With South and South-West Asia being highly vulnerable to climate-induced disasters, there is a critical need to accelerate climate action and inclusive disaster risk reduction with regional and international support. Just energy transition and digital inclusion are also necessary and urgent steps to get back on track towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
These were among the key action areas noted by high-level officials and delegates at the sixth South and South-West Asia Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals organized this week by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in partnership with the Government of Pakistan and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).
Delegates also noted with concern that at the current slow pace, South and South-West Asia may only achieve the Sustainable Development Goals decades after the original 2030 goalpost. Despite significant reductions in income poverty, the subregion still has the highest multi-dimensional poverty ratio among all subregions, at almost 30 per cent. Meanwhile, the subregion is also regressing on three Goals, namely, Goal 11 (sustainable cities and communities), Goal 12 (responsible consumption and production), and Goal 13 (climate action).
Opening the Forum, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana drew attention to the multiple crises Governments in the subregion are currently juggling with while endeavoring to build back better. She underscored, “The Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development remain as relevant as ever, especially as challenges become greater and more complex than before.”
Ahsan Iqbal Chaudhary, Federal Minister Ministry of Planning Development and Special Initiatives, Government of Pakistan further highlighted, “As the world undergoes unusual times, innovative forms of knowledge exchange, technology transfer, emergency response and the recovery of livelihood and economies among the nations in the global South, particularly South and South-West-Asia, are of immense importance than ever.”
“As nations and the world recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, platforms such as the Forum are useful to identity and devise collective regional action to address the various caveats that weigh down on our SDG progress,” added Shehan Semasinghe, Minister of State for Finance, Sri Lanka.
This sentiment was echoed by Fathimath Niuma, Deputy Minister of National Planning, Housing and Infrastructure, Maldives, who shared that, “With just eight years left, let us acknowledge that regional and subregional collaboration is vital for South Asia to overcome the effects of COVID-19 and make an actionable difference in achieving our Sustainable Development Goals.”
Esala Ruwan Weerakoon, Secretary-General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation also observed that, “Enhanced regional connectivity in terms of transport, digital and people-to-people connectivity will substantially improve our chances of achieving the 2030 Agenda.”
More than 450 officials and key stakeholders from 10 countries participated in the Forum and further shared their recommendations on how to accelerate the progress towards SDG6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG7 (affordable and clean energy), SDG9 (industry, innovation, and infrastructure), SDG11 (sustainable cities and communities) and SDG17 (partnerships for the Goals).
Organized annually as one of the five subregional preparatory meetings for the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development and the global UN High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), the SDG Forum facilitates dialogue and deliberations among government officials, stakeholder groups and development partners. It also provides a unique platform for peer learning and knowledge sharing on subregional efforts, for understanding subregional priorities and for identifying opportunities for regional cooperation.
This year’s session is being held in conjunction with SDPI’s 25th Sustainable Development Conference, and will be closed by Arif Alvi, President of Pakistan, tomorrow.