Most of the 2.1 billion strong workforce in Asia and the Pacific are denied access to decent jobs, health care and social protection but there is an array polices and tools that governments can use to remedy these deficiencies and ensure that the rights and aspirations of these workers and their families are upheld and that they remain the engine of economic growth for the region.
Asia and the Pacific is the most digitally divided region of the world, and South-East Asia is the most divided subregion. The Covid-19 pandemic detonated a “digital big bang” that spurred people, governments and businesses to become “digital by default;” a sea change that generated vast digital dividends. These benefits that have not been distributed equally, however. New development gaps have emerged as digital transformation reinforces a vicious cycle of socioeconomic inequalities, within and across countries.
Older persons are highly visible across Asia and the Pacific: they work in agricultural fields producing our food supplies, peddle their wares as street vendors, drive tuk-tuks and buses, exercise in our parks, lead some of the region’s most successful companies and form an integral part of our families.
As the Second Global Ocean Conference opens today in Lisbon
, governments in Asia and the Pacific must seize the opportunity to enhance cooperation and solidarity to address a host of challenges that endanger what is a lifeline for millions of people
in the region.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.