Social Development


Fostering sustainable socioeconomic transformation in Asia and the Pacific

ESCAP’s work on social development is driven by the call of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to “leave no-one behind”. Asia and the Pacific’s impressive economic growth and achievements in poverty reduction have not succeeded in closing gaps in income between the rich and poor, nor unequal access to basic services. These gaps disproportionately affect the most vulnerable members of society, as well as hamper inclusive growth, stymie social cohesion, and contribute to unsustainable production and consumption patterns. In short, these social development gaps undermine efforts to achieving the 2030 Agenda.

The Social Development Division (SDD) presents evidence-based policy analysis on poverty and inequality reduction, and works to promote social protection and decent job creation, foster gender equality, and strengthen social inclusion of persons with disabilities, older persons, youth and migrants, among other vulnerable groups.

SDD also co-chairs two Thematic Working Groups of the UN Asia-Pacific Regional Coordination Mechanism: namely on Sustainable Societies , and Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women.

ESCAP provides the following services with a view to advancing social development in the region:

1. Policy analysis and technical assistance on inclusive development

  • - Evidence-based analytical studies on people-centered development
  • - Regional sharing of good practices on social development
  • - Demand-driven technical assistance to support the implementation of the SDGs

2. Capacity development programmes on social development policy

  • - Online policy toolkits on social protection, youth policy, and e-government for women’s empowerment
  • - Tailored capacity building programmes on gender-responsive budgeting, social protection including income security for older persons, disability-inclusive development and related statistics

3. Normative work on building inclusive societies

  • - Development of regional norms and standards for social inclusion
  • - Regional reviews of progress in achieving internationally agreed social development goals

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Poverty and Inequality

Despite Asia-Pacific’s impressive growth, some 400 million people remain trapped in extreme poverty at $1.90 a day with 1.2 billion people remaining in vulnerable situation ($3.20 a day). Disparities in income and wealth, as well as those related to basic services are persisting and preventing a future of shared prosperity. ESCAP is conducting evidence-based policy analysis to assist policymakers to reduce poverty and inequality for leaving no-one behind.

Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment

When guaranteed through equal opportunity, choice and access to resources, women’s full participation in society and the economy multiplies the capacity of all for sustainable economic growth and social development.

Youth Empowerment

Empowering youth in order to harness their potential is key to sustainably manage the demographic transition towards an ageing society that is taking place in the region. ESCAP assists governments to develop comprehensive national youth policies and promotes youth participation in development, including through its Youth Policy Toolbox focusing on school-to-work transitions.

International Migration

International migration is a structural feature of an interconnected Asia-Pacific region and has profound socioeconomic impacts on the composition of populations, labour force and societies. Ensuring safe, orderly and regular migration is a key priority of the region in tune with the 2030 Agenda. ESCAP is assisting the region to articulate its perspective on migration and feed this into the global negotiations on the Global Compact on safe orderly and regular migration, with a view to reform policies to ensure that migration benefits all.

Social Protection

Against the backdrop of persisting poverty and widening inequalities, ESCAP supports national and regional efforts by functioning as a knowledge platform for social protection, including through its Social Protection Toolbox ( ESCAP advocates for inclusive social protection along the Social Protection Floor and works to strengthen the capacity of policymakers in the Asia-Pacific region to design, implement and finance inclusive social protection as a tool for achieving the 2030 Agenda.

Population and Development

Accounting for 60 per cent of the world’s population with countries at various stages of the demographic transition, ESCAP supports member States in implementing the 1994 Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the 2013 Asian and Pacific Ministerial Declaration on Population and Development. ESCAP also conducts regular reviews of implementation of these frameworks, and works with diverse stakeholders to ensure equitable development.

Disability-Inclusive Development

In Asia and the Pacific, 690 million men, women and children, accounting for 15 per cent of the total population in the region, live with some form of disability. The number is expected to rise over the next decades as a combined effect of population ageing, chronic health conditions, natural disasters, road traffic injuries, poor working conditions and other factors.

Ageing Societies

The Asian and Pacific region is experiencing rapid population ageing, with the number of older persons expected to more than double by 2050. ESCAP supports member States in implementing the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA) through periodic reviews that aim to strengthen regional cooperation and enhance government capacity to design and implement policy measures that empower older persons, and promote and protect their rights.

Social Inclusion

As set out in the 2030 Agenda which endeavours to “reach the furthest behind first”, protecting and promoting the rights of vulnerable and marginalized groups is fundamental towards realizing an inclusive, prosperous and sustainable Asia-Pacific. In this regard, ESCAP focuses its efforts on women and girls, youth, persons with disabilities, older persons and migrants. In addition, ESCAP also supports its member States in addressing the needs of key populations at higher risk of exposure to HIV and AIDS.