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Almaty - 07 Oct 2021

News Number: G/37/2021

UN forum calls for strengthened cooperation, sustainability at heart of COVID-19 recovery in North and Central Asia

Photo credit: Pixabay/Deb_Qep

The sustainable development priorities of the subregion, based on breath-taking and inspiring evidence stories of female rangers from the mountains of Tajikistan protecting snow leopards and overcoming gender stereotypes, preschool teachers and student start-ups embracing digitalization of education, and a single mom turned social entrepreneur helping other women to thrive and others, have struck a chord with participants of the North and Central Asian Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that was held virtually from 5 to7 October 2021.

Government officials and leading experts and practitioners shared the latest evidence of challenges and progress on the SDGs in the subregion, and discussed necessary policies to plan, finance and implement transformative development.

“In the process of building back better as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to work together to advance the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” said Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing in the countries of North and Central Asia. In many states of the region, the struggle continues due to new varieties of concern, with consequences, reaching into many spheres of life,” noted Muhammetgeldi Serdarov, Minister of Finance and Economy of Turkmenistan.

Forum deliberations focused on a number of SDGs such as quality education (SDG 4), gender equality and women’s empowerment (SDG 5), environmental concerns for “life below water and on land” (SDGs 14 and 15), and partnerships for the goals (SDG 17). Countries in North and Central Asia need to renew and enhance their focus on economic diversification and a “green recovery”, on inclusive and quality social services from education to social protection to health, and on environmental restoration and protection. The impacts of the pandemic have dramatically highlighted that development needs to be systemic and transformative to build inclusive, resilient and sustainable societies and economies.

“Humanity faces a stark and urgent choice: breakdown or breakthrough. The choices we make — or fail to make — today could result in further breakdown and a future of perpetual crises, or a breakthrough to a better, more sustainable, peaceful future for our people and planet,” emphasized Gwi Yeop Son, UN DCO Regional Director for Europe and CIS.

The Forum’s different thematic sessions highlighted concrete recommendations. Particularly, strengthening partnerships for digitalization and streamlining cross-border trade processes, greening value chains, sustainable investment promotion strategies, and increasing local capacities on ICT are essential for landlocked countries. When it comes to education, countries need to invest in digitalized learning processes and blended-learning formats through expanded usage of electronic educational platforms. Prevailing gender roles meant women had to leave their jobs or reduce working hours to meet the growing demand for care of children, the sick or elderly as childcare facilities and schools closed during the pandemic. This has reversed progress on SDG 5 and countries need to develop explicitly gender-responsive social and economic policies as part of pandemic recovery.

Countries also need to make nature-based solutions and restoration of eco-systems a priority. Land degradation and biodiversity loss are impacting everyone, but especially vulnerable groups located in rural areas, who are primarily dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. The cost of inaction on land degradation is five times higher than the cost of action. Last, but not the least, shrinking budget revenues and rising debt are limiting Governments’ ability to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and ultimately, to achieve the SDGs. Capital markets and innovative financing instruments can play an important role in financing the SDGs, but governments need to create respective enabling environments for using these instruments.

This year, the annual North and Central Asian Multi-Stakeholder Forum was co-hosted by the Government of Turkmenistan, which showed its commitment to play a formative role in regional cooperation to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Outcomes of the Forum will be circulated among member States and fed into follow-up and review processes of the 2030 Agenda at regional and global levels – such as the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) and the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) in New York.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Gaukhar Nursha
ESCAP Subregional Office for North and Central Asia
E: [email protected]

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