Accelerating MDG Achievement in South-East Asia

Hunger and nutrition is one of the large development gaps that must be address in the big final push to 2015 on the MDGs in South-East Asia. 

Photo Credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret ESCAP/ADB/UNDP Subregional Workshop for South-East Asia on MDGs and the Post-2015 Development Agenda
Credit:: ESCAP/Wilasluk Aurtaveekul

Distinguished Participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen

Introduction

It is a great pleasure to welcome you to the third sub-regional workshop on Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 development agenda for South-East Asia. The eradication of poverty remains the largest global challenge. This sub-region – South-East Asia – has made progress in reducing extreme poverty and in attaining other MDG development goals, despite strong head-winds of on-going global economic crisis and rising food and fuel prices, and earlier setback inflicted by the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. In fact, its accomplishment is a major factor in achieving the global goal of halving the poverty rate well ahead of the target date.

However, many gaps still remain across the goals and between and within countries. In fact, many of our people even in the same country live in different worlds. I don’t have to describe this in great detail. This sub-region offers many development lessons but also needs to address the unfinished development business and the challenges ahead such as increased economic insecurity, vulnerability and natural disasters.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Accelerating Millennium Development Goals

Significant development gaps still remain in South-East Asia. For example, the progress in reducing infant and maternal mortality has been slow in several countries in the sub-regions and many countries in the sub-region suffer from severe food insecurity and hunger, despite our wealth. Beneath the achievements in gender related MDG targets, for example, female school enrolment and even parliamentary membership; there lies large gender disparity such as male-female income inequality and disproportionate representation of women in vulnerable employment – especially in the informal sector.

There have also been regressions in MDGs, something we may not wish to hear, but which is true. For example, in almost all South-East Asian countries forest covers declined and CO2 emissions increased. The countries in the sub-region, which were once hailed for their success in shared growth, have seen disparities rise over the last two decades. Rising disparity is a major drag on progress towards achieving inclusive and sustainable development goals.

In addition, natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan and Indonesia, floods in the Philippines and Thailand, and cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, are posing serious threats to years of development gains. Gains made can easily be lost. The South-East Asian countries which depended on external demand for their growth over the past decades, now face the challenge of global economic uncertainty, and volatility in food and fuel prices.

Therefore, accelerated action must continue if we are to achieve the MDG targets by 2015. The South-East Asian countries still need to address large development gaps in critical areas of development, which are widening in some cases, especially in relation to: hunger and nutrition, child mortality, maternal health, basic sanitation, and CO2 emissions. This requires not only a doubling of our efforts in the time remaining until 2015, but as the Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-moon has pointed out, it also needs innovative and smart public policies, especially when we are increasingly facing resource constraints -- financial, human and natural.

In critical areas, such as food and energy security, infrastructure deficits, financial stability and disaster resilience, solutions have to be sought at the regional or subregional level as they are cross-border in nature and hence constitute regional public goods.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Shaping the Post-2015 Development Agenda in the Asia-Pacific

Accelerated MDG progress and preparing for the post 2015 development agenda are part of the same effort. Even if all the MDGs are fully achieved, much unfinished business remains. Even if the MDG poverty targets are achieved, for example, and we manage to halve poverty, what about the other half of people who remain in poverty – and will very likely have the face of rural women?

Human consumption and production exceeds our planetary boundaries. This needs to be addressed in the post-2015 development agenda, which is why I am so pleased that the Representative from Indonesia is with us today – whose President is the Co-chair of the High Level Panel.

At the recently concluded United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) the Member States of the United Nations adopted an outcome document "The Future We Want" and put forward a common vision of sustainable development as the unifying paradigm for national development strategies in the 21st century. In fact this is now seen as a universal agenda.

As part of the follow-up to the commitments made at Rio+20, the UN regional commissions and their subregional offices, have been mandated to support developing countries to achieve sustainable development. This requires countries to balance their economic, social and environmental development paths and to strengthen the interlinkages between them to build the inclusive and sustainable future we want.

As the 2015 deadline for achieving the MDGs approaches, the countries of the Asia-Pacific region have the opportunity before them to shape our own subregional development strategy for the post-2015 period, for our people and our planet.

We need a “bold and ambitious” development framework in the midst of a new normal of increased economic insecurity, and vulnerability. We need a development agenda that can sustain the dynamism of our subregion.

The UN Secretary-General has set in motion an inclusive bottom-up process to shape the post 2015 UN Development Agenda, and this is very different from how the MDGs were shaped – top-down to raise donor funds for specific needs. For Asia and the Pacific, ESCAP in partnership with the Asian Development Bank and the UNDP, has been organizing a series of workshop and consultation process at the sub-regional level to facilitate a better understanding of the post-2015 development agenda from the regional perspectives. Not just understanding, but shaping the agenda.

Conclusion

This is your forum. I hope you will use this South-East Asian workshop as your opportunity to facilitate policy dialogue, advocacy and networking on MDGs and post-2015 development agenda, while leading to the identification of concrete goals and targets. The results of these consultations will feed into the preparation of the next MDG Report by the three partners – ESCAP, ADB and UNDP – this is also in consultation with the more than 30 agencies that form the UN Regional Coordination Mechanism, and the Secretary-General’s efforts on the 2015 development agenda.

There are different consultation tracks – through the UN regional commissions, the UN Development Group, and the private sector. Through this Report we hope to take your collective views to the global stage in order to ensure that the post 2015 UN Development Agenda truly reflects this sub-region’s development challenges and priorities.

I look forward to the outcome document of the consultation which should explicitly recognize national and subregional diversities and bring out the perspectives with an open and inclusive process from the countries in the sub-region. There is a lot of work still to do – and this is a tremendous opportunity to shape the post-2015 agenda.

I thank you.