Asia-Pacific region lagging on 2030 Agenda, warns report

A woman does beadwork in Putussibau, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Lucy McHugh, CIFOR
10 April 2019
Sandra Cordon

The Asia-Pacific region is likely not on track to achieve the 2030 Agenda and many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It might even be slipping backwards on some measures, according to a new progress report on the Regional Road Map for Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific.

This new report warns, however, that there is not enough data to properly assess progress on some critical issues, including climate change, disaster risk reduction and resilience. It urges faster capacity building by countries in the region to improve their ability to collect and share statistics.

The report, prepared for an annual review of the regional road map at the recent Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development, notes that some progress has been made toward achieving goals related to social development, also known as ensuring “no one is left behind.”

It notes that in the region “high levels of economic growth have lifted great numbers of people out of poverty.” 

But at the same time, it includes a warning. “If the region is to sustain the growth needed to achieve the SDGs and to enhance resilience, it must shift to a more resource-efficient growth trajectory and a growth trajectory more able to meet the needs of present and future generations.”

A mechanism to identify reasons for the widening inequality gap between the haves and the have-nots is urgently needed if real progress is to be made toward achieving the SDGs, says Joan Carling, co-convener of the Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development.

“The report says there is economic growth, for example, but we know that inequality is getting worse,” says Carling, who is also well known as an activist for the rights and wellbeing of indigenous communities. “We need to identify the factors and barriers that cause inequality, because unless we address that, we’re just scratching the surface.” 

Indigenous peoples are often the worst hit by inequality because their rights are often abused and their communities marginalized, Carling adds.

Meanwhile, the report also noted an apparent lack of success in fighting climate change, stating its increasing effects on the Asia-Pacific region: “Higher temperatures, the rise in sea level and extreme weather events related to climate change are likely having a major impact on the region, increasing risks to economies and natural and physical assets and potentially compounding development challenges, including with respect to poverty, food and energy security and health.”

Yet, it is not possible to adequately assess where or even if any progress is being made to address climate change – and many development goals – because there isn’t enough sound information available, says the report.

In fact, that data shortage is one of five priority areas the report singles out for inadequacies in the information needed to assess progress. Others include management of natural resources and energy, in addition to disaster risk reduction and resilience, plus climate change.

The report aimed to assess aspects of 11 priority areas for regional cooperation in the region in order to meet the 2030 Agenda as well as 62 means of implementation to achieve SDG targets.

Another two priority areas of cooperation – one defined as Finance and the other, North-South, South-South International and Regional Partnerships – are showing mixed signs of progress, says the report.

Both areas are on track to meet some targets but the second is regressing in areas related to cooperation in mobilizing additional financial resources, it says. Progress is also being seen on measures related to connectivity and technology.

The report follows the 2018 decision by members of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) to set out a regional road map for implementing the 2030 Agenda to “facilitate cooperation at the regional level.” The road map emphasizes the enhancement of leadership and decision-making by women in all aspects of society.

ESCAP is the regional development arm of the United Nations for the Asia-Pacific region and comprises 53 member states and nine associate members.

Learn more about these topics at the 18th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII)  22 April–3 May 2019 and at the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn, Germany, 22–23 June 2019.



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