Poverty reduction is a priority area for UNESCAP, together with
managing globalization and addressing emerging social issues.
The UNESCAP Poverty Reduction Section’s role is to contribute
to the reduction of poverty in the region through:
• Identification, documentation and dissemination of innovative
• Pilot testing and analysis of innovative practices to
develop replicable models
• Capacity-building of member countries to adapt, replicate
and up-scale the practices
UNESCAP’s good practice methodology
In implementing its activities, the section recognises that:
- Poverty reduction efforts must take
into account the specific needs, priorities and conditions of
the poor, and must enable them to articulate and act on their
needs and priorities.
- To remain effective, efforts need to
be adjusted constantly to new conditions and opportunities,
including the spread of the market-based economy, globalization,
democratisation and decentralisation, and improvements in communication
- Most poor live in rural areas and rural
poverty reduction must be given the highest priority. However,
many countries experience high rates of urbanization and within
the next two to three decades the majority of the region’s
population will live in urban areas. Unless governments also
adopt policies that tackle urban poverty, this trend will lead
to an urbanization of poverty.
- As the poor are increasingly mobile
across any rural-urban divide, poverty reduction requires understanding
of rural-urban linkages and its potential to reduce poverty
in both rural and urban areas.
- The role of external agents in the public
sector and civil society is to create the conditions for the
poor to escape poverty. External organisations can ensure access
for the poor to essential infrastructure ad services; they can
promote and support participation by the poor in decision-making
that affects their lives and livelihoods; and they can create
a policy and legislative environment that is supportive to the
needs of the poor.
- Creating supportive conditions for poverty
reduction required concerted efforts by public and private organisations
so that each organization does what it can do best. Local governments
and their civil society partners in both rural and urban areas
are key actors in efforts to reduce poverty because of their
critical position in poor communities, and concern with multiple
aspects of poverty (such as access to land, housing, markets,
infrastructure and services). They are therefore the primary
target groups for capacity building in poverty reduction by
Identification and documentation
Through regional networks and forums, the section identifies
good and innovative practices in poverty. The section documents
such practices using specific documentation guidelines. Practices
documented this way include public-private partnerships for the
provision of basic services to the poor (through the Pro-Poor
Public-Private Partnership Project) and local level development
strategies that utilize links between rural and urban areas as
a basis for poverty reduction (through the Rural-Urban Linkages
Pilot-testing and analysis
The section pilot tests selected practices through demonstration
projects to determine core principles, adaptations to local conditions
and understanding of the enabling environment required for a practice
Expected outcomes of current pilot testing include policy frameworks
that provide and enabling environment for community-based safety
nets for the most vulnerable (in the Human Dignity Initiative)
and approaches to rural community development that improve the
income and living conditions of the rural poor (in the Saemaul
Projects implemented by the section serve to demonstrate innovative
approaches in poverty reduction for replication and upscaling.
Most projects will have a dissemination component so that countries
can draw lessons from these experiences. In order to reach as
many stakeholders as possible, the section has established regional
networks and resource facilities such as CityNet (network of local
governments), LOGOTRI (network of local government training and
research institutes) and OFGF.Net (organic food) to facilitate
wide dissemination and replication. Cascading networks such as
the Internet-based Regional Information Resource Facility on “Women
and Local Government” hosted by the University of the Philippines,
are also supported and encouraged.
Lessons drawn from pilot testing are also used for comparative
research, including the identification of criteria for micro-initiatives
to flourish and have an impact at a larger scale, including closer
linkages to achieve the national level MDGs.
A key component of the section’s activities is the strengthening
of the capacity of countries to design and implement more effective
approaches on poverty reduction.
Capacity-building is provided though three main modalities: (1)
demonstration projects (as mentioned above), (2) regional resource
facilities; and (3) advisory support.
Regional resource facilities include databases of good and innovative
practices and internet-based tools for distance learning.
Ongoing advisory activities include assistance to the Government
of Cambodia in the formulation of a urban housing policy and building
the capacity of local government training institutes to undertake
training of elected women in local government and women aspiring
to run for government.
Advocacy and dialogue
While much of the section’s work is geared towards building
the capacity and partnering with local government, it also plays
an advocacy role, signaling new regional trends and advocating
new ideas. Frequently, this role is closely inter-linked to that
of sharing and disseminating good and innovative practices.
One way the section advocates issues and share innovative practices
are through regional workshops that bring together “initiators”
and “potential replicators”. For example, in response
to a request by the Government of Pakistan to assist urban local
governments in improving their solid waste collection, UNESCAP
organized a workshop at Lahore in December 2002 for local government
officials. It brought to Lahore three “initiators”
of innovative practices: from the municipality of Phitsanulok
(Thailand), Waste Concern, (an NGO in Dhaka, Bangladesh) and from
SEVANATHA, an NGO in Sri Lanka. The interaction between the initiators
and the potential replicators resulted in many new ideas for solid
waste management in Pakistan.
Recent and ongoing issues which the section has advocated attention
to include the vital role of women in local government, the benefits
of organic food production, and mechanisms to implement housing
rights in practice.
A critical mechanism for UNESCAP to gauge the “pulse”
of the region, and identify critical issues, is the Asia-Pacific
Urban Forums, which UNESCAP has convened in 1993, 1996 and 2000.
The function of these forums is to identify and discuss emerging
critical issues, and innovative practices and approaches to address
these issues and regional technical cooperation mechanisms and
modalities needed by country-level stakeholders to address these
issues. The forums utilize UNESCAP’s role as the only multidisciplinary
regional United Nations organization capable of convening multi-stakeholder
policy dialogues and setting regional agendas, and have been important
in identifying priority areas of work in the urban sector and
mobilizing and coordinating the inputs of development agencies
within and outside the United Nations system. A fourth Asia-Pacific
Urban Forum is being planned for 2005.
SCPR Rep Report
of the Subcommittee on Poverty Reduction Practices (2004)
and enabling environment for successful poverty reduction initiatives
ESCAP’s poverty reduction strategies (2004)
CPR Rep Report on
the Committee on Poverty Reduction (2003)
strategies in poverty reduction: transfer of good and innovative
technical cooperation strategy (2003)