Skip to main content

Press Release

Asia-Pacific countries endorse UN resolution for concerted regional action against COVID-19

Submitted by chavalit on Thu, 21/05/2020 - 18:32
News type
News Number
G/14/2020
Origin Location
Bangkok
News Source
ESCAP News
Programme of Work / Areas of work
News Sections

Bangkok (ESCAP news) – Governments of Asia and the Pacific meeting today at their annual regional assembly agreed to pursue coordinated and decisive actions, as well as reinforce regional and global cooperation in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Endorsing a resolution at the 76th Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (CS76), governments declared profound solidarity and vouched to provide unimpeded support and technical assistance to those most affected, particularly in developing countries with weaker health systems and vulnerable populations. 

“Governments and leaders are grappling with a wide range of challenges that risk recent progress in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world. Many countries are charting a solid course toward COVID-19 solutions, but millions in the region remain highly vulnerable and at risk. We have an opportunity to build back better on the foundations of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” said United Nations Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres opening the meeting. 

“When addressing this health crisis, countries face an unprecedented dilemma: the need to balance measures to contain the pandemic against those for socio-economic recovery. In order to support countries in building back better, refocusing our work is necessary,” underscored United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Ms. Armida Alisjahbana. She further highlighted three priority areas – supporting economic recovery, protecting people and enhancing resilience, and restoring supply chains and supporting small and medium enterprises, while urging countries to align policies with environmental protection and climate action. 

“Regional and international cooperation is vital to cope with the mounting pressures caused by COVID-19, particularly technical support and unhindered supplies of medical equipment and essential items,” said the Chair of the seventy-sixth session, H.E. Mr. Md. Nazmul Quaunine, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative to ESCAP. 

Several leaders from around the region addressed the session: Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha of Thailand delivered a statement on behalf of the host government, while Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh, Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama of Fiji and Prime Minister Kausea Natano of Tuvalu, who also spoke on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, delivered statements from their capitals. Foreign Affairs Minister Damdin Tsogtbaatar of Mongolia, who chaired the 2019 session, opened the meeting and recalled the work of the Commission over the past year. While voicing grave concerns about the complexities and growing threats of COVID-19 on sustainable development, all leaders expressed their optimism that recovery will provide the opportunity to strengthen resilience and build a more equal, inclusive and sustainable Asia-Pacific region. 

Deliberations this year focused on the theme ‘Promoting economic, social and environmental cooperation on oceans for sustainable development.’ Towards this end, countries endorsed a resolution to conserve and sustainably use oceans and marine resources in the region. The resolution calls for countries to strengthen regional cooperation and redouble efforts to reduce marine pollution, improve ocean data and statistics, and support sustainable maritime connectivity. Countries also agreed to boost public-private and civil society partnerships in the sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism to increase economic benefits for small island developing States and least developed countries. 

The Commission also encouraged small island developing States to take full advantage of their blue economy, especially in the fisheries and tourism sectors, to foster their sustainable development.

For the first time in history, the annual United Nations regional assembly was held on a fully virtual platform. The online session drew active participation from over 264 delegates representing 54 of the Commission’s 62 member States and associate members along with 8 additional observer countries.  

For more information on CS76: https://www.unescap.org/commission/76/

For media enquiries, please contact:
Ms. Kavita Sukanandan, Public Information Officer
Strategic Communications and Advocacy Section, ESCAP
T: (66) 2 288 1869 / E: [email protected]

News published date
Featured Image
Social Share

Regional UN forum concludes with call for multi-stakeholder partnerships to preserve development gains, build back better post COVID-19

Submitted by chavalit on Wed, 20/05/2020 - 15:23
News type
News Number
G/13/2020
Origin Location
Bangkok
News Source
ESCAP News
News Sections

The 7th Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) concluded today with a resounding call for countries to revive international cooperation and multi-stakeholder partnerships in tackling the huge socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which threaten to reverse hard-won development gains in the region.  

More than 730 delegates representing governments, civil society, businesses and international organizations at the Forum hosted virtually by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) also expressed concerns on the limited progress made towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and underscored the need for transformative accelerated action by all stakeholders to meet the targets by 2030. 

COVID-19 is already raking high tolls on the region. Most economies experienced contractions during the first four months of 2020 and millions of people are projected to fall into extreme poverty this year. The disruption to food systems and reduced access to healthcare and education systems will also have profound effects on the most vulnerable communities and people in the region.  

“We have reached a point of great risks and opportunities for this world. If we are to tackle the fragilities this crisis has exposed, then our recovery must break with the past. It must pursue equality, inclusion, sustainability and transformation. It must bring the fundamental calling of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to life,” said United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed in her opening remarks. She called on governments to put resilience and sustainability at the core of recovery investment packages as well as reorient economic models to generate green jobs and invest in chronically underfunded public services such as social protection and healthcare.

United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana urged countries to turn challenges arising from the global health crisis into opportunities by leveraging innovation to advance technology-based solutions. “Protecting people’s well-being must be at the core of policy responses. By ensuring a readiness on the part of institutions, policymaking must be able to manage trade-offs and complexity in responding to future crises to safeguard sustainable development gains,” added Ms. Alisjahbana. 

“Science, technology and innovation has been vital in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing complex environmental issues. The time is right for ESCAP member States to consider a digital revolution by enhancing scientific collaboration in our region,” shared H.E. Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Thailand. He added, “However, bringing about a digital revolution also requires us to bridge the digital divide. Accelerating implementation of the SDGs through technology must begin by giving ordinary people the tools to do so.”  

Chair of the 7th APFSD, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to ESCAP H.E. Ms. Samantha K. Jayasuriya underscored the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships moving forward: “To achieve the 2030 Agenda and to deliver on the global Decade of Action, we need a strong, and well-coordinated response, both at country level, including with all institutions and all members of society, as well as from the multilateral cooperation framework.”

Civil society representative Ms. Deki Yangzom of Y-PEER Bhutan further highlighted the need to address systemic barriers that impact the acceleration of the SDGs: “We urge governments and the UN to include the civil society as part of policy decision processes. We want our voices to be heard because we are not only the future – we are the now.” 

Delegates at the APFSD this year reviewed six key transformative entry points to accelerate progress towards the SDGs. They are: 1) human well-being and capabilities; 2) sustainable and just economies; 3) food systems and nutrition patterns; 4) enhancing power grid connectivity to achieve affordable and clean energy for all; 5) urban and peri-urban development; and 6) global environmental commons.

On the sidelines, ESCAP, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) jointly launched the latest edition of the Asia-Pacific SDG Partnership Report - Fast-Tracking the Sustainable Development Goals: Driving Asia-Pacific Transformations. The report highlights strategies to accelerate transformation and helps countries compare their speed of progress with others. It calls for clear direction, removing systemic barriers, investing in institutional and public readiness to change, and upgrading policymaking approaches to manage increasingly complex development challenges.

One of the report’s key findings is that higher income is not a silver bullet to address the challenges posed by SDGs and achieve accelerated progress along transformative pathways. Low-income and lower middle-income countries emerged as some of the fastest-moving countries in the region.

Since 2014, the APFSD has provided a unique annual platform for countries in Asia and the Pacific to share perspectives, challenges and best practices as they progress toward implementing the SDGs. Outcomes from APFSD will provide input into the global discussions held at the HLPF in July this year.

The full Asia-Pacific SDG Partnership report can be accessed at: http://bit.ly/SDGPartnersAP

For more information on the 7th APFSD: https://www.unescap.org/apfsd/7/

For media enquiries, please contact:
Ms. Kavita Sukanandan, Public Information Officer
Strategic Communications and Advocacy Section, ESCAP
T: (66) 2 288 1869 / E: [email protected]

News published date
Featured Image
Social Share

COVID-19 pandemic may give Asia-Pacific’s oceans a chance to recover, highlights new UN report

Submitted by christophe on Wed, 13/05/2020 - 11:18
News type
News Number
G/12/2020
Origin Location
Bangkok
News Source
ESCAP News
Programme of Work / Areas of work
News Sections

The well-being of oceans in the Asia-Pacific region are edging closer to a tipping point due to the unprecedented pace of marine pollution, overfishing and climate change in recent years. However, a new report released today by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) suggests that the temporary shutdown of activities as well as reduced human mobility and resource demands due to the COVID-19 pandemic may provide marine environments the much-needed breathing space for them to recover.

The report entitled Changing Sails: Accelerating Regional Actions for Sustainable Oceans in Asia and the Pacific also suggests that large-scale recovery investments being put in place by governments have the potential to turn the tide towards improving marine sustainability and resilience in the post-COVID 19 world if they catalyse a shift towards sustainable practices such as green shipping and decarbonization, and low-impact fisheries, aquaculture and tourism.

“Promoting the health and sustainability of oceans is inextricably linked with the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific. During these challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial to take advantage of the window of opportunity offered by reduced emissions and energy demand to protect the marine environment,” shared United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana at the report launch today.

“Many of the challenges in the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and marine resources lie in the transboundary and highly complex nature of ocean management, coupled with the fragmented understanding of the interaction between oceans and human activities,” added Ms. Alisjahbana.

Oceans are extremely valuable for Asia and the Pacific, a region that uses them intensely. For example, fisheries provide food and income to more than 200 million people in the region, with 34 million engaged in commercial fishing. More than 80 per cent of international trade is transported by shipping with two thirds of these operations concentrated in Asia. However, countries in the Asia-Pacific are among the world’s top plastic polluters. Eight of the ten rivers responsible for up to 95 per cent of plastic waste leaked globally into oceans are in Asia.

The study dives into three key areas – maritime connectivity, sustainable fisheries and marine plastic pollution – around which the region can rally to take urgent action to halt and reverse the declining health of oceans and marine ecosystems.

A startling lack of data and statistics on oceans in the region is revealed in the report, with data only available for two of the ten targets for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14: Life Below Water. At the same time, the data gaps are uneven, often being the largest in countries where they are needed the most. To transform actions for the oceans, the report urges for more transparent sharing of ocean data and stronger investments in national statistical systems to resolve existing blind spots.

ESCAP also underscores the need for countries in the region to take advantage of scientific and technological advances, and to consistently enforce international conventions, norms and standards on the protection and sustainable use of the oceans such as those by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

The UN body further highlights the importance of strengthening regional cooperation between countries at different stages of development to live up to this shared responsibility. It points to existing platforms such as the Asia-Pacific Day for the Ocean to rally multi-stakeholder partnerships. Regional dialogue is also essential to support the connectivity and data needs of Pacific small island developing states, which currently remain isolated from beneficial global and regional maritime trade.

The report is released in line with the theme of the 76th Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, which will be held on 21 May. For the first time in ESCAP’s history, the Commission session will take place fully online with the participation of Ministers, senior government officials and various stakeholders from 53 member States and 9 associate members.

The full report can be accessed at: www.unescap.org/publications/changing-sails-accelerating-regional-action-sustainable-oceans-asia-and-pacific

For media enquiries, please contact:
Ms. Kavita Sukanandan, Public Information Officer
Strategic Communications and Advocacy Section, ESCAP
T: (66) 2 288 1869 / E: [email protected]

News published date
Featured Image
Social Share

IRENA and ESCAP Step Up Joint Efforts to Support Asia-Pacific’s Crisis Response

Submitted by nan on Tue, 05/05/2020 - 13:58
Sub Title

The two organisations will seek to bolster provision of low-cost, sustainable energy to prepare health systems for vaccine delivery and rebuild economies

News type
News Number
G/12/2020
Origin Location
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
News Source
ESCAP News
Programme of Work / Areas of work
News Sections

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) will work together to improve access to sustainable energy, bolstering the Asia-Pacific region’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The two organisations will offer recommendations to governments in the region positioning the energy transition as an integral part of the immediate response to the crisis and medium to long-term recovery efforts.

Asia-Pacific, home to half of the world’s population, is largely dependent on fossil fuels. Diesel, for instance, fuels the majority of the region’s off-grid electricity needs. According to ESCAP, 200 million people in the Asia Pacific region live without electricity and 1.2 billion people without access to clean cooking fuel. Joint efforts will focus on developing sustainable energy policies that are closely integrated with health and industrial development policies to bolster recovery efforts and rebuild economies.

“The pandemic is an opportunity for us to rethink our economic growth path that has come at a heavy cost to the people and planet,” said Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP. “To bring about a fundamental shift for the energy transition, we need to adopt the motto of ‘no more business as usual’ for all stakeholders. Policymakers should not lose sight of the looming climate crisis, but rather design economic stimulus packages with social inclusion and environmental sustainability built into every decision in particular sustainable energy development.”

“We are living in truly unprecedented times, calling for decisive and cooperative action among the international community to save lives and support livelihoods all over the world,” said IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera. “The Asia-Pacific region faces unique energy challenges that undermine the ability of governments to respond to this crisis and build economic resilience. Renewables can underpin these efforts and therefore can play an instrumental role in both the response and the recovery.”

With national budgets strained by immediate COVID-19 needs, short to medium-term energy access investment may represent less of a priority for governments. However, underinvestment in this area could severely impact the capacity of rural health centres to support front-line health workers and provide essential services to COVID-19 patients. When a vaccine does become available, the provision of cold storage and refrigerated transport across large areas will be critical. Decentralized renewable energy technologies such as solar will be key for large-scale immunization efforts in developing countries.
Furthermore, slow progress in mainstreaming clean cooking solutions may expose millions of people to the dangerous combination of particulates and COVID-19. Scientists are already investigating links between air pollution and higher levels of coronavirus mortality, with preliminary results showing a probable correlation between the two.

Renewables can be deployed rapidly and are therefore well-placed to support immediate crisis response efforts including electrification of public health value chains. In the medium to long-term, renewables-based energy systems can also be an engine of sustainable growth. Renewable energy costs in many parts of the world now outcompete traditional energy sources, presenting cost saving opportunities for governments and consumers while boosting energy security, building energy independence and supporting climate-related nationally determined contributions.

According to IRENA’s recently launched Global Renewables Outlook report, renewables can supply more than half of all power needs in Southeast Asia alone by 2030, boosting the regional economy by more than 4.4 per cent and growing jobs by close to 50 per cent in the process. In a recent COVID-19 policy report for Asia and the Pacific, ESCAP identified renewable energy as one of the main sectors to include in stimulus packages.

During the 10th IRENA Assembly last January, ESCAP and IRENA signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together to increase the uptake of renewable energy in the Asia-Pacific region, support the implementation of the Paris Agreement, and contribute to the achievement of SDG7 by 2030.

###

About the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)
IRENA is the lead intergovernmental agency for the energy transformation that supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future, and serves as the principal platform for international cooperation, a centre of excellence, and a repository of policy, technology, resource and financial knowledge on renewable energy. With 161 Members (160 States and the European Union) and 22 additional countries in the accession process and actively engaged, IRENA promotes the widespread adoption and sustainable use of all forms of renewable energy in the pursuit of sustainable development, energy access, energy security and low-carbon economic growth and prosperity.

About the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
ESCAP serves as the United Nations’ regional hub promoting cooperation among countries to achieve inclusive and sustainable development. The largest regional intergovernmental platform with 53 Member States and 9 Associate Members, ESCAP has emerged as a strong regional think-tank offering countries sound analytical products that shed insight into the evolving economic, social and environmental dynamics of the region. The Commission’s strategic focus is to deliver on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which it does by reinforcing and deepening regional cooperation and integration to advance connectivity, financial cooperation and market integration. ESCAP’s research and analysis coupled with its policy advisory services, capacity building and technical assistance to governments aims to support countries’ sustainable and inclusive development ambitions.

Contact information:
IRENA: Damian Brandy, Communication Officer, [email protected], +971 (0) 2 417 9016. Stay in touch with IRENA at www.twitter.com/irena, www.facebook.com/irena.org and www.linkedin.com/company/irena
ESCAP: Kavita Sukanandan, Public Information Officer, [email protected], +66 2288 1869. Follow ESCAP at www.twitter.com/UNESCAP, www.facebook.com/UNESCAP and www.linkedin.com/company/united-nations-escap

News published date
Featured Image
Social Share

New UN initiative to reduce plastic pollution from ASEAN cities

Submitted by nan on Tue, 05/05/2020 - 10:55
News type
News Number
G/11/2020
Origin Location
Bangkok
News Source
ESCAP News
News Sections

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in partnership with the Government of Japan, today launched a new project which aims to reduce the environmental impact of cities in South East Asia by addressing plastic waste pollution in rivers and oceans. 

The ‘Closing the Loop’ project will support governments by addressing plastic waste pollution and leakages into the marine environment. To do this, the project will leverage innovative technologies such as remote sensing, satellite and crowdsourced data applications to detect and monitor the sources and pathways of plastic waste entering rivers in urban catchment areas. Four ASEAN cities will pilot the project: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Surabaya, Indonesia; Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand and Da Nang, Viet Nam. 

“Cities are on the front line in addressing plastic waste in ASEAN, which is the world’s most polluting region when it comes to ocean plastics. The proliferation of plastic pollution in our oceans is a serious climate change hazard, and thanks to the strong support of the Government of Japan, this innovative new project comes at a timely moment to accelerate action on the issue,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana. 

Fast growing cities in South East Asia are responsible for as much as 60 per cent of plastic waste leakage into the environment. 75 per cent of land-based sources of marine plastic pollution in the region originates from uncollected waste and 25 per cent from leakages in the municipal waste management systems. Plastic pollution is also transboundary - up to 95 per cent of plastic in our ocean is transported by ten major rivers, eight of which are in Asia.

The project will produce plastic waste maps and simulations for each pilot city and will train officials and stakeholders in ASEAN cities to use smart technologies to monitor, assess, report on and sustainably manage plastic waste as well as further strengthen municipal solid waste management systems. Urban policy makers will also be provided the tools and knowhow to develop policy and investment strategies which apply a circular economy approach in managing their plastic waste streams. 

The need for regional cooperation to address this critical issue was recognized by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in his statement following the G20 Osaka Summit: “Marine plastic litter is another issue which cannot be resolved by some countries alone. Under such circumstances, the fact that the G20 was able to unite and share the Osaka Blue Ocean Vision, which aims to reduce additional pollution by marine plastic litter to zero by 2050, represents a major step forward towards resolving this issue.” 

The ‘Closing the Loop’ project supports local implementation of the ASEAN Framework of Action on Marine Debris and the G20 Osaka Blue Vision to tackle the proliferation of plastic litter, both of which accelerate action towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and 14 (Life Below Water). 

This ESCAP - Japan initiative is implemented in close collaboration with local and national governments in South East Asia, ASEAN, the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) and other partners.

For further information, visit: <a href="https://www.unescap.org/projects/closing-the-loop">https://www.unescap…;

For media enquiries, please contact:
Ms. Kavita Sukanandan, Public Information Officer
Strategic Communications and Advocacy Section, ESCAP
T: (66) 2 288 1869 / E: <a href="mailto:[email protected]">[email protected]</a&gt;

News published date
Featured Image
Social Share

Public support for international cooperation surges amid global upheaval

Submitted by admind on Tue, 21/04/2020 - 15:21
News type
News Number
G-10/2020 (reissued)
Origin Location
Bangkok
News Source
ESCAP News
News Sections

Data from 186 countries indicates overwhelming public support for international cooperation – with a significant increase since COVID-19 began spreading around the world. Collected through hundreds of conversations and an online survey, the data is part of the United Nations’ 75th anniversary initiative (UN75). Launched in January 2020, UN75 is the largest exercise mounted by the Organization to gather public opinion and crowdsource solutions to global challenges.

New York, April 20, 2020. As the whole UN system unites to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, the Organization is also scaling up its efforts to give voice to the global public through its 75th anniversary initiative (UN75). Launched in January, UN75 will run throughout 2020, to give all people the opportunity to shape global priorities by participating in a UN75 dialogue or completing a one-minute survey available at un75.online. [1]

Preliminary findings, based on data collected between 1 January 2020 and 24 March 2020, were published today [2] on www.un.org/en/un75/news-events:

1. An overwhelming majority—95%--of respondents agreed on the need for countries to work together to manage global trends, with a noticeable uptick from late February, as the upheaval caused by COVID-19 spread around the world. Support cut across all age groups and education levels. Ideas on strengthening international cooperation included more effective partnerships with civil society and the private sector, and greater involvement of women, youth, indigenous peoples and vulnerable groups in policymaking.
2. Climate and environment topped the list of issues that will most affect humanity’s future – with more than double the responses of any other issue. Conflict and violence came second, and health risks third, having risen sharply since early March.
3. The top five future priorities that emerged were: environmental protection, protection of human rights, less conflict, equal access to basic services, and zero discrimination.
“I look forward to our continued efforts to ensure a meaningful observance of the seventy-fifth anniversary of our Organization, and to use this milestone for reflection on the multilateral cooperation the world needs at this time, both in addressing the immediate pandemic and in achieving the longer-term goals for which the United Nations was founded.” – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres

Notes
[1] Launched by the UN Secretary-General, the UN’s 75th anniversary initiative is markedly different from previous commemorations, with less emphasis on communicating the UN’s successes and a strong focus on listening to the global public, especially young people. Over the course of 2020, the UN75 team will gather public perspectives on global challenges and solutions on how to tackle them through a one-minute survey (in 53 languages) and dialogues – now overwhelmingly online – organised by partners across the world. This data will be complemented by representative polling; academic research; and media and social media analysis in some 70 countries. The results will be presented in September 2020, at the official commemoration of the UN’s 75th anniversary, after which UN75 will focus on how best to take them forward, with a final report to be published in January 2021.

[2] The data used was gathered between 1 January and 24 March 2020. During this period, 35,556 in 186 UN Member States took the one-minute survey online, in addition to 5,688 who participated through mobile applications. Over 330 dialogues took place in 87 UN Member States, with 56 summaries from 32 of them included in this preliminary analysis.

Read the UN75 Update in full at: https://www.un.org/en/un75/news-events
Join the UN75 conversation at: www.un.org/UN75

News published date
Social Share

60 International Agencies Urge Rapid, Coordinated Response as Pandemic Threatens to Destabilize Poor Countries’ Finances

Submitted by admind on Fri, 10/04/2020 - 16:38
News type
News Number
G/09/2020
Origin Location
Bangkok
News Source
ESCAP News
Programme of Work / Areas of work
News Sections

Governments must take immediate steps to prevent a potentially devastating debt crisis and address the economic and financial havoc wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic – says a new report from the United Nations-led Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development.

The UN System’s 2020 Financing for Sustainable Development Report outlines measures to address the impact of the unfolding global recession and financial turmoil, especially in the world’s poorest countries. Its recommendations are based on joint research and analysis from the UN System, the International Monetary Fund, World Bank Group, and more than 60 UN agencies and international institutions.

Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, one in five countries – home to billions of people living in poverty – were likely to see per capita incomes stagnate or decline in 2020. Now, billions more are likely to be affected as governments struggle to cope with the pandemic.

“The global community was already falling behind in efforts to end poverty, take climate action and reduce inequalities,” said Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Amina Mohammed. “COVID-19 is the first of its kind development emergency and all countries must rise to the challenge to save lives and safeguard livelihoods in our response and recovery. We have one chance to build back better together for people and for the planet.”

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, global financial markets have witnessed heavy losses and intense volatility over the last month. Investors have moved around $90 billion out of emerging markets -- the largest outflow ever recorded.

Particularly alarming is the prospect of a new debt crisis, compounded by tumbling prices for oil and other key commodities. Many Least Developed Countries (LDCs) were already at high risk of debt distress -- and the fall-out from the current crisis could significantly increase the number.

In Asia and the Pacific, the 2020 Financing for Sustainable Development Report highlighted that the Covid-19 crisis has further subdued investment growth and tax revenues. Furthermore, a recent Survey by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) estimates that the COVID-19 pandemic may cost the region 0.8 percent of the gross domestic product, an estimated 172 billion U.S. dollars due to a massive drop in global demand for their exports alone.

“To tackle COVID-19 in developing Asia-Pacific countries, ESCAP calls for an estimated increase in health emergency spending by $880 million per year through to 2030,” said Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana.

“Fiscal support will be crucial in enhancing health responders’ ability to monitor the spread of the pandemic and caring for infected people,” she added.

The 2020 Financing for Sustainable Development Report calls for the following urgent actions:
• Prevent a debt crisis by immediately suspending debt payments from LDCs and other low-income countries that request forbearance. Official bilateral creditors must lead, and others should consider similar or equivalent steps to provide new finance;
• Reestablish financial stability by providing sufficient liquidity, and strengthening the global financial safety net, especially for emerging markets;
• Contain the sharp fall in economic activity and support countries most in need through a globally coordinated response: expanding public health spending; social protection; keeping small businesses afloat; government transfers; debt forbearance and other national measures – and significantly increasing access to concessional international financing.
• Promote trade and stimulate inclusive growth by eliminating trade barriers that restrict supply chains.

“We are far from having a global package to help the developing world to create the conditions both to suppress the disease and to address the dramatic consequences in their populations,” said UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, during the recent launch of his Report on the Socioeconomic Impact of COVID-19.

“What is needed is a large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive multilateral response amounting to at least 10 per cent of global GDP,” he added.

Beyond the immediate crisis response, the COVID-19 pandemic should be the impetus to sustain the gains and accelerate implementation of long-overdue measures to set the world on a more sustainable development path and make the global economy more resilient to future shocks.

The 2020 Financing for Sustainable Development Report contains key actions needed for this purpose:
• accelerate long-term investment in resilient infrastructure for sustainable development, through public investment and incentives for the private sector;
• increase investment in risk management and preparedness;
• strengthen social protection;
• enhance regulatory frameworks, e.g. to discourage excessive private borrowing when debt is not intended for productive investments (vs. increasing shareholder returns);
• strengthen the international financial safety net and framework for debt sustainability.

The report also provides policy options to harness the potential of digital technologies. These technologies have come to the forefront amid the COVID-19 outbreak, with lockdowns and physical distancing becoming the norm. Digital communication tools have also helped sustain interaction and continuity in vital economic and educational activities. However, access to digital technologies remains highly unequal within and between countries. Almost half the global population (46.4 per cent of people) does not have access to the Internet.

The COVID-19 crisis provides a timely example of the potential of digital technologies, but also highlights gaps and new challenges and risks. Many workers in the platform or ‘gig economy’ are poorly protected against massive income losses in a recession, with social protection systems often ill-equipped to address their needs. The report addresses these gaps and other opportunities and challenges of digital finance.

These and other policy responses should be sustained, sustainable and equitable, to avoid a rerun of the protracted and slow recovery from the 2008 crisis -- and ensure implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, Paris Agreement and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

“Only a collective response, inspired by shared responsibility and solidarity, will suffice to address the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Chair of the Task Force that issued the report. “Governments, development partners, the private sector and other stakeholders must work together to combat COVID-19 and support every effort to address its social and economic impacts,” he added.

Financing Sustainable Development Report 2020

Full copy of the report: bit.ly/fsdr2020

For further information, please contact:

Kate Donovan, UN DESA, FSDO
E-mail: [email protected]
Mobile/WhatsApp: 1 718 362 0606

Kavita Sukanandan, UN ESCAP, SCAS
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +66 2288 1869

Background:
The report is a joint product of the Inter-agency Task Force on Financing for Development, which is comprised of more than 60 United Nations Agencies and international organizations. The Financing for Sustainable Development Office of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs serves as the substantive editor and coordinator of the Task Force, in close cooperation the World Bank Group, the IMF, WTO, UNCTAD, and UNDP. The Task Force was mandated by the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and is chaired by Mr. Zhenmin LIU, Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs. The full copy of the report and the annex will be uploaded to: https://developmentfinance.un.org/
This report is the basis for discussions at the ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development where Member States agree on measures necessary to mobilize sustainable financing. This is year, the Forum process has been modified, while the SDG Investment Fair, which brings together government officials and investors, has been cancelled. More information on the Forum is at: https://www.un.org/esa/ffd/ffdforum/

News published date
Social Share

Increase spending on managing COVID-19 pandemic and decarbonize to tackle climate emergency, urges UN regional arm

Submitted by admind on Wed, 08/04/2020 - 11:30
News type
News Number
G/08/2020
Origin Location
Bangkok
News Source
ESCAP News
News Sections

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is having far-reaching economic and social consequences for the Asia-Pacific region, with strong cross-border spillover effects through trade, tourism and financial linkages, according to a new report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) released today.

The Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2020 highlights the COVID-19 pandemic as the immediate risk to the region’s economic outlook, deepening the economic slowdown that was already underway. Although there are significant uncertainties surrounding the pandemic, the negative impacts are likely to be substantial.

As governments respond to the unprecedented health crisis and introduce economic stimulus packages, the report estimates that Asia-Pacific developing countries should increase health emergency spending by $880 million per year. The Survey also calls on Asia-Pacific countries to consider establishing a regional fund to respond to future health emergencies.

The ESCAP report suggests that, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, policymakers should maintain accommodative macroeconomic policies to sustain the economic health of the region. Fiscal and monetary policies should be focused on supporting affected enterprises and households and preventing economic contagion. Fiscal spending can also play a significant role in enhancing the ability of health responders to monitor the spread of the pandemic, care for infected people and improve health emergency preparedness.

At the same time, countries should take the opportunity posed by these challenging times to rethink their economic development strategies towards a more inclusive, sustainable and planet-friendly economy. Countries in the region are not only going through a public health crisis but also a climate emergency, which is permanent and even more far-reaching and potentially more disastrous than the pandemic.

“Policymakers should not lose sight of people and the planet. When it comes to designing economic stimulus packages, social inclusiveness and environmental sustainability must be built into every decision,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana.

The ESCAP report further reveals that the decades-long high economic growth in the region has been accompanied by growing inequality of income and opportunity, and detrimental impacts on the planet, which are endangering the well-being of present and future generations. Unsustainable consumption and production patterns have substantially increased greenhouse gas emissions, exacerbating the vulnerability of the region to climate change. Additionally, $240 billion worth of annual subsidies continue to feed the region’s heavy dependence on fossil-fuels.

The Survey calls for a transition towards sustainable consumption and production, with cleaner production and less material-intensive lifestyles, supported by enabling policies. This would require all stakeholders, notably Governments, businesses and consumers, to urgently align their own goals and actions with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The report urges strengthening of regional cooperation to raise the ambition to tackle climate emergency. Governments should scale up their efforts on climate-related standards, carbon pricing and implement sustainable consumption and production patterns at the regional level.

Produced annually since 1947, the Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific is one of the longest-running United Nations reports on the region’s progress. The Survey provides analyses to guide policy discussion on the current and emerging socioeconomic issues and policy challenges to support inclusive and sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region.

The full Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2020 may be accessed at:
https://www.unescap.org/publications/economic-and-social-survey-asia-and-pacific-2020

For media enquiries, please contact:
Ms. Kavita Sukanandan, Public Information Officer
Strategic Communications and Advocacy Section, ESCAP
T: (66) 2 288 1869 / E: [email protected]

News published date
Featured Image
Social Share

COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan

Submitted by admind on Thu, 26/03/2020 - 15:51
News type
News Number
G/8/2002 (Reissued)
Origin Location
Bangkok
News Source
ESCAP News
News Sections

A global approach is the only way to fight COVID-19, the UN says as it launches humanitarian response plan

• UN humanitarian chief warns that failing to help vulnerable countries fight the coronavirus now could place millions at risk and leave the virus free to circle back around the globe.
• UN launches US$2 billion global humanitarian response to fight COVID-19 across South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
• Governments urged to commit to fully supporting the global humanitarian response plan, while sustaining funding to existing humanitarian appeals.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres today [Wednesday, 25 March] launched a $2 billion coordinated global humanitarian response plan to fight COVID-19 in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries in a bid to protect millions of people and stop the virus from circling back around the globe.

COVID-19 has killed more than 16,000 people worldwide and there are nearly 400,000 reported cases. It has a foothold across the globe and is now reaching countries that were already facing humanitarian crisis because of conflict, natural disasters and climate change.

The response plan will be implemented by UN agencies, with international NGOs and
NGO consortia playing a direct role in the response. It will:

• deliver essential laboratory equipment to test for the virus, and medical supplies to treat people;
• install handwashing stations in camps and settlements;
• launch public information campaigns on how to protect yourself and others from the virus; and
• establish airbridges and hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America to move humanitarian workers and supplies to where they are needed most.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said:

“COVID-19 is menacing the whole of humanity – and so the whole of humanity must fight back. Individual country responses are not going to be enough.

“We must come to the aid of the ultra-vulnerable – millions upon millions of people who are least able to protect themselves. This is a matter of basic human solidarity. It is also crucial for combating the virus. This is the moment to step up for the vulnerable.”

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock said:

“COVID-19 has already upended life in some of the world’s wealthiest countries. It is now reaching places where people live in warzones, cannot easily access clean water and soap, and have no hope of a hospital bed if they fall critically ill.

“To leave the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries to their fate would be both cruel and unwise. If we leave coronavirus to spread freely in these places, we would be placing millions at high risk, whole regions will be tipped into chaos and the virus will have the opportunity to circle back around the globe.

“Countries battling the pandemic at home are rightly prioritizing people living in their own communities. But the hard truth is they will be failing to protect their own people if they do not act now to help the poorest countries protect themselves.

“Our priority is to help these countries prepare and continue helping the millions who rely on humanitarian assistance from the UN to survive. Properly funded, our global response effort will equip humanitarian organizations with the tools to fight the virus, save lives, and help contain the spread of COVID-19 worldwide.”

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said:

“The virus is now spreading in countries with weak health systems, including some which are already facing humanitarian crises. These countries need our support – out of solidarity but also to protect us all and help suppress this pandemic. At the same time, we must not fight the pandemic at the expense of the other humanitarian health
emergencies.”

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore said:

“Children are the hidden victims of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns and school closures are affecting their education, mental health and access to basic health services. The risks of exploitation and abuse are higher than ever, for boys and girls alike. For children on the move or living through conflicts, the consequences will be unlike any we have ever seen. We must not let them down.”

At the virtual launch of the COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan, the UN Secretary-General was joined via video link by Mr. Lowcock, Dr Tedros and Ms. Fore.

Together they called on UN Member States to commit to stemming the impact of COVID-19 in vulnerable countries and containing the virus globally by giving the strongest possible support to the plan, while also sustaining core support to existing humanitarian appeals that help the more than 100 million people who already rely on humanitarian assistance from the UN just to survive.

Member States were warned that any diversion of funding from existing humanitarian operations would create an environment in which cholera, measles and meningitis can thrive, in which even more children become malnourished, and in which extremists can take control – an environment that would be the perfect breeding ground for the coronavirus.

To kick-start the response plan, Mr. Lowcock released an additional $60 million from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). This brings CERF’s support to humanitarian action in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to $75 million. In addition, country-based pooled funds have allocated more than $3 million so far.

This new CERF allocation – one of the largest ever made – will support: WFP to ensure the continuity of supply chains and transport of aid workers and relief goods; WHO to contain the spread of the pandemic; and other agencies to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to those most affected by the pandemic, including women and girls, refugees and internally displaced people. Support will include efforts around food security, physical and mental health, water and sanitation, nutrition and protection.

Notes to editors

1. The COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan will be coordinated by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
2. It brings together requirements from the World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Organization for Migration (IOM), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), UN-Habitat, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Food Programme (WFP).

For further details, please contact:

OCHA New York: Zoe Paxton, + 1 917 297 1542, [email protected]
OCHA Geneva: Jens Laerke, +41 79 472 9750, [email protected]

News published date
Featured Image
Social Share

Striking lack of progress on environmental SDGs in Asia-Pacific, reveals new UN report

Submitted by admind on Wed, 25/03/2020 - 10:55
News type
News Number
G/07/2020
Origin Location
Bangkok
News Source
ESCAP News
Programme of Work / Areas of work
News Sections

There is overwhelming evidence that the Asia-Pacific region needs to accelerate action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and substantially reverse current negative trends, especially those which are depleting and degrading its environmental resources, according to a new report released today by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

The Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report 2020 draws attention to the region’s poor performance on most of the measurable environmental targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. For example, the share of renewable energy has dropped to 16 per cent, one of the lowest rates globally. The region also emits half of the world’s total greenhouse gas - a number which has doubled since 2000. 35 per cent of countries continue to lose their forests.

“Our analysis finds that the Asia-Pacific region has struggled the most with two Goals: advancing responsible consumption and production, and climate action. In fact, the region is not even moving in the right direction,” underscored United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana.

“These findings sound the alarm for the region to urgently foster sustainable use of natural resources, improve the management of chemicals and wastes, increase its resilience against natural disasters, and adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change through integrated policies,” added Ms. Alisjahbana.

On a positive note, many countries are moving decisively and showing remarkable progress in improving the quality of education (Goal 4) and providing access to affordable and clean energy (Goal 7). The Report suggests that achieving these two Goals is well within reach. The region is also making good progress on targets related to economic growth. Real GDP per capita growth in the Asia-Pacific was more than double the world average in 2017, and at the same time, at least 18 countries in the region are experiencing less income inequality.

Yet, to grow more sustainably and equitably, the current economic progress of the region must be coupled with human well-being and a healthy environment. Progress has been far too slow in areas such as gender equality (Goal 5) and building sustainable cities and communities (Goal 11). ESCAP warns that the region remains unlikely to meet any of the 17 SDGs by 2030 without concerted and extra efforts from all stakeholders.

Progress has also been uneven across the five Asia-Pacific subregions, most especially in reducing inequalities (Goal 10), responsible consumption and production (Goal 12), and peace, justice and strong institutions (Goal 16). A positive example of collective progress across all five subregions however is on access to electricity, where steady improvement is noticeable, particularly in rural areas.

Data availability for the SDG indicators has substantially increased over the past few years in Asia and the Pacific, from 25 per cent in 2017 to 42 per cent in 2020. But data is still lacking on over half of the SDG indicators, especially those Goals with slow progress. This, according to ESCAP, highlights the urgent need to strengthen the policy-data nexus in the region.

A flagship annual publication produced by ESCAP, in partnership with five other UN agencies, the Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report uses the latest data for global SDG indicators to determine where additional effort is needed in the region and where momentum for future progress is building.

The full Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report 2020 can be accessed at: https://www.unescap.org/publications/asia-and-pacific-sdg-progress-report-2020

For media enquiries and spokesperson interviews, please contact:
Ms. Kavita Sukanandan, Public Information Officer
Strategic Communications and Advocacy Section, ESCAP
T: (66) 2 288 1869 / E: [email protected]

News published date
Featured Image
Social Share
Subscribe to Press Release