Nothing erases development as suddenly and severely as natural disasters. When earthquakes, floods, droughts and cyclones strike, they wreak destruction not only across borders but across generations – reversing the hard-won progress of many years in poverty reduction, essential services, small businesses and economic opportunity. Disaster resilience in Asia and the Pacific is mission critical for the success of the new Sustainable Development Goals.
On this day, 70 years ago, the Charter of the United Nations came into force – hope, rising from the ashes of World War II. For seven decades the UN has driven multilateralism for peace, security, development and human dignity – in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world. Although far from perfect, no other organisation has done more to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war and to promote social progress and better standards of life” for all.
Just a few decades ago, the population of the Asia-Pacific region was dominated by the young. Now, as birth rates have dropped and life expectancies improved, the population is aging. Twelve per cent of our people in the region are already over the age of 60. By 2050, this figure will rise to one-quarter of the whole population. Never before have countries aged as rapidly. It took France 115 years and Sweden 85 years to become aged societies, but for Viet Nam and Thailand, it will take only 20-22 years. The region risks getting old before it gets rich. So how do we address this crisis of a rapidly aging population in our region?
The resounding endorsement by global leaders last week in New York of the groundbreaking and transformational 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, more than two years in the making, sparks new hope and optimism for multilateralism.
It is essential for governments to launch integrated and well-designed packages of inclusive policies to boost opportunities for decent employment and job security, equitable access to finance, and to provide adequate access to basic services such as education, health, energy and water. Addressing the shortcomings of inclusive growth, together with prudent and consistent management of risks to growth, has to be a key part of our transformation for the sustainable future we want.
World leaders and decision-makers from more than 100 countries will gather later this month in Sendai, Japan, to finalize a new global framework for disaster risk reduction which will replace the 2005 Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA). The stakes could not be higher, especially for the countries of Asia and the Pacific - by far the most disaster-prone region in the world.
This century began with the Aids epidemic at its peak. Now, 15 years later, new HIV infections are down significantly worldwide, while access to treatment has cut the number of Aids-related deaths by more than a third. These achievements are no accident.
On 26 December 2004, the world experienced one of the deadliest natural disasters ever recorded. A 9.1 magnitude earthquake off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, triggered a massive tsunami that directly affected fourteen countries in Asia and Africa.
Asia-Pacific countries continue to drive the global economy. The region has demonstrated great resilience during the economic and financial crisis, contributing about 70 per cent of world growth from 2008-2011.
The leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) will assemble in Kathmandu this week for their 18th Summit. It is an opportunity for game-changing policy decisions to deepen regional cooperation for inclusive and sustainable development.