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Opinion

Quest for Asian Innovation & Solutions in a Networked World

NEW YORK, Dec 20 2021 (IPS) - The UN’s 76th anniversary in 2021 arrived at a time of great upheaval and change. If the world is to transition from COVID-19 and we are to deliver on our promises to future generations – to secure a world where everyone can thrive in peace, dignity, and equality on a healthy planet – then 2022 must be the year we change both gear and discourse.

We need a multilateral system that is inclusive, networked but accessible, and effective. Member States have identified many areas of action that can only be addressed through reinvigorated multilateralism. However, such multilateralism must be backed by inclusive regional and cross-regional good practices and lessons learned.

To achieve this, we must think big – whether inside or outside the boxes! We need to reset the foundations and reaffirm the core values that underpin collective action. Shedding light on the complex interplay between global, regional, and national forces which have transformed the Asia-Pacific [hereinafter ‘Asia’] continent into one of the most vibrant and economically successful regions in the world, often does not tell the story. It certainly draws a picture of Asian success.

On top of it, Innovation, according to Asia’s key stakeholders, is often seen as ‘the process of creating new and novel solutions to fulfil unmet client needs.’ Asia is perceived by many as dominating the global scene for innovation However, such success – with or without innovation – is not without its share of challenges and constraints.

UN-ANDI is a global network of like-minded Asian staff members of the UN system who strive to promote a more diverse and inclusive culture and mindset within the UN. Credit: UN-ANDI

As we examine deeper, Asia and its relations with multilateralism and multilateral institutions is not a monolithic discourse. Like other regions, there is often no ‘one Asia’. Differences and diversity added complexity to the understanding of the Asia.

The business case for diversity and inclusion in Asia region is even stronger because it is a highly diverse region comprising a mosaic of many different sub-cultures. Diversity is the region’s strength.

However, they have to be real. It is also important to note here, that tokenistic diversity and inclusion doesn’t help anyone. It is time to move beyond viewing inclusion through a monochromatic lens. Too many organisations and groups consider diversity and inclusion to be only about gender diversity or only about non-local talent.

These are indeed pressing issues, considering that the Asia Pacific region consistently doing better than others in terms of gender roles at the workplace, and considering that the cultural make-up of numerous Asian countries is multilingual.

We must remain vigilant that the diversity can carry forward with it both equality and inclusion agenda. Without them, neither equality including gender equality, nor income equality can be achieved.

As a member of broader UN fraternity, we must be aware of the challenges posed for multilateralism by many factors so that we can add our voice to innovative solutions, growing Asian Knowledge Based Economy (KBE). And Asia can be a learning hub for the world:

    • Innovative solutions for more voices to be heard in policy making and implementation;
    • Innovative solutions for equitable and effective service delivery;
    • Pragmatic solutions for more equitable distribution of power and wealth [i.e., progressive tax reforms etc.) to reduce poverty;
    • Effective solutions for achieving gender equality and gender parity,
    • Mainstreaming disability inclusion to give real meaning to SDG principle ‘Leave No One Behind’ (LNOB);
    • Ensuring accessibility to address exclusion and digital divide;
    • Innovative solutions for inclusive and lasting peace process and peacebuilding;

It is clear there are multiple ways in which the region is pursuing its knowledge-based economic development for growing prosperity. The first is learning from the KBE journey of advanced economies (i.e., Japan, Korea, China etc.) and making appropriate investments and policy reforms. Large and populous countries of the region (i.e., India, Bangladesh, China etc.) are also demonstrating examples of scaling-up innovation and lessons learned.

Another successful strategy is exploiting the unique strengths and endowments of the region by pursuing strategies that amplify core regional and sub-regional strengths. The last but not the least is leveraging game-changing trends in technology and business processes that can enable emerging economies to leapfrog technology development cycles and catch up with the latest.

And Asia can contribute more, Asians can do more to promote South-South and Triangular Cooperation, they just have to harness the full potentials of the youth, women, and our committed workforce. Take gender-responsive budgeting, for example.

UN Entities like UN Women are facilitating exchange of knowledge, lessons learned and good practices from Ministries of Finance across LDCs, SIDS and beyond so that countries in the south can benefit from mutual support initiatives and integrate gender equality in national budget planning.

This means that women and girls will benefit from inclusive sectoral budgetary allocations that actually meet their specific needs and priorities. This can apply further to ensure women with disabilities can benefit for inclusive sectoral budgetary allocations.

As UN Charter pledged in its preamble, ‘WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED. to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, we must also remain united to save succeeding generations from inequal impact of public policy making whether that is the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccination and public health support, reducing poverty, achieving gender party, ensuring accessibility and informed participation of the poor and marginalized communities in public policy and governance, access to justice and social services, or creating equal access to jobs and opportunities for both women and men.

Let us walk the talk, and, reinvigorate our journey for inclusion, equality and accessibility in 2022 and beyond.

Dr. A.H.Monjurul Kabir, currently UN Coordination Global Adviser and Team Leader for Gender Equality and Disability Inclusion, with UN-Women HQ, is a political scientist and senior policy and legal analyst on global issues and Asia-Pacific trends. For policy and academic purpose, he can be contacted at monjurulkabir@yahoo.com. He can be followed at mkabir2011

The blog is based on the speech delivered by the author in his personal capacity at an event commemorating the UN’s 76th anniversary organized by the UN-ANDI based in New York. UN-ANDI is a global network of like-minded Asian staff members of the UN system who strive to promote a more diverse and inclusive culture and mindset within the UN.

 


  
 
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