moody’s upgraded the country’s credit outlook from stable to B3. This improvement has been followed by a similar acknowledgement from Standard and Poor’s.
This remarkable resilience of the economy, which is the result of astute management, has to be seen in the backdrop of energy and terrorism challenges which hurt the economy grievously.
No other area has solicited the government’s policy focus more than the resolution of the energy crisis. From the launching of the National Power Policy to initiation of work on power-sector projects, the government has taken solid steps to significantly reduce power outages in the country. The ongoing work on the coal, RLNG, hydel and solar power projects aims to diversity the energy mix.
While this work is part of the overall reform package, we, here in Punjab, are doing something in our jurisdiction that is unheard of in a country where corruption and misrule has been the name of the game.
For the first time in Pakistan’s history, the PML-N government led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has introduced a new culture of savings in mega projects through prudent contracting. Considering every penny a public trust, we have made sure that the taxpayers’ hard-earned money is not only well spent on projects of public welfare but maximum concessions are also solicited from the lowest bidders through further negotiations.
Under the PPRA rules, the government awards a contract to the lowest bidder. However, in case of projects being implemented in energy, transport and infrastructure sectors in Punjab, the government has gone a step further and engaged with the bidders to obtain more financial concessions.
On the whole, the PML-N government has performed the rare feat of saving a whopping sum of Rs215 billion in the mega projects. What is important is that these savings are not notional but tangible.
Just to give you an idea of what milestone has been achieved, it is important to mention that in case of gas-fired power projects being constructed at Bhikhi, Balloki and Haveli Bahadur Shah, the final negotiated costs come down to about half of what was incurred on similar gas projects installed to date in the country. The cost of various IPPs ranged from $800 to $930 per kilowatt. Compared to these, RLNG-fired projects are being built at half the price. Thus a sum of Rs110.93 billion has been saved in these three projects alone.
Likewise, in case of the under-construction Lahore Orange Line project, Rs78.50 billion has been saved. The Orange Line project marks history’s three biggest departures. First, it is for the first time in the bilateral history of Pakistan and China that tendering has taken place in a government-to-government mode of cooperation with the full support and cooperation of the Chinese government.
Second, the tendering was followed by negotiation with the lowest bidder. The Punjab government secured a saving of $600 million through negotiation with CR-NORINCO (lowest bidder) by mutually settling on $1.47 billion (without contingency) as the project cost of the OLMT.
Third, for the first time the Chinese government has handed over all of the civil works of the project to the Punjab government, which has further resulted in an additional saving of Rs6 billion in the sub-tendering.
So the point being contended here is this: when was the last time such phenomenal savings were secured? When was the last time transparency, accountability and honesty were displayed at such a level? In fact, on the contrary, such projects have in the past been the source of hefty commissions and kickbacks at the tendering and contract awarding stages.
Transparency and openness in policies adopted by the government explain why Pakistan jumped from its previous 50th position to 53rd on Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perception Index 2015 (CPI).
It is my resolve to spend these savings into social sector development. During the remaining two years of my mandate, you will see a palpable change in how educational institutions function and hospitals deliver services to the people, how police stations interact with citizens and how the overall well-being of people improves.
This is how real change is brought about by putting people at the centre of public policy. Action, not rhetoric, is leading the way in our government’s efforts to uplift the lives of our people.
The writer is the chief minister of Punjab.
Facebook: facebook.com/shehbazsharif
Twitter: @CMShehbaz