Feb 23, 2009

No social justice

The UN General Assembly at its 62nd November 2007 session proclaimed February 20 as the World Day of Social Justice. The day was observed for the first time this year. Member states were invited to devote this special day to the promotion of concrete national activities in accordance with the objectives and goals of the World Summit for Social Development and the fourth session of the General Assembly, entitled “World Summit for Social Development and beyond: achieving social development for all in a globalizing world”. As recognised by the World Summit, social development aims at social justice, solidarity, harmony and equality within and among countries. To achieve “a society for all” governments made a commitment to the creation of a framework for action to promote social justice at national, regional and international levels.In Pakistan this day has a special significance, because rampant injustice is the hallmark of our society and social justice is a far cry. We have to make a concerted effort to reform our society. If the present government wants to bring a genuine change in the country, it should start at the grassroots level. Pakistan has been through a long period of political instability. The country still needs to define its socio-economic framework and devise a process of effective governance. Merit is at a discount from the bottom level to the top echelons. The culture of ‘connections’ is prevailing in the country. All the hiring and firing, especially in the government sector, is done on the whims of the top bosses, including politicians and bureaucrats. Patronage is distributed amid its ‘loyalists’. There is large-scale corruption in procurement and contracting affecting government and development aid funded programmes, public works, etc. Some of the systemic weaknesses have included the lack of a standardised procurement regime (sets of clear, transparent rules and legislation) along with absence of expertise in the government. There is also huge waste and crass neglect of duties and responsibilities at every level. No wonder a few flourish at the cost of the many. The only way to bring a change in the system is to bring down the level of corruption. Pakistan’s economy is in dire straits due to political and economical instability. The government and citizenry should unite in a bid to rid our country of this cancer that has destroyed our country’s economic and social structure and marred our image abroad. Civil society and the private sector also have an active role to play by holding the government accountable wherever it goes wrong. An open and transparent system will provide for the fuller realisation of the people’s economic, social and political rights. The World Social Justice Day is a painful reminder of the huge gap between promise and performance, our failures so far and what we need to do to create a more just society.

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