Stories written by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

Reclaiming Our Future

The Asia-Pacific region is at a crossroads today – to further breakdown or breakthrough to a greener, better, safer future. Since the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) was established in 1947, the region has made extraordinary progress, emerging as a pacesetter of global economic growth that has lifted millions out of poverty.

Tackling the Pandemic of Inequality in Asia and the Pacific

After two years of human devastation, the world is learning to live with COVID-19 while trying to balance the protection of public health and livelihoods. For countries in Asia and the Pacific, this is challenging not only because national coffers are heavily strained by record public spending to mitigate pandemic suffering, but also due to deeper structural economic issues.

Pandemic Pushes SDGs Further out of Reach of Asia and the Pacific

2022 marks the second anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while an end to the pandemic is in sight, it is far from over and the consequences will be felt for decades to come. At the same time, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is becoming increasingly distant. The region must use the 17 Sustainable Development Goals as a roadmap to a fairer recovery.

Vaccines, Diagnostics and Therapeutics as Global Public Goods

Countries in the Asia-Pacific region are trying their best to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic by rapidly rolling out vaccination programmes and putting in place public health interventions to reduce its impact. At the end of November, there were 262 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 5.2 million deaths globally. About 60 per cent of all COVID-19 cases and half of all COVID-19 related deaths were in Asia and the Pacific. About 7.8 billion vaccines have been administered globally, and vaccine supply is generally improving.

A New Transport Agenda to Carry Asia and the Pacific Towards Sustainable Development

Transport ministers from across Asia and the Pacific are meeting this week to consider a potentially transformational agenda for how people and goods are moved around the region and across the globe.

Partnering with Persons with Disabilities Toward an Inclusive, Accessible and Sustainable Post-COVID-19 World

As the world observes the International Day of Persons with Disabilities today, we honour the leadership of persons with disabilities and their tireless efforts to build a more inclusive, accessible and sustainable world. At the same time, we resolve to work harder to ensure a society that is open and accommodating of all.

Push for Civil Registration Set to Hit Key Milestone in Asian and Pacific Countries

Most countries in the Asia-Pacific region are on track to reach universal birth registration by 2030: an incredible achievement and a significant milestone in realizing human rights and equality. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed, many weaknesses remain in official recording systems, creating gaps in knowledge about the population and affecting how authorities respond to crises and reach those in greatest need.

Is Asia and the Pacific Ready for the Global Climate Stage?

As the leaders of Asia and the Pacific prepare to head to Glasgow for the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), they can be sure that our region will be in the spotlight: many of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change are located here; the seven G20 members from this region are responsible for over half of global GHG emissions; and five of the 10 top countries with the greatest historic responsibility for emissions since the beginning of the twentieth century are from Asia.

Digital Equity for All Ages

The growing number and share of older persons in Asia and the Pacific represent success stories of declining fertility and increasing longevity; the result of advances in social and economic development. This demographic transition is taking place against the backdrop of the accelerating Fourth Industrial Revolution. But COVID-19, with its epicentre now in Asia and the Pacific, has exacerbated the suffering of older persons in vulnerable situations and demonstrated the fragility of this progress.

Resilience in a Riskier World

Over the past two decades, the Asia-Pacific region has made remarkable progress in managing disaster risk. But countries can never let down their guard. The COVID-19 pandemic, with its epicentre now in Asia, and all its tragic consequences, has exposed the frailties of human societies in the face of powerful natural forces. As of mid-August 2021, Asian and Pacific countries had reported 65 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 1 million deaths. This is compounded by the extreme climate events which are affecting the entire world. Despite the varying contexts across geographic zones, the climate change connection is evident as floods swept across parts of China, India and Western Europe, while heatwaves and fires raged in parts of North America, Southern Europe and Asia.

Covid19 a Wake-up Call to Address Development Fault Lines in Asia and the Pacific

The world is emerging from the biggest social and economic shock in living memory, but it will be a long time before the deep scars of the COVID-19 pandemic on human well-being fully heal. In the Asia-Pacific region, where 60 per cent of the world lives, the pandemic revealed chronic development fault lines through its excessively harmful impact on the most vulnerable. The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) estimates that 89 million more people in the region have been pushed back into extreme poverty at the $1.90 per day threshold, erasing years of development gains. The economic and educational shutdowns are likely to have severely harmed human capital formation and productivity, exacerbating poverty and inequality.

Sustainable Development Goals Can Guide Asia-Pacific to Build Back Better

The COVID-19 crisis poses an unprecedented threat to development in the Asia-Pacific region that could reverse much of the hard-earned progress made in recent years. The good news is we know how to tackle this challenge. Recovery from the pandemic and our global efforts to deliver the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 must go hand-in-hand. The Goals provide a compass to navigate this crisis, faster and greener, everywhere and for everyone.

Sustainable Energy Key to COVID-19 Recovery in Asia and the Pacific

The past year is one that few of us will forget. While the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have played out unevenly across Asia and the Pacific, the region has been spared many of the worst effects seen in other parts of the world. The pandemic has reminded us that a reliable and uninterrupted energy supply is critical to managing this crisis.

Celebrating Vanuatu’s Path to Sustainable Development

The Pacific Island Developing State of Vanuatu has emerged as one of the region’s great success stories. Vanuatu has joined the ranks of Samoa and the Maldives as one of only six countries to graduate from being a least developed country, since the category was introduced by the United Nations in 1971.

The United Nations, 75 Years Young: Engaging Youth Social Entrepreneurs to Accelerate the SDGs

This year, the United Nations is marking its 75th anniversary – a milestone of extraordinary economic and social progress in Asia and the Pacific. While the Organization enjoys a lifespan almost equal to the world’s improved average life expectancy, the future lies with those who have recently embarked on theirs: our young people.

Enhanced Social Protection an Opportunity Asia Pacific Must Grasp

In the fight against COVID-19, success has so far been defined by responses in Asia and the Pacific. Many countries in our region have been hailed as reference points in containing the virus. Yet if the region is to build back better, the success of immediate responses should not distract from the weaknesses COVID-19 has laid bare. Too many people in our region are left to fend for themselves in times of need. This pandemic was no exception. Comprehensive social protection systems could right this wrong. Building these systems must be central to our long-term recovery strategy.

Forging Resilient Regional Supply Chains and Connectivity

Participation in global and regional supply chains has been one of the most reliable economic growth strategies, especially for developing countries in Asia and the Pacific. Smooth and efficient connectivity in both trade and transport has been indispensable to the region’s pursuit of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Financing Economic Recovery

As the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the length and breadth of Asia and the Pacific, finance ministries are continuing their relentless efforts to inject trillions of dollars for emergency health responses and fiscal packages. With continued lockdown measures and restricted borders, economic rebound seems uncertain.

Sustainable Tourism and Fisheries Key to Growth in Post-COVID Pacific

Developing countries of Asia and the Pacific are experiencing unbalanced tolls of the COVID-19 pandemic. Grim milestones in infections and deaths have left countless devastated. Yet, we must look at the economic and social impacts in small island developing States (SIDS), where setbacks are likely to undo years of development gains and push many people back into poverty.

We Should Not Aim to Return to Normal

The world before COVID-19 looks very attractive right now. In light of the disease, mass unemployment and social distancing, a return to pre-pandemic normality seems appealing. Yet we should remember what normal was.

Healthy Oceans: Keeping Asia and the Pacific Afloat

Memories of idyllic beaches and sonorous waves may seem far away while we remain at home. Yet, we need not look far to appreciate the enduring history of the ocean in Asia and the Pacific. For generations, the region has thrived on our seas. Our namesake bears a nod to the Pacific Ocean, a body of water tethered to the well-being of billions in our region. The seas provide food, livelihoods and a sense of identity, especially for coastal communities in the Pacific island States.

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