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Extreme poverty on the rise – UN committee calls for Asia-Pacific countries to ensure economic recovery packages aligned with financing sustainable development

Submitted by CBOONTHA on Wed, 20/10/2021 - 14:00
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G/40/2021
Origin Location
Bangkok
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ESCAP News
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With the COVID-19 pandemic having pushed some 89 million people in Asia and the Pacific back into extreme poverty in the last two years, countries need to reorient their sizeable economic stimulus towards a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable future for all, delegates meeting at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) were told today.

“We have seen in the last two years just how vulnerable the Asia-Pacific region is to both the economic and non-economic shocks. In 2020, the Asia-Pacific region recorded its worst economic performance in decades,” said Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP in her opening remarks to the third session of the Committee on Macroeconomic Policy, Poverty Reduction and Financing for Development. However, she added, “the pandemic has provided an opportunity for countries to reconsider policies and strategies and align fiscal and financial resources with development efforts that will pay significant dividends in the future.”

The rising debt burden faced by developing countries in the region is becoming a daunting challenge and squeezing fiscal space considerably. While countries prioritize speedy economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, financial flows should not be diverted from sustainable development and climate action, and policymakers should seek to “build back better” by enhancing the resilience of their economies.

Over the next three days, the Committee will deliberate on various fiscal, monetary and financial measures that will support the region in regaining economic momentum and ensure that recovery is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

To mobilize additional fiscal and financial resources to build back better together, the regional meeting will further emphasize the large potential of innovative and digital financing strategies, such as thematic bonds, climate risk reporting, debt-for-climate swaps and digital payment solutions.

The Committee will also consider a proposal to establish a consultative group on financing strategies for the SDGs. The group aims to connect ESCAP, key government ministries and thought leaders to generate expert ideas and leverage regional knowledge on how to implement recommended policy actions.

Ahead of the Committee, ESCAP also launched last week a publication on Financing the SDGs to Build Back Better from the COVID-19 Pandemic in Asia and the Pacific. The report dives into the role of innovative climate and digital finance strategies to address the financing gaps in the region and support post-pandemic recovery. It suggests key regulatory and solution-oriented policy actions that can help scale up financing in support of the SDGs.

The Committee meets every two years and serves as a platform to evaluate regional economic development policies and options, as well as integrated approaches to financing for development.

Special remarks at this year’s Committee opening were presented by H.E. Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Minister of Finance, Indonesia; H.E. Omar Ayub Khan, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs, Pakistan; H.E. Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, Minister of Finance, Thailand; H.E. Lyonpo Namgay Tshering, Minister of Finance, Bhutan; H.E. A. H. M. Mustafa Kamal, Minister of Finance, Bangladesh; Elliot Harris, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development and Chief Economist, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs; and Bambang Susantono, Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development, Asian Development Bank.

For more information: https://www.unescap.org/events/2021/committee-macroeconomic-policy-poverty-reduction-and-financing-development-third  

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Extreme poverty on the rise – UN committee calls for Asia-Pacific countries to ensure economic recovery packages aligned with financing sustainable development

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ASEAN reaffirms commitment to address women’s unpaid care and domestic work during launch of new UN-ASEAN report

Submitted by CBOONTHA on Thu, 14/10/2021 - 14:01
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G/39/2021
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Bangkok
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If there is a silver lining to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it may be that the critical role of women and girls as frontline health care workers and caregivers has finally come into the spotlight.

A new report released today by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) reveals the gendered nature and unequal burden of care and domestic work in the region and the extent of vulnerabilities faced by women and girls that have been exacerbated during the pandemic.

Even before the pandemic, women and girls performed more than four times as much unpaid care and domestic work as men and boys, for example, caring for home-schooled children, or sick or elderly family members. The Addressing Unpaid Care Work in ASEAN report finds that factoring the heavier burden and gender gap in unpaid care and domestic work that has greatly affected women’s ability to engage in labour markets and aggravated time poverty for women is a crucial step towards bolstering women’s economic empowerment in the region.

“It is now time to turn our attention to policy solutions which reduce and redistribute unpaid care and domestic work. Investing in and building up care infrastructure can reduce the time spent on these daily subsistence tasks,” said Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP. She added that a mix of policies is needed to enable women and men to better reconcile the time requirements of the workplace with unpaid care work at home, including parental leave, care leave, care insurance schemes and flexible work arrangements, in order to improve women’s competitiveness and ensure women have equal opportunities in participating productively in the economy.

Despite gaps in data, the report also highlights the situation for women in rural areas and women migrant workers, especially those engaged in care professions. Compared to their urban counterparts, these women face far more risks such as unequal access to care infrastructure and services, inadequate working conditions, precarious positions with low pay, and an acute absence of social protection. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these inequalities, therefore making women central to the pandemic recovery process.

“ASEAN continues to leverage regional cooperation to address the root causes of unequal distribution of care and domestic work…these are deeply-entrenched gender norms and stereotypes that require collective action,” underscored Ekkaphab Phanthavong, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.

While the gendered division of work and disproportionate care responsibilities are not new, addressing and tackling such matters at the policy level are considered pioneering among the countries of ASEAN. “The Report highlights promising policy measures that ASEAN Member States have undertaken prior to and during the pandemic to address women’s unpaid care work. It generates key recommendations to introduce a care-sensitive dimension into national and regional gender policies toward building back better and more equal,” said I Gusti Ayu Bintang Puspayoga, Minister for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection of Indonesia.

The report was launched on the sidelines of the Fourth ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Women. It serves as a blueprint mapping the care economy in ASEAN countries as well as providing concrete policy actions across four domains of care infrastructure, care-related social protection, care services and employment-related policies.

Read the full report: https://bit.ly/ASEANReportUCDW

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ASEAN reaffirms commitment to address women’s unpaid care and domestic work during launch of new UN-ASEAN report

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More than just shipping: New UN report highlights how trade can play a pivotal role in addressing climate change

Submitted by CBOONTHA on Mon, 11/10/2021 - 15:37
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G/38/2021
Origin Location
Geneva
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A new United Nations report has underscored an urgent need for economies in the Asia-Pacific region to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including to maintain their trade competitiveness as carbon taxes at borders become more likely.

“As key trade partners consider putting border taxes in place on carbon, there are strong concerns on the effects on the developing countries since many economies in the region are at risk of being pushed out of key markets,” said Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP. She added that the roll-out of COVID-19 recovery packages could provide opportunities to invest in low-carbon technologies and sectors; opportunities that should not be missed considering the urgency for action.

The Asia-Pacific region is now the largest emitter of GHGs in absolute terms. However, the Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report 2021 (APTIR) reveals significant room for all economies in the region to make their trade and investment more climate smart.

Barriers to trade in environmental goods are more prevalent than barriers to trade in carbon-intensive fossil fuels. Wasteful and regressive fossil fuel subsidies also continue to contribute to GHG emissions in the region. According to the report, their timely abolishment and replacement with more targeted support policies could provide much-needed finance for social and environmental policies in addition to reducing emissions.

In a message to the report launch event, Tipu Munshi, Honourable Minister of Commerce, Bangladesh, said: “To me, the recommendations in the report, like, trade liberalization in climate smart and other environmental goods, phasing out of fossil-fuel subsidies, private sector initiatives, transition to climate friendly transportation, incorporation of climate issues in RTAs, carbon pricing and carbon border adjustment taxes are very much befitting given the crises we are facing.”

A joint message from Hon Damien O’Connor, New Zealand’s Minister for Trade and Export Growth and Hon James Shaw, New Zealand’s Minister of Climate Change emphasized that: “One of the most substantial roadblocks in the way of cutting emissions is fossil fuel subsidies. Subsidies are a trade issue. Trade laws can be a vehicle for driving action on climate change.”

“Getting trade right is critical to overcoming the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution and waste. As we seek to make net-zero a reality, each and every sector of our economy must embark on immediate and deep emissions cuts. Climate-smart trade is a powerful tool in the solution toolbox to mitigate the impacts of the climate emergency, and in ensuring those most impacted, are not left behind”, said Inger Andersen, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

“The links between trade, investment and climate change are complex. The key is to ensure that the positive effects of trade and investment are maximized, such as by promoting trade and investment in renewable energy and low-carbon technologies, while minimizing the adverse effects, like by digitalizing trade and transport systems,” said Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Climate pledges by several countries in the Asia-Pacific region need to be underpinned by policies and measures to drive the transformation towards lower carbon economies, including in the private sector. Some 16 million new jobs would be created in clean energy, energy efficiency, engineering, manufacturing and construction industries, more than compensating for the estimated loss of five million jobs by downscaling industries.

While implementing climate-smart policies comes at a significant cost, particularly for carbon-intensive sectors and economies, the cost of inaction is far greater with some estimates as high as $792 trillion by 2100 if the Paris Agreement targets are not met.

Regional trade agreements can also help address the climate crisis. The report points to a general trend towards including a higher number of environmental provisions in regional trade agreements, broadening their scope and deepening their stringency.

The Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report 2021 was jointly launched today by the ESCAP, UNCTAD and UNEP at the World Trade Organization Environment Week. This is the first report to examine the impact of upcoming border carbon adjustment mechanisms affecting economies in the Asia-Pacific region. It is also the first time an index – the Climate-smart Trade and Investment Index (SMARTII) - was constructed to evaluate the degree to which economies in the region had climate-smart trade and investment policies.

Read the full report: https://unescap.org/kp/APTIR2021

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More than just shipping: New UN report highlights how trade can play a pivotal role in addressing climate change

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

Submitted by CBOONTHA on Thu, 07/10/2021 - 16:48
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G/37/2021
Origin Location
Almaty
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ESCAP News
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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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UN forum calls for strengthened cooperation, sustainability at heart of COVID-19 recovery in North and Central Asia

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Trade costs on the rise in Asia and the Pacific, but cuts in red tape could help bend the trend

Submitted by CBOONTHA on Wed, 06/10/2021 - 15:01
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G/36/2021
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Bangkok
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The high cost of trade in Asia and the Pacific continues to rise, but ongoing efforts to facilitate commerce will help keep goods flowing throughout the region, according to a new report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Economies in the region have shown continued progress in streamlining trade procedures despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent supply chain disruptions and surge in shipping costs - which hit an all-time peak this year. Implementation of 31 general and digital trade facilitation measures rose on average across the region to 64.9 per cent in 2021, about six percentage points higher than in 2019.

The Asia-Pacific Trade Facilitation Report 2021 also highlights that cross-border trade digitalization has great potential to help countries in Asia and the Pacific access critical goods, especially those most vulnerable to trade uncertainty and crisis. If countries speed up their implementation of digital trade schemes average trade costs could drop by more than 13 per cent.

“In addition to digitalization, there is also a need to pursue trade facilitation policies that make trade more sustainable and inclusive, leaving no one behind,” said Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, United Nations Under-Secretary General and ESCAP Executive Secretary. She added that measures are specifically needed to support small and medium-sized enterprises, women and the agricultural sector to make recovery more sustainable. 

The ESCAP-ADB study underscores the need to strengthen the resilience of supply chains as the COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the vulnerabilities of concentrated trade networks, limited inventories and financing shortages. High global value chain participation left Asia and the Pacific particularly vulnerable to restrictive trade policies. 

“Border closures, export controls and health and safety protocols have disrupted production and the flow of goods across international boundaries, with dire effects on the supplies of critical goods such as food, personal protective equipment and vaccines, especially for the poor and vulnerable,” said Bambang Susantono, ADB Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development.

The pandemic spotlighted the importance of prompt global and regional support and cooperation to ensure continuous supplies of critical goods. About two-thirds of 20 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies implemented new trade facilitation measures to mitigate supply chain disruptions. Many countries in the region also accelerated measures related to transparency and institutional coordination, simplification of customs procedures and expedited clearance.

The report further highlights the role of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and the related UN treaty on cross-border paperless trade in Asia and the Pacific to accelerate recovery post-COVID-19 while trade openness remains a key element. As the pandemic has quickened the move to trade digitalization, more work is needed to leverage digital technologies to streamline customs procedures and electronic exchange of information, and implement national and regional single windows for document submission and clearance.

The biennial report was launched today at a webinar on “Supply Chain Resilience and Trade Facilitation amid the COVID-19 Pandemic,” co-hosted by ESCAP, ADB and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). At the session, experts and government officials explored good practices in implementing digital trade and enhancing international cooperation towards a more responsive global trading system.

Read the full report: https://www.unescap.org/kp/2021/APTF

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Trade costs on the rise in Asia and the Pacific, but cuts in red tape could help bend the trend

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Da Nang City, Viet Nam takes action on plastic pollution with ESCAP support

Submitted by CBOONTHA on Wed, 06/10/2021 - 08:46
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G/35/2021
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Bangkok
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ESCAP News
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Every year, Da Nang City emits 1,087 tons of plastic pollution into the ocean - the equivalent of over four million plastic bags per week or two plastic bags a day per resident. In response, the city has launched an Action Plan to Manage Marine Plastic Litter in Da Nang City by 2025, with a Vision Towards 2030, built on the findings from a new baseline report on the current situation. This report was developed by ESCAP and the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies in collaboration with the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DONRE) of Da Nang City.

The city is also rolling out a plastic pollution monitoring system using remote sensing and satellite image interpretation with artificial intelligence, a tool designed through the Closing the Loop project in collaboration with the University of Da Nang and Japan Space Systems.

"The battle against plastic pollution is ultimately about putting people and nature at the forefront of development,” said Kaveh Zahedi, Deputy Executive Secretary of ESCAP. “But it is also about showing leadership, about embracing technologies to help track and trace sources and about the courage to implement ambitious policies that can turn the tide on our mounting urban waste crisis."

To Van Hung, Director of DONRE, emphasized the city’s commitment to work towards global goals. “Da Nang City will continue to make efforts and coordinate with national and international organizations to effectively mobilize the participation of all organizations and communities. The people of the city aim to minimize the amount of plastic waste, contributing to build an Environmental City!”

Da Nang is one of four pilot cities in Closing the Loop, a project implemented by ESCAP and supported by the Government of Japan that finds innovative solutions to measure, monitor and manage plastic pollution. On 5 October 2021, at the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) 2021 World Congress, Da Nang was the first of the project cities and first in Viet Nam to present a detailed baseline report that maps plastic pollution and pinpoints the source of the litter.

The report revealed that more than half of the marine litter is from lightweight plastics that have low value for recyclers and are easily transported to the ocean by wind and rivers. This makes phasing out plastic bags and other soft plastic films a priority for the city. The detailed Action Plan outlines goals to this end, such as shifting at least 80 per cent of all food and beverage businesses away from single-use products by 2030. The city also plans to upgrade collection infrastructure and adopt a management model that supports innovation in producing alternative products and transitioning towards a circular economy and green growth.

More information about Closing the Loop: https://www.unescap.org/projects/ctl

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Da Nang City, Viet Nam takes action on plastic pollution with ESCAP support

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ASEAN focuses to build back better with inclusive business

Submitted by CBOONTHA on Wed, 22/09/2021 - 17:00
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G/34/2021
Origin Location
Bandar Seri Begawan
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Today, the Fourth ASEAN Inclusive Business Summit demonstrated the practical application of inclusive business in the public and private sectors to help ASEAN build back better from the COVID-19 crisis.

Building on the Guidelines for the Promotion of Inclusive Business in ASEAN, endorsed in 2020, the summit discussed its application in national contexts, in particular, the establishment of an inclusive business accreditation and registration system and the provision of business coaching services for firms to develop inclusive business models. These actions will help identify, incentivise, and support businesses, including social enterprises, that can amplify their social impacts by developing inclusive business models.

ASEAN has made significant advancements at both the national and regional levels in promoting inclusive business models. Quoting Pengiran Hajah Zety Sufina Binti Pengiran Dato Paduka Haji Sani, Permanent Secretary (Industry) at the Ministry of Finance and Economy, Brunei Darussalam, “As a result of efforts to promote inclusive business at the national levels, ASEAN Member States are actively engaging in inclusive business policy development and capacity building to better understand the inclusive business concept and approaches among its policymakers and businesses”.

To promote utilisation of the guidelines, Briefing Notes on the guidelines are translated into the national languages of ASEAN countries, which provides the overview of inclusive business landscapes for each country and a summary of the policy options outlined in the Guidelines. 

At the regional level, an e-learning module has been developed to encourage learning on inclusive business among ASEAN policymakers, accessible on the ASEAN SME Academy. In collaboration with the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC), ASEAN aims to highlight good practices through the ASEAN Business Awards in November this year, which will recognise ten inclusive businesses with the ASEAN Inclusive Business Awards.

The summit discussed diverse inclusive business models operating in this region, showcasing essential elements that make a business model both inclusive and commercially viable. It explored how inclusive businesses and social enterprises are helping low-income and marginalised populations to recover from the economic crisis. Further, it discussed digital solutions, investment models, and partnerships that enable businesses to address the challenges posed by COVID-19.

“At ESCAP we are convinced that inclusive businesses have the potential to bridge the growing gap between the economy and people, and help countries with their resilient, inclusive and sustainable recovery,” said Kaveh Zahedi, Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

On social entrepreneurship, Antonella Noya, Head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Unit for Social Economy and Innovation said, “Social enterprises and inclusive businesses can help foster the inclusive and sustainable growth needed to build back better. To capitalise on this potential, policy makers should help social enterprises scale and involve stakeholders from the start.”

Inclusive businesses provide goods, services, and livelihoods on a commercially viable basis to people living at the base of the pyramid, making them part of the value chain of companies as suppliers, distributors, retailers, or customers.

“Inclusive businesses are triple win for the poor, the government and the businesses. Besides improving the lives of the poor through improved income or services, they contribute to inclusive economic growth and a reduction in poverty, and at the same time the company can make profit and is therefore also a sustainable business,” said Christian Jahn, Executive Director, Inclusive Business Action Network (iBAN).

Brunei Darussalam, the ASEAN Chair 2021, hosted the summit, which was co-organised by Darussalam Enterprise (DARe), ESCAP, iBAN, OECD, and the ASEAN Secretariat. The summit was attended by the government and the private sector representatives from ASEAN and beyond, investors, and development organisations. As the incoming chair of ASEAN, Cambodia has announced the Fifth ASEAN IB Summit to be organised in 2022.

The summit was an activity of the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME), the sectoral body under the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) pillar coordinating MSME development in the region and contributed to the implementation of the ASEAN Strategic Action Plan for SME Development 2016 – 2025.

Visit https://www.aseanibsummit.com for summit materials and documents related to inclusive business in ASEAN.

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Digital inequalities based on wealth and geography are still prolific across Asia and the Pacific, says new UN study

Submitted by CBOONTHA on Fri, 17/09/2021 - 11:11
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G/33/2021
Origin Location
Bangkok
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While access to the Internet has enabled many to continue to work, learn and socialize while living with pandemic restrictions, connectivity remains a pipe dream for many people in poor, rural parts of Asia and the Pacific, according to a new study by ESCAP and the Alliance for Affordable Internet, Towards meaningful connectivity: insights from Asia-Pacific case studies.

Across the region, in poorer and less urbanized countries, infrastructure development and Internet use are lagging compared to the situation in richer, more urban states. This pattern is also visible at the subnational level, even in high-income countries, where city dwellers consistently have better Internet access than those living in less urban settings.

“Policymakers need to design and implement digital strategies in ensuring safe, inclusive, affordable, and reliable speed internet access for all,” said Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP. “Achieving sustainable socio-economic growth is possible with a sustained investment in reducing digital divide across the region.”

The report also reveals that meaningful connectivity – defined as access to a fast connection, an appropriate device, enough data and regular Internet use - is not solely tied to a country’s income level or population density. Domestic policies, such as introduction of competition in the mobile phone market and investments in education leading to improved digital literacy and Internet adoption, play important roles in achieving meaningful and affordable Internet connectivity.

In Bhutan, for example, fiber-optic networks were deployed along the electricity grid, which helped the country improve from having the lowest penetration rates among low- and lower-middle-income countries in the region in 2009 to reporting the second highest rate in 2019. Indonesia, through its universal service obligation and related funds, and subsequent increased competition in mobile and fixed wireless markets, now has the most affordable data among developing and emerging economies.

Today, social inclusion requires reliable and affordable Internet access, and the meaningful connectivity targets can serve as a useful framework for countries to evaluate whether equity is being achieved.

“We were delighted to partner with ESCAP to produce this important study on affordable and meaningful connectivity in the Asia Pacific region,” said Sonia Jorge, Executive Director of the Alliance for Affordable Internet. “It provides a strong baseline to guide the design and implementation of policy actions that are urgently needed to advance meaningful access for all in the region. We look forward to strengthening our partnership to support these efforts.”

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For more details on the study, please visit: https://www.unescap.org/kp/2021/towards-meaningful-connectivity-insights-asia-pacific-case-studies

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Digital inequalities based on wealth and geography are still prolific across Asia and the Pacific, says new UN study

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ESCAP and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation partner to promote inclusive business models in agriculture and food systems

Submitted by CBOONTHA on Wed, 15/09/2021 - 15:59
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G/32/2021
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Bangkok
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ESCAP News
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A new partnership between the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will promote inclusive business models in agriculture and food systems in South and South-East Asia.

The 3-year programme will expand the geographic reach of the partners’ successful experiences in fostering innovative business models that are of particular benefit to low-income as well as women farmers.

“ESCAP is committed to reimagining post-pandemic economies that are more inclusive and more sustainable and - with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as our partners - we look forward to promoting inclusive agri-businesses with farmers that make a positive difference in their lives and in the prospects of rural communities,” said Kaveh Zahedi, Deputy Executive Secretary of ESCAP.

In order to catalyze inclusive business models, strong partnerships between governments, the private sector, academia and civil society are needed. The partnerships should facilitate knowledge sharing on how to create and promote inclusive businesses and also build markets for such businesses locally, regionally and globally.

“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is excited to partner with ESCAP and governments in South and South-East Asia to explore innovative and sustainable business models in agriculture and food systems for small scale producers, to enhance their incomes and nutritional security,” said Hari Menon, India Country Director, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We believe that this unique initiative has the potential to not only improve the lives of low-income and marginalized farmers, but it will have a cascading impact on the producers of the entire value chain, thereby giving impetus for economic growth in the region.”

This new partnership was announced at the event Partnerships to promote inclusive business models in agriculture and food systems, held in the context of the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit, which is setting the stage for global food systems transformation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

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ESCAP and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation partner to promote inclusive business models in agriculture and food systems

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ESCAP and Italy partner to strengthen disaster resilience in Asia and the Pacific

Submitted by CBOONTHA on Wed, 01/09/2021 - 10:57
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G/31/2021
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Bangkok
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The Government of Italy has pledged a US$307,000 (euro 260,000) contribution to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Multi-Donor Trust Fund for Tsunami, Disaster and Climate Preparedness, which serves to strengthen disaster resilience across the region.

“Managing risks holds the key for a resilient future and the COVID-19 pandemic is a stark reminder that risks are not local but can cascade not only to other parts of the social, economic and environmental system but also across borders,” said Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP at the agreement signing. “This interconnectedness cannot be ignored. We can all agree that with the risks of disasters on the rise, we have unfinished business related to ensuring the sustainability of investments made in early warning systems and reducing the devastation of disaster through regional cooperation.”

“[…]We welcome that the Multi-donor Trust Fund promotes a multi-hazard early warning system and an integrated and people-centered approach that looks at prevention and also at building resilience among the population, particularly the most vulnerable and marginalized communities,” said H.E. Mr. Lorenzo Galanti, Ambassador of Italy. “In fact, the Trust Fund is best placed to harness the entire toolbox that ESCAP has identified to deal with these challenges in the region.”

The Asia-Pacific region continues to be hit by a relentless sequence of disasters: cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, droughts, dust storms and heatwaves. These disasters strike without discrimination, but inflict the greatest damage in the poorest communities, including minority groups, people in remote areas and those on the margins of the region’s rapidly expanding cities.

Since its inception in 2005, the ESCAP Multi-Donor Trust Fund for Tsunami, Disaster and Climate Preparedness has directly benefited 19 countries, supporting 29 projects with a budget of approximately $15.5 million. At the regional level, it has provided sustained financial support for the establishment of key initiatives that deliver cost-effective warning products and services, particularly for tsunamis and extreme weather systems.

For more information, please visit: https://www.unescap.org/disaster-preparedness-fund

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ESCAP and Italy partner to strengthen disaster resilience in Asia and the Pacific
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