Crisis an opportunity to make growth more inclusive, ESCAP tells global seminar

The global economic crisis is an opportunity for nations to promote inclusive and sustainable growth, the top United Nations Asia-Pacific official told a global forum held in Salzburg, Austria last week to discuss lessons Asia and the world can share in developing effective social protection systems in which economic growth and social protection are approached as part of a holistic and coherent development agenda.

The economic crisis has highlighted the urgency for the region to address wide development gaps, both between and within countries, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Dr. Noeleen Heyzer told the 483rd Salzburg Global Seminar ‘Economic Growth and Social Protection in Asia: What lessons learned can be exchanged between Asia and the World?’

While rapid growth in Asia and the Pacific has helped reduce the number of people living in extreme poverty from 1.6 billion in 1990 to 0.9 billion in 2008, the majority of women still depend upon precarious and vulnerable forms of employment, 1.8 billion people do not have access to adequate sanitation and, despite gains, the region still has unacceptably high rates of maternal mortality.
In her presentation Dr. Heyzer underlined the need for the region to rethink its growth paradigm and redirect national development paths towards more inclusive and balanced economic growth with a focus on strengthening social protection: “Social inclusion and closing development gaps must be part of the new drivers of economic growth and sustaining Asia's dynamism.”

Making social protection systems stronger should be seen as an investment in growth as it helps graduate people out of poverty and vulnerability towards self-reliance and opportunity, Dr. Heyzer said. This is crucial for a region facing multiple and widening socio-economic inequalities and development gaps and should act as the foundation for a future growth path driven by inclusiveness and equity.
Noting that social protection creates opportunities for participation and broadens consumption and growth patterns, the ESCAP chief stressed the need to examine how social protection can be integrated into both national economic and social development strategies.

Pointing out that there cannot be a ‘one size fits all’ approach, Dr. Heyzer called on the Seminar to consider what lessons other regions have for the diverse social protection needs of Asia-Pacific countries.

Presentations were also made by Mukul Chandra Asher, Professor, Lee Kuan Yew School, National University of Singapore, Sarah Cook, Director, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, Bart Édes, Director, Poverty Reduction, Gender, and Soc Dev Division, Asian Development Bank, Krzysztof Hagemejer, Chief, Policy Development and Research, Social Security Department, International Labour Office, Geneva, Naila Kabeer, Professor, University of London, Heungchong Kim, Director, Center for Regional Economic Studies, Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, Alvaro Ortiz Vidal-Abarca, Chief Economist Cross Emerging Markets, BBVA, Madrid, Ana Sojo, Senior Expert, Social Development Division, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Noriko Tsuya, Professor, Department of Economics, Keio University, Tokyo and Xiong Yuegen, Professor, Department of Sociology, Peking University.