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Pakistan is the world's sixth most populous country, with over 184.8 million inhabitants, 23 percent of whom live on less than US$1.25/day. Although the country's economy has seen relatively strong growth since the late 1990s—close to 6 percent per year—annual average per-capita income remains low at US$770/year. Pakistan continues to struggle with high rates of infant, child, and maternal mortality, as well as with growing insecurity, particularly along the country's porous border with Afghanistan. In the last two years, the country has also suffered severe flooding. The Government of Canada has provided humanitarian assistance through it's response to floods in Pakistan.
Sixty-one percent of Pakistan's population is 24 years old or younger. Without adequate quality public education to support this demographic bulge, Pakistan's youth are vulnerable to both unemployment and poverty.
Pakistan ranks 145 out of 187 countries on the United Nations Development Programme's 2011 human development index. With some of the lowest development indicators in South Asia, its national development objectives are in jeopardy. Pervasive gender discrimination prevents women and girls from accessing basic services and from participating fully in society.
The economic crises of recent years—including high international oil and food prices in 2007 and 2008—along with increased domestic instability, have contributed to a growing budget deficit, inflation and a rise in poverty. Because of the specific challenges that women face, they now form a large percentage of the poor.
As well, there is continuing concern that the inadequacy of Pakistan's education system may make radical alternatives seem attractive to the marginalized.
Pakistan's February 2008 election ended eight years of military rule and opened the door to a new era of democracy. It also decreased political support for religious-based parties. Nonetheless, Pakistan remains unable to take full advantage of the current opportunity to promote and build a viable democracy as it lacks effective governing institutions and a strong, secular civil society. Support for these institutions and organizations is seen as being critical to true democracy.
Pakistan's second Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP II) (PDF, 2 MB, 375 pages) was endorsed by the World Bank's board of executive directors on March 26, 2009. Priorities are: macroeconomic stability, protecting the poor and the vulnerable, agricultural productivity, integrated energy development, industrial competitiveness, human development, infrastructure, finance for development, and governance. The strategy has benefited from extensive consultations to take in the perspectives of the poor. While far-reaching in its conception, the PRSP outlines a credible framework within which donors can align their support for poverty reduction.
CIDA focuses on improving the ability of teachers' colleges to deliver their programs effectively and on building the capacities of district education managers. Primary and middle school teacher training programs will benefit from instruction on improved teaching practices and the physical repair and upgrade of training facilities. CIDA is deepening its involvement in teacher training and professional development, especially continuous professional development.
In this way, CIDA contributes to improving the quality of basic education and to strengthening the poor's access to education, giving equal attention to the needs of girls and boys.
CIDA focuses on strengthening the foundations for long-term economic growth by providing skills for employment training and enhancing employment conditions for women.
A large component of CIDA's support is focused on increasing women's economic empowerment. Beyond providing women with skills for employment, CIDA-supported programs also raise awareness and respect for women's economic rights through public campaigns, social mobilization and training.
More specifically, CIDA continues to advance the implementation of legislation to improve women's working conditions and to protect workers' rights. National and provincial level data collection and monitoring are being strengthened to track women's contribution to the economy for use in planning how to better integrate women into Pakistan's workforce at all levels.
Pakistan maintains a high level of ownership and control over the formulation of national development policies and over its relations with the donor community. However, rising extremism within and beyond its borders has compromised the rule of law, especially in its border regions with Afghanistan, and the ability of the fledgling civilian government to exercise sovereignty effectively.
Donor harmonization in Pakistan is improving, partly because of successful coordination around emergency assistance requirements as a result of the 2005 South Asia earthquake, the 2008 national elections, and Pakistan's 2009 offensive in the Swat Valley and elsewhere that saw three million people become internally displaced within Pakistan.
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