(Photo: UN News-ONU)
Bangkok (People’s Daily) – The sixth Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) opened Wednesday in Bangkok with a resounding call for bolder steps to be taken to ensure greater empowerment, inclusiveness and equality, if the region is to realize the ambitious goals of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.
Despite impressive economic growth coupled with advances in technology, recent estimates show that on its current trajectory, the Asia-Pacific region is unlikely to achieve any of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) by the 2030 deadline.
Empowerment and inclusion are approaches that can accelerate progress towards many of the SDGs.
Today, over 50 per cent of women across the region remain excluded from critical decisions related to their health while poor and vulnerable populations still lack access to land and ownership rights. In some countries, more than 30 percent of youth are not in employment, education or training.
“Over recent years, I have watched with fascination the progress of nations of Asia and the Pacific on their road to sustainable development,” said United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed in her keynote address.
“Your governments have taken on the challenge of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development with decisive leadership. You are making significant investments to enhance data and statistical coverage, take partnerships to scale and promote people-centered policies, strategies and programs.”
She however noted that, “In Asia-Pacific, rising inequalities have become a major obstacle to accelerating progress. Inequality of wealth, access to basic services and inequality in the ability to withstand setbacks and respond to the ravages wrought by climate change, are all on the rise.”
Addressing the region’s lackluster performance in implementing the SDGs, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Armida Alisjahbana underscored the need for greater investment in key social sectors.
“To achieve the 2030 agenda, increased investment is needed to quicken the pace of progress,” said Alisjahbana.
“Initial analysis suggests that most countries can afford it, although where the money is needed will vary greatly in a region of the size and diversity of Asia and the Pacific. What is consistent is evidence that empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality – the theme of this APFSD – can help accelerate progress towards all SDGs.”
The annual forum, which brings together a cross-section of key development actors, including senior government and UN officials, the private sector, and a wide range of civil society organizations, will over three days undertake an in-depth review of the region’s progress on SDG 4 (quality education), 8 (decent work and education), 10 (reduced inequalities), 13 (climate action), 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) and 17 (partnerships for the goals).
The outcome of the forum is expected to feed into the high-level political forum in July.