Asia and the Pacific’s leadership have embraced the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. Some governments have developed national sustainable strategies; others have aligned or prioritized sustainable development within existing plans. In some cases new policy and coordinating mechanisms have been designated, while in others the roles of planning and economic ministries have been sharpened to coordinate implementation of SDGs.
I would like to once again thank our hosts, the Government of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam for this opportunity. I would like to reinforce and share with you perspectives and suggestions on the future of economic development in the CLMV countries and how ESCAP can support this progress.
The ACMECS countries offer key advantages through their natural resources, strategic location, human capital and their position within the emerging ASEAN Economic Community, with a GDP of almost two and a half trillion dollars. Enhanced regional connectivity within the Mekong subregion is critical for ASEAN and for the rest of Asia.
Excellencies, your countries have navigated tough political, economic and social challenges. Rising above these, the Mekong subregion has positioned itself well, regionally as well as globally. Its performance in economic growth, trade or social progress including the pace of poverty reduction has been impressive. The growth outlook for the Mekong subregion remains favorable, ranges from 6.0 to 8.5 percent and supported by steady inflows of FDI. Unlike most emerging economies in the Asia-Pacific with shrinking exports, shipments from this subregion were relatively strong in 2016. Underlying the economic growth, the Mekong subregion stands out for increased productivity at rates unparalleled in the developing world.
The Belt Road Initiative (BRI) is an ambitious and long term endeavor. BRI can serve to reinforce sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific, but only if the infrastructure developed under it conforms to sustainable principles.
As we convene today, world leaders are adopting the New Urban Agenda in Quito at the Habitat III Conference. This Agenda will offer guidance on how local governments plan, finance, develop, govern and manage cities and human settlements to achieve sustainable development and prosperity for all. Effectively implementing this Agenda will require leveraging regional cooperation for urban development. To this end, the Belt and Road Initiative or BRI, if properly guided, can be a transformative force for regional integration and sustainable urban development in the Asia-Pacific.
What is the context and need for National Urban Policies in the Asia Pacific region? What the analytical work of ESCAP can tell us on how the Asia Pacific region embraces national urban policies? Can you provide some examples of countries that have developed national urban policies in your region?
By 2050 the population of our region’s cities will grow to more than 3 billion. China and India alone will add almost 700 million. The growth of our cities’ at present outstrips overall population growth. Spatial growth of the region’s cities, as assessed by night light mapping, reveals that land area has grown exponentially when compared to population growth. East Asian cities are the densest in the world and experience a phenomenon known as ‘dense sprawl’, also known as “dysfunctional sprawl”. Cities that experience this phenomenon suffer from many of the problems that accompany high population density, including extreme traffic congestion and poor air quality. They also lack many of the benefits that typically accompany more traditional versions of dense urban areas, including fast and effective public transit and a core business areas with vibrant street life.
How Asia and Pacific’s urbanization unfolds in future depends on how the region transitions to sustainable development pathways. With urban population reaching close to 3 billion by 2050 and the proportion of the region’s middle income rising, managing growing demand for goods, services and infrastructure in cities will be a real challenge.
Asia faces a twin challenge: firstly to build more and better infrastructure; and secondly to ensure it’s resilient, benefiting the poor while being aligned to support the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. Not only is the infrastructure deficit currently high and infrastructure assets overstretched and often inefficient, but demand pressures are set to grow as the urban population alone will rise annually by 50 million, aggravating congestion, air pollution and waste management. Infrastructure deficits will grow across a range of sectors and hinder business potentials.