The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) marks its 70th anniversary this year. This is a rare opportunity for the oldest and largest of the United Nations regional commissions to take stock of past achievements, but also to spotlight where efforts need to be concentrated to meet new challenges.
The Asia-Pacific region’s high and steady economic growth has been an anchor of stability for the struggling world economy in recent years. Developing economies of the region now account for almost a third of global GDP, slightly less than the combined output of the developed economies of North America and Western Europe.
Two years after the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by world leaders in New York, the ongoing practical question is how to finance the needs of such an ambitious and universal agenda.
With just over a year since the adoption of a historic blueprint to end poverty and protect the planet, positive signs have already started to emerge among countries in the Asia-Pacific region as they push ahead with the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
China’s role in the global context has grown in terms of its output, trade and now its voice and leadership in sustainable and inclusive development, and resolve to pursue low carbon pathways. A further paradigm shift is anticipated in the role and influence of China, as it delivers on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) by leveraging on its successful infrastructure capabilities and the capital strengths of new financing vehicles such as Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, New Development Bank and the Silk Road.
Addressing gender inequality and ensuring equal participation and opportunities for women and girls in Asia-Pacific is central to achieving progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has shown to be an exemplary role model for regional cooperation guiding the 10-country bloc on the path toward shared prosperity and sustainable development. Since its launch in 1967, ASEAN has indeed come a long way in accelerating economic growth, promoting durable peace, and nurturing a common vision in the sub region. The rate of poverty has been reduced from 40 per cent in 1990 to just 8 per cent in 2012 (compared to regional average of 15 per cent), GDP per capita has been raised to almost $4,000 over the past decade, and with a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion ASEAN is now the seventh largest economy in the world and the third in Asia-Pacific.
This month’s floods in Thailand are a worrisome reminder of the increasing uncertainty of extreme weather events. Thailand’s flood season usually ends in November, but this year, influenced by a low depression and a strong northeast monsoon, widespread flooding in the south of the country has killed more than sixty people, affected over 330,000 households, and resulted in widespread asset losses.
The Asia-Pacific region is at a turning point in its energy trajectory. The energy solutions that have fuelled growth in the region over the past few decades are no longer compatible with the sustainable development aspirations of our nations and their people.
Transport is a key contributor to economic growth, prosperity and tosocietal well-being. Physical links across Asia and the Pacific have increasingly improved throughyears of steady investments in the Asian Highway, a project endorsed by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP) commission at its 48th session in 1992 to promote intergovernmental agreements to develop a regional highway network,and the Trans-Asian Railways, as well as through the facilitation of land transport projects.