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Pakistan is an extraordinary country`

Marc-André Franche has served as country director of UNDP for four years. Before this, he was deployed in Columbia, Bolivia, Central America and Haiti. He sees a lot of similarities between those countries and Pakistan, including the potential the young population offer. He has travelledextensively across Pakistan and says he is inspired by the country`s scenic beauty. At the end of August he is heading to New York, as the new Head of the United Nations Peace Building Fund. Dawn caught up with him in Islamabad to find out about his experience in Pakistan.Q: What other countries have you worked in and how does your experience in Pakistan compare? A: It is always difficult to compare countries but whatever preconceptions I had before coming here ended up being radically different. This shows Pakistan needs to do a lot in terms of communication and image management.

This is the first time I am working in Asia and I have served in Latin America, Central America and Haiti. They are similar to Pakistan as they have also transitioned back to democracy and are relatively new countries in terms of institutional development and practices. Many of these countries also have a similar demography, with lots of young people and are struggling with reducing poverty and inequality despite economic growth.

I think everyone who comes to Pakistan realises the great [potential] in this country; weII trained, dynamic young people. When you meet them, you leave with a sense of hope as they are the future of this country.

Q: What is the most significant work you have done in terms of scale, emotional satisfaction or impact? A: Issues where UNDP is able to draw experience from other countries, where we are able to facilitate dialogue about important issues with different stakeholders is where the UN has the most impact and where I feel I was able to have the most impact.

In the case of the Multidimensional Poverty Index, this is the first time Pakistan has measured poverty beyond caloric intake and looks at in a multifaceted way. This will have an impact on the way provincial governments budget and prioritise funds.

Similarly, for the 2013 elections, we brought in experience from many places regarding management, logistics, voting outside Pakistan, electronic machines and were able to help the government have a conversation about the pros and cons of different options and help advance the agenda of electoral reform. Using the blue banner we are able to bring people together to have a rational conversation, bring experiences from across the country and the world and have Pakistanis themselves make the decisions on important issues.

Some of the work I did in Latin America, such as re-establishing diplomatic relations between countries, organising national dialogues on poverty reduction and the work we did in Haiti after the earthquake to rebuild the country is extremely close to my heart. I was in Haiti two years before the earthquake and two years after and we lost 109 colleagues in the earthquake so we were victims of the disaster ourselves.

Q: Have you had a chance to take up your other interests in Pakistan, like mountaineering? A: Almost every week I am in the Margallas. I wish every politician, decision maker and student will take theopportunity to see this country more often because it is extraordinary. I wish they would see the glaciers in the north and how beautiful and fragile they are. I have seen every district of KP, all parts of the Northern Areas, half of Balochistan and parts of Sindh and Punjab. I don`t know all of the country but I have had the opportunity to travel quite a bit and the beauty of its mountains is extraordinary.

The last peak I just climbed was in the Karakorum with an expert from Hunza, Imam Yar Baig. It was a very steep 6,200 metres over Snow Lake and it was, according to Baig, the first time it had been climbed and we brought the flags of Pakistan and the UN to the peak. The view was incredible we arrived at 8 am, the sun was going up and we could see everything from K2 to Rakaposhi.

By Syeda Shehrbano Kazim