The work to legally empower the marginalized and poor segment of the society was underway since long. The efforts took optimistic and practical turn when the United Nations Organization took interest in the initiatives for the welfare and protection of affected population.
Hosted by the United Nations Development Program a high level commission was established in 2005. The representatives of both the industrialized and developing countries like Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Britain, Egypt, Guatemala, India, South Africa, Tanzania and Pakistan were members of the commission. The said commission was co-chaired byPeru’s renowned economist Hernando De Soto and former foreign secretary of United States Madeline Albright.
After work of many years the commission prepared a report under the theme “making the law work for everyone” and submitted in June 2008. The commission in its report reiterated that the legal empowerment should be a change process through which the poor and marginalized segment of the society could protect their economic rights and interests.
To achieve the above mentioned objectives and to ensure the legal empowerment the commission identified four pillars:
- Access to Justice and Rule of Law
- Property Rights
- Labor Rights
- Right to do Business
Later this report was presented to the General Assembly of the United Nations. The GA in its 64th session through a resolution No. 63/142 asked for sharing of good practices and initiatives.
In follow-up of General Assembly resolution the UNDP and Economic Affairs Division Government of Pakistan decided to work for legal empowerment agenda. In this regard a project under the name of “Pro-Poor Governance for Legal Empowerment of the Poor was initiated in June 2010. The SMEDA was selected as implementing partner for implementation on pillar four “Right to do Business”. Subsequently, in October 2010 the SMEDA endorsed to work on the said project. To formally initiate the project in Balochistan a Launching Seminar was held atQuetta.
PROCEEDING OF THE SEMINAR
The responsibilities of stage secretary were performed by Mohammad Zaman Khan, Provincial Coordinator, Pro-Poor Governance for Legal Empowerment of the Poor project. He highlighted the background and process of the project up to submission of the final report by the high level commission.
The Provincial Chief SMEDA said wel come to the participants of the seminar and thanked the participants for attending the event. He briefly introduced the SMEDA and its role for development and promotion of small and medium enterprises in the province. He requested the audience to extend their support to serve the marginalized and poor in a better way. He said that the SMEDA will always be in the forefront to facilitate and help this vital sector of the economy. Regarding the Pro-GOLE project he expressed that the initiatives will play a key role to aware, organize and legally empower the small and marginalized businesses in the province.
Mr. Shaheen Tahir, National Project Manager gave a detailed presentation about the Pro-GoLE project. He highlighted various perspectives of the small and marginalized businesses and its contribution to the national economy. The problems faced by the small businesses in the country due to poor governance were also identified. While highlighting various components of the project he said that the informal businesses will be organized in associations and their capacity will be built that they can raise their voices for justice and protection. They will also be informed about their obligations and respect of consumer rights. In addition the capacity will be enhanced of government sector that an enabling environment could be created for small businesses. Mentioning the outreach he said that the project will focus the districts ofQuetta, Loralai, Sibi, Lasbela, Jaffarabad and Naseerabad.
Mr. Sultan Tiwana, National Project Director motivated the participants to raise their queries, suggestions and comments about project. He emphasized that the feedback of the people involved with small and marginalized businesses are crucial for laying down the foundation of the project. He reiterated that the project will focus on building support mechanisms to disadvantaged groups, carryout research and impact assessment studies at the grass root level and advocacy and coordination for stakeholder’s engagement at the policy level.
The Chief Guest Mr. Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel while speaking on the occasion appreciated the initiatives taken by the SMEDA with financial support of UNDP. He said that this kind of initiatives will enable the poor segment of the society to access to justice and protect their due rights as per constitution of 1973. He stressed that under the Article 18 every citizen has the right to engage in any lawful business and similarly the Article 19 provides the right to everyone to access information. He while answering to queries of the participants said that no power of sue motto is available with the high court but the small businesses can seek help of High Court for any grievance against the government authority by writing a letter to the court even without engaging a lawyer. He advised the small business to form associations and then raise their voices before the concerned government authorities for protection of their rights
Mohammad Zaman Khan while concluding the event once again said thanks to the participants for attending the seminar. He requested for further coordination and collaboration among relevant stakeholders that meaningful steps could be taken for minimizing the suffering of the people engaged with small and marginalized businesses.