ISLAMABAD: The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the government through the Young Peace & Development Corps and the Accountability Lab Pakistan on Thursday launched the country’s first Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) 16 Innovation Challenge.

The Innovation Challenge is a month-long competition through which young Pakistanis can submit creative ideas related to issues of peace, justice and accountability. Twenty finalists will be selected from around the country for a two-day workshop in Islamabad to develop and pitch their ideas, after which winners will be supported by UNDP and the Accountability Lab Pakistan.

The organising team expects hundreds of submissions from across Pakistan and will host orientation workshops in Lahore, Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar over the next month to guide potential applicants and preliminary feedback on ideas. At the launch event, Accountability Lab Pakistan headed a workshop with over 100 young people who developed initial ideas for the campaign which included new technology tools for gender inclusion and new ways to support women’s voices in Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Planning, Development & Reforms Minister Ahsan Iqbal said, “Today marks a very important development under the vision of the government of Pakistan to positively engage youth in the peace and development discourse – the Innovation Challenge launched today is the first of its kind.”

UNDP Pakistan Country Director Ignacio Artaza said, “We are thrilled about this groundbreaking competition as it will pave the way to finding inventive ways to create impact for people by providing new opportunities to start-up businesses and engaging citizens. We are actively seeking people’s involvement to be intensely inclusive and engaged with those that inspire us to work with all Pakistanis wanting to contribute to improving lives in their communities.”

Accountability Lab Executive Director Blair Glencorse, added, “Young people in Pakistan are incredibly innovative and are constantly developing world-class ideas. We are looking forward to working with youth in all five provinces to support SDG16, which is critical for development everywhere.”

“Japan is supporting the government of Pakistan and UNDP to implement youth empowerment project and electoral assistance project to facilitate participation of youth in policy making and decision making. I hope Japan’s contributions help young people of Pakistan and their voices and ideas contribute to achieve SDG’s in Pakistan,” Japanese Embassy Deputy Head of Mission Takashi Harada said.

This article was first published on the 6th of April in the Pakistan Daily Times