Wednesday, December 7

SEA must scale-up efforts towards Asean Community Vision

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KUCHING: Asean countries will need to accelerate efforts to promote economic, social and environmental advancement towards the Asean Community Vision 2025 and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

According to a joint report by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand (MFA), the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), and the Asean Secretariat, the best way to achieve this is to focus on five complementarities between the two Agendas, namely poverty eradication, infrastructure and connectivity, sustainable management of natural resources, sustainable production and consumption, and resilience.

The report identifies seven concrete flagship initiatives that would address gaps and issues under these priorities.

For example, over the past two decades many Asean countries have successfully reduced absolute poverty and improved access to food for many households. However, undernourishment in children continues to persist in some areas, and almost 30 million people could still be affected by 2030 if current trends continue.

The report recommends a flagship nutrition initiative for mothers and children in order to prevent stunting, and to ensure they can fully participate in education, employment and lead fulfilled lives.

“The Complementarities Report identifies the most critical and potentially the most impactful issues the Asean region must address if it is to continue its progress and realize 2030 Agenda and Community Vision 2025,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Dr Shamshad Akhtar.

“The region has made great progress in reducing extreme poverty from 138 million in 2000 to 44 million in 2015 but there remains much more to do. Poverty eradication is central, however all of the priorities identified in the report are inherently linked and require integrated solutions.”

The report notes that promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns will be key to restructuring provision systems, infrastructure, cities and businesses to maintain economic prosperity and a healthy environment in Asean Member States.

As small and medium enterprises (SMEs) account for between 88.8 per cent to 99.9 per cent of all business establishments in Asean countries, the report recommends a flagship initiative on sustainable consumption and production in SMEs to ensure that more sustainable goods and services are available and mainstreamed throughout the region.

This initiative would improve the capacity of SMEs to use innovation and technology to green their businesses and improve productivity.

“Leaving no one behind’ is an integral part of Thailand’s sustainable development approach,” said Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand.

“It is also a fundamental principle behind Asean’s ongoing efforts to build a people-centered community as well as the international community’s commitment to achieving the 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“As Asean Coordinator on Sustainable Development Cooperation, Thailand is proud to have played a small part in promoting closer engagement between Asean and the UN, through this Asean-UN ESCAP joint endeavor.”

“It is our hope that this report will help serve as an inspiration and a platform to develop additional concrete and feasible initiatives that will maintain strong momentum in sustainable development cooperation, not only between Asean and the UN, but between Asean and other external parties as well as the international community,” he added.

“To this important goal for the region and for humanity, Thailand will continue to lend its full support.”