Rebalancing Growth in Asia & the Pacific: The Post Rio+20 Development Agenda

“Cambodia provides a good example of the innovation and leadership that will be required by Asia-Pacific countries in the next phase of rebalancing growth and economic development,” said Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), meeting today with the Ministry for Environment of Cambodia.

“The Royal Cambodian Government has tried very hard, for almost a decade, to forge a more inclusive development path by generating jobs that set and meet high labour standards, and at the same time create market access for their manufactured goods,” said Dr. Heyzer. “It has weathered the economic crisis – sustaining impressive growth even amidst the ‘new normal’ of volatility, uncertain demand and increasing commodity prices.”

Describing this as having been a first phase of economic development – focused on jobs and growth, the Under-Secretary-General observed that: “Cambodia is on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving extreme poverty by 2015. In the process they have also made great progress in, for instance, halving infant mortality rates between 2000 and 2010. Unfortunately though, inequalities have continued to rise, especially between those Cambodians living in urban areas and the more than 80% of to population living in rural areas.”

“I have just returned from the Rio+20 conference where it became clear that the next phase and also the post-2015 agenda, will be about rebalancing growth to take into account the need for inclusivity and sustainable development,” said Dr. Heyzer. “Cambodia still has some ways to go to meet MDG 7 on ensuring environmental sustainability, but it is the first of our Asia-Pacific countries in the category of Least Developed Country (LDC) to have led by adopting a National Green Growth Roadmap, also establishing a National Green Growth Secretariat – offering a real chance to leapfrog into a more sustainable future.”

Cambodia’s approach to green growth focuses on addressing seven key aspects of access: to clean water and sanitation; to renewable energy; to information and knowledge; to means for better mobility; to finance and investments; to food security; and to sustainable land use. Amongst the most successful of its projects has been a green pilot project providing solar charging lanterns for low-cost, environmentally-friendly lighting in poor rural communities such as Kompong Prohot and Anlong Ta Ur in the Thonle Sap lake area.

“The challenge now is for Cambodia to ensure that these plans are well-financed, that the pilot projects can be up-scaled, and the inclusive and sustainable development will lead to shared prosperity,” said Dr. Heyzer. “It is my hope that, with Cambodia holding the Chair of ASEAN, many of these good practices will also be placed on the ASEAN agenda.”

As part of her official visit to Cambodia, the Under-Secretary-General also held talks with the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Ministers and a number of senior Cabinet Ministers on issues ranging from regional economic integration, to energy security, women’s empowerment and improving regional trade links.