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Inequality prevents Asia-Pacific from achieving sustainable development: ADB VP

The report, Accelerating Progress: An Empowered, Inclusive, and Equal Asia and the Pacific, explores how empowering people and ensuring their inclusion in social, economic, and political activities can accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Inequality prevents Asia-Pacific from achieving sustainable development: ADB VP
Interactions of climate change with underlying drivers of inequality, such as rural-urban divides and gender norms, create new forms of vulnerabilities for many. Image Credit: Pixabay

Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality is critical to realizing sustainable development, said a joint report released today by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The report, Accelerating Progress: An Empowered, Inclusive, and Equal Asia and the Pacific, explores how empowering people and ensuring their inclusion in social, economic, and political activities can accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

"This report provides practical advice to translate concepts into action in important areas such as climate change, resource mobilization, and civic engagement," said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Ms Armida Alisjahbana. "I hope that the report, including its policy recommendations, are useful to stakeholders in the region to demystify the concepts of empowerment and inclusion."

The report proposes a framework of four mutually reinforcing elements that can promote greater empowerment and inclusion, namely: rights and justice, norms and institutions, participation and voice, and resources and capabilities.

The need for action across the four elements of this empowerment-and-inclusion framework is illustrated by a deeper look at three pivotal challenges confronting Asia and the Pacific. These are climate change and its potential to exacerbate inequality, the urgent need to boost domestic resource mobilization, and the need to strengthen social accountability and civic engagement.

"Inequality keeps people in poverty and prevents Asia and the Pacific from achieving sustainable development," said ADB Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development Mr Bambang Susantono. "We must design and implement inclusive policy responses that put the needs of the most vulnerable first."

Interactions of climate change with underlying drivers of inequality, such as rural-urban divides and gender norms, create new forms of vulnerabilities for many. The report underscores the value of incorporating rights-based approaches into climate actions and supporting local organizations to enable the participation of vulnerable groups in climate actions. It highlights the importance of integrating the four elements of the empowerment-and-inclusion framework to support effective climate actions.

Raising resources to realize the SDGs is a critical challenge in Asia and the Pacific. The report takes a closer look at interventions that can strengthen the development impact of domestic resource mobilization strategies. It recommends harnessing new opportunities offered by information technology-related innovations to enable more progressive and targeted approaches to tax policy design and implementation.

Strengthening the participation and voice of people, through enhanced civic engagement, can improve accountability and trust in institutions while ensuring responsive decision-making across the SDG framework. The report recommends ensuring an enabling legal and regulatory environment for individuals and organizations alike to engage in public life.

"With the 2030 Agenda, we have an extraordinary opportunity to put a stronger focus on people's engagement in development," said UNDP Assistant Administrator Mr Haoliang Xu. "A long history of experiences shows that such engagement can strengthen, even multiply, development outcomes. At UNDP, we are supporting tens of thousands of young people to take action for the SDGs in Asia and the Pacific through the SDGs Advocates Programme, the 2030 Youth Force, and the Youth Co: Lab programme."

ESCAP, ADB, and UNDP launched the report at the 6th Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) held in Bangkok from 27–29 March as part of their joint efforts to track SDG progress and support countries in the region to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The conclusions and recommendations from the forum will inform global-level discussions of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development to be held in New York in July, and again at the UN General Assembly in September. Visit the APFSD webpage: https://www.unescap.org/apfsd/6/.

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